A Final Wrap Up of our ACCIDENT Panels

Shirley here.

Before THE ACCIDENT fades into our rear view mirror, I wanted to do a drive-by write up of the fantastic panel discussions and Peace Cafes we hosted during the run of the show(okay, car metaphors, stop, now.)

When last you heard from our Artistic Roundtable team (that’s me and Stephen Stern) he’d reported on one of our early discussions; held while still in previews. That was followed by our Sunday, February 8 panel- TURNING A BLIND EYE: THE CAMERA LOOKS AT ISRAEL, which featured:

Sinai Peter, Israeli director of THE ACCIDENT
David Vyorst, Documentary Film-maker and communications specialist
Erica Ginsberg, co-founder and Executive Director of Docs In Progress, an organization dedicated to empowering independent documentary filmmakers

We looked at the character of Adam, and his particular dilemma as a documentary film-maker. The discussion brought out this very interesting question of “the different narratives “ (very much a film-maker term) surrounding the accident and how that changed with each character, over time from “we killed him”; to “he jumped in front of our car”; to “he was clearly trying to kill himself”. What ACTUALLY happened? At what point do we stop knowing? Similar questions are involved in Adam’s film. On this, David commented, “as you are making a film—the lateral movement of the focus—is understandable and believable”. Perhaps we also witnessed in this story how a lateral movement of focus can happen in real life. Erica viewed the play as a “human dilemma” one that could be happening anywhere, and not exclusively in Israel. This question—how specifically Israeli is this story—is one that arose frequently in our discussions with both panelists and audiences.

On Sunday, February 15 our panel looked at THE ISRAELI CHARACTER: A POST-ELECTION ASSESSMENT, and featured:

Tom Dine, senior policy advisor at Israel Policy Forum (IPF)
Aharon Barnea, Israeli author and journalist, Senior Correspondent to the USA for Channel 2 Television News in Israel

Aharon also classified the story portrayed in The Accident as a “human—not necessarily Israeli—perspective.” Looking at the recent results of the Israeli election both guests noted a clear and undeniable shift to the right. Aharon noted that much of this shift is happening within the youngest generation of Israelis, the 18-35 year-olds who have never seen the “peace process” work. “For these young people the Oslo agreement is something they learned about in school”. Dine insisted that “There have to be ways to live (in Israel) non-violently”, and named the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as the symbolic (and perhaps literal) “death of the peace process”. He drew a parallel to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in the United States, and the huge set-back that caused for race relations in this country. Dine was equally demanding of every side in respect to how any progress is made, “This lack of taking responsibility is so pervasive in Israeli politics” (similar to the characters in The Accident) “everybody is pointing fingers”.

Our February 22 panel examined THE MODERN ISRAELI FAMILY: GENERATIONAL DIVIDES, hosting:

Michal Orgler, Israeli psychologist
Brooke Ugel, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Faye Moskowitz, Professor of Creative Writing and Jewish American Literature at George Washington University
Noa Baum, Israeli Storyteller and Diversity Facilitator

This was our chance to “focus on the family” as it were, and turned out to be the most personal look at the characters in the accident, the least “political” of the discussions. We talked about the relationship between Shiri and her parents, the natural but very painful moment when a child releases their parent (in this case, her father) from the role of hero and recasts them as human being, faults and all. The women spoke both as mothers and as daughters; reflecting on the very recognizable and sometimes very painful moments and relationships that Hillel has crafted in the play.

Wrapping up the series with our March panels, we had INVISIBLE IN ISRAEL: THE STATE OF FOREIGN WORKERS & ETHNIC MINORITIES on March 1, with:

Melanie Nezer, Senior Director, US Programs and Advocacy at HIAS
Mark Hetfield, Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs at HIAS
Rachel Idelevitch, Israel-U.S. Civil Liberties Law Fellow (a program of the New Israel Fund and Washington College of Law at American University)
Rebecca Bardach, US Representative of the Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI)

And on Sunday March 8 , SHIRI’S GENERATION – IDEALISM AND THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL, gathering:

Iain Guest, The Advocacy Project
Dorit Price-Levine, Research and Communications Assistant at J Street
Steven Kruviner, Assistant Political Director at J Street
Mitchell Plitnick, Director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Both panels highlighted several key conclusions of the play, that is—when we become too comfortable with a situation (even if we don’t like the situation) it becomes harder and harder to change it (as Adam, Lior and Tami experienced while dealing with the news of the accident) and furthermore, knowing something is wrong with a system and acknowledging that fact is not enough; until we do something about it we remain stuck. Thus, Shiri’s efforts to do something about the sins of her parents. So too is our dilemma with the state of immigrant and foreign workers both in Israel and in the United States (the system may “work” on some level; but at what–and whose–expense?) So too the dilemma of Israel-Palestine…