During the first week of rehearsals for Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of The People, playwright/adapter Boaz Gaon was in residence with us, working hard in rehearsal with a wonderful team of actors, designers, and support staff, all under the direction of Joseph Megel. Boaz also accepted two speaking engagements while here, addressing an audience on Thursday night in the DCJCC’S Anne Loeb Bronfman Gallery, and on Friday night, speaking to the congregants of Beit Mischpacha.
Here’s a report from Friday night’s Beit Mish address from Theater J Council member and Beit Mischpacha pillar, Al Munzer.
“Boaz Gaon spoke about Israel’s Social Protest Movement at Bet Mishpachah December 11 after Kabbalat Shabbat Services led by Rabbi Bob and Loretta Saks. Bet Mishpachah, a synagogue founded by members of Washington DC’s GLBT community thirty-six years ago as part of the Gay revolution sparked by the Stonewall Rebellion, was an especially appropriate venue for Boaz’s talk.
As a member of the Congregation and of the Theater J Council, I was asked to introduce Boaz. Here is what I said.
I face a real dilemma about introducing our guest speaker.
Boaz is one of the kindest, most soft-spoken, gentlest people I have ever met.
And there are many things I could tell you about Boaz Gaon.
I could tell you he is one of Israel’s leading young playwrights, journalists and political activists.
I could tell you He has served as correspondent in London and New York for the Israeli daily newspaper Ma’ariv.
I could tell you he is the author of Where America Ends – an Israeli in America which was published in Tel Aviv in 2008.
I could also tell you Boaz is also the author of The Return to Haifa, an adaptation to the theater of the novella The Returnee to Haifa by Ghassan Kanafani, which was staged by the Cameri Theater in Israel in 2008 and here at Theater J in 2011 to critical acclaim, sell-out audiences and a heated political debate about the issue of Palestinian refugees and the readiness of Israeli society to deal with this question and others, that are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I could tell you his new play BOGED (Traitor) and Adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People will be presented by Theater J in January.
But then here are some excerpts from a column Boaz wrote for Ha’aretz.
I, Boaz Gaon, being of sound mind and body, hereby offer myself for sale to AIPAC. Should the committee decline, I offer the opportunity to Sheldon Adelson. In any event, I offer my internal organs for free, as a confidence-building gesture, to leading right-wingers in America – to all those who view Israel as a kind of political football made out of seven million residents, a football that can be kicked at the wall over and over. After all, we Israelis don’t feel any pain, and we know that our destiny is to be tossed around like a ball in some exclusive gym by Republican lobbyists, before they head off to the sauna and then cocktails.
I’m taking this step because I’ve come to understand that my own existence, and that of my children, merely shatters the sweet illusion of Israelis as matchsticks used to build a spectacular model of Noah’s Ark. Our lives belie the illusion that Jerusalem is a composite of Judaica items, each costing $30,000 in Zurich Airport’s duty free store. This is the illusion that allows people to call for the bombing of Iran while they sit in a mansion in Dallas. Or for the eradication of Israel’s democracy while lounging in a winter retreat in Miami. Or the annexation of Judea and Samaria while having a drink at the blackjack table in Las Vegas.
And that’s my dilemma. How can this very quiet, gentle person who wouldn’t harm a fly and this incredibly passionate author and playwright inhabit the same body?
Boaz acknowledged the dilemma, “that’s what my mother says too,” he said. His talk did bring together the two faces of Boaz.
Appropriately to Shabbat he introduced his talk as being about miracles, the miracle of a small group of people of very different backgrounds and concerned about very different issues coming together and growing from a dozen, to five hundred, to seven hundred and finally to 500,000 or 10% of Israel’s population, joining in rallies across the country September 3, 2011. Boaz and fellow writers were primarily concerned about the enactment of a series of anti-democratic laws and a series of tragic events like the Marmara incident that tarnished Israel’s reputation. Dafni Liff, a young secular woman, was evicted by her landlord and started the protest against the astronomical rise of the cost of housing by pitching a tent on one of Tel Aviv’s ritziest avenues Boulevard Rothschild. She was soon joined by thousands of others. Itzik Elrov, a young orthodox Israeli living in Bnei Brak, was incensed by the 75% increase in the price of cottage cheese, a staple of Israeli society, and gathered 100,000 followers on Facebook to start a boycott of Tnuva, Israel’s largest purveyor of dairy products. “Miracles happen,” said Boaz, “but they don’t happen spontaneously; they must be made to happen.” In the lively question and answer period following his talk and during the Oneg afterwards, Boaz explained how his new play BOGED (Traitor) and Adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, is an outgrowth of the social protest movement and addresses environmental issues rooted in human greed, that are as much of a threat to Israel as the Palestinian conflict and the secular-orthodox divide.