A few days away from my email and you’ve stirred up a heap of conversation. You can post these thoughts.
David Hirsh, the British academic, who is a character in my play A Jerusalem Between Us, when commenting on the proposed academic boycott of Israel in his college union last year, says “one of the things the boycott does, of course, is enables you to be really radical without doing anything. That’s handy isn’t it?”The posture of aligning oneself with a cultural boycott reeks of self righteousness. It is too easy. Our Israeli friends and colleagues, artists and academics of great vision and bravery, are slogging it out in the national and international marketplace of ideas and many of them are calling for change. They have suffered personal loss, fought in wars themselves, and have to get up in the morning and face the daily challenges that threaten to derail whatever little progress they may have fostered in their own lives to bridge the divide between them and their neighbors. They need an international forum to tell their stories, not a slap in the face.
David Grossman and Motti Lerner are two Israeli artists whom I have the privilege of calling friends. Their works have changed me and have influenced my own work tremendously. Our friendships are the friendships of artists who share a common and generous vision of humanity. And they are friendships that exist only because of the free exchange of ideas. They exist because Traveling Jewish Theatre brought David Grossman to San Francisco for the premiere of our adaptation of his novel, See Under: Love. They exist because people like you, Ari, bring people like Motti Lerner to Washington DC for a conference where I can meet him!
I attended a workshop a few years ago on sustained dialogue lead by Harold Saunders, who served under President Carter and worked on the peace treaty with Egypt. He said negotiating peace often breaks down because political leaders can’t imagine going down a path that they can’t see where they’re headed. But, he pointed out, that is precisely what is necessary. It occurred to me, in that moment, why we as artists have so much to offer to this conversation. Because we live in the unknown. We’re used to walking down a path that is unfamiliar. We know that is where our BEST WORK LIVES! A call for a cultural boycott is grasping for something “known” to fend off really dealing with a complex and often confusing conflict. As you often practice, Ari, better to walk towards one another and see where we end up.
Artistic Director, Traveling Jewish Theatre