An Interview with Playwright Hadar Galron

Our friend Joel Markowitz deliveres another fine, in-depth interview — this time with MIKVEH playwright, Hadar Galron. Thanks to everyone at DC Theatrescene. Here’s a little bit of the interview. Read the full piece here.

Playwright Hadar Galron on Mikveh
DC Theatrescene

May 20, 2010
By Joel Markowitz

Her play is immersed in deep discussion and in some circles in the Jewish community there is anger, so I asked playwright Hadar Galron to enlighten us about the themes of Mikveh, and to respond to the concerns from some in the orthodox Jewish community.

Joel: What is Mikveh about?

Hadar: On the basic story-level Mikveh is about women living in an orthodox community, their stories and secrets intertwining. Eight women, eight stories and one wave of courage that breaks the closed community’s codes – bringing them all together. The ’scenery’ and sole location is the Jewish ritual bath – the mikveh – where women come to purify themselves once a month in order to be permitted (once again) physically, to their husbands.

Joel: The mikveh is considered a holy and private place for all orthodox Jewish women who go there to cleanse themselves. Why did you choose the mikveh as the setting for your play, knowing it could be controversial to do so?

Hadar: I
’m not afraid of being controversial – and I don’t believe that I’ve taken any holiness away from the mikveh by putting it on stage. On the contrary – the beauty of immersing is fully shown, through its beautiful set and scenery. The physical exposure lies in perfect contrast to the strictly guarded secrets with which these women have learned to live.

Joel: I grew up in an orthodox Jewish family and saw some of the physical and emotional abuse that you address in Mikveh. Did you encounter any of this behavior when you were growing up in London, and after you made Aliyah to Israel?

Hadar: This question throws me to the oldest, most complex, beautiful, difficult, and rewarding relationship – my relationship with God. Growing up I received two very different faces of religion and orthodox life. The first was the face of a kind recipient God who sends good dreams to fearful children, who listens to every prayer. The second was the face of an “Angry God” who watches over every single step – forever punishing disobedient children (like myself!). I was confused – forever negotiating with Him. It took me years to understand that the fears and punishments were man-made inventions for inflicting power – and that sometimes the gap between ‘belief’ and ‘religion’ is so wide that there is no connection at all.

Joel: What do you think causes so much tension among orthodox couples? Is it Halachah? Is it societal? Is it family pressure? Is it due to the lack of social skills? Is it arrogance?

Hadar: I don’t know whether there is less or more tension among orthodox couples than other couples. Each society has it’s own rules and people will be people – but I think that the fact that in religion (not only Jewish religion) a woman is ‘bought’ by her husband and ‘belongs’ to him, causes much of the unbalanced relationship. Woman’s status in Jewish law is something that demands a change, and I believe that only women can make that change – first of all by understanding that they deserve more.

Joel: How much responsibility should be placed on the women in the orthodox community who stand by and do nothing to change the way they are mistreated, and turn their backs when they see another woman in their community abused?

Read the rest at DC Theatrescene