A Letter From Israel – Watching From Afar

from Kobi, writing from Israel…

As you know I have been following the play from afar for the past 8 days (can you believe that only 8 days have passed since the opening night?).

Since I am a great admirer of this play, It makes me very happy to see how well it is doing. The fact that it creates such an emotional turmoil is just a proof of how powerful it is and how much close it gets to the “untouched zone” of “what happened back there in 1948″. I agree with those who say that the play does not attempt to answer this very question at all, but mainly opens the window to let some air into a room which has been closed for the past 63 years. I remember that my response (after wiping off many tears) when I saw this play first was “how is it possible that we had to wait so long before we could say this very simple statement?”

I am watching the hysteria by which the play is accepted by some Israeli officials and know that you have struck gold (or is it oil?) with this play. I read about the Israeli mother who told you that her son should not see the play before going into the army, and it makes want to cry. Out of all the words which were written about the play during the past week, no other sentence expresses more eloquently why this play should be shown over and over and over again, everywhere possible and to all possible audiences.

I remember well that in 2008, when the play came out, it was only few days after the famous Philadelphia speech of Obama, during his campaign; the speech in which he spoke about the painful topic of racism in the US, and yet, his manner of speaking was so heart-opening that somehow you could not resist it. It just overcame your resistance because it penetrated your heart even when your mind may have objected. I remember thinking back then that “Return to Haifa” works in similar ways because it just forces you to feel empathy to the pains of the other, and to listen to the “narrative” of the other.

The Israeli mother whom I mentioned was correct in her intuition that connecting with this empathy can be very dangerous to the narrative of war, to the narrative of fear, to the narrative of “no partner”. Here on the stage you have an irresistible partner, not necessarily for an immediate negotiation but a partner to humanity who forces you to look at him and see him as you may see yourself.

When you see so many Israelis who are scared by this possibility you realize how important it is.

What I wanted to pass on to Ari is my true admiration for the way he has been riding this incredible storm. I just read what he wrote today on his blog and I can imagine very well all the “behind the scene” events which generated this loaded text. I admire the fact that he does not back off and at the same time keeps all lines of communication open.

I plead you all not to give into the pressures which you must be under right now. What you are doing is a wonderful thing, and there are no words to express its importance.

Thank you so much.

kobi (sinai’s brother)