An Israeli Attends “The Admission” in Jaffa and Responds

The following is an email sent to us by Sarah Groner, an Isreaeli who grew up in the DC area and now calls Tel Aviv home. She writes that her mom, a frequent attendee of Theater J, has been following the big to-do at Theater J surrounding “The Admission” and sharing the news. Sarah read our post about the Jaffa reading and decided to attend.שרה-גרונר-235x Sarah Groner pic

“I attended with a friend and found the play thought-provoking and well done. I did not find it “anti-Israel” or objectionable in anyway. I wanted to let you know that from where I sit, as an Israeli who works for peace, this play is an important portrayal of the personal and political conflicts that make up the tapestry of Israel.”

The following is a more formal statement Sarah’s written that, at her request and with with her permission, we post herein:

As an American-Israeli, I often find myself in between worlds. On the one hand, I have spent my entire adult life in Israel – studying, working, paying taxes and serving in Israel and of course, identifying as an Israeli. Yet on the other hand, I am still deeply tied to the issues facing the community that raised me, the community that instilled in me my deep Jewish identity.

It is out of these shared identities that I was intrigued to go see the live reading of “The Admission” last Friday in Jaffa. My mom has been keeping me informed of the drama that has been going on off stage at Theater J and I wanted to see what the commotion was about.

The reading, done in Hebrew in a packed local Arab-Israeli theatre, portrayed characters from the various parts of modern Israeli society. It included two families – one Jewish, one Arab – and followed the personal, familial and political conflicts that challenge both families. The play explored family secrets, legends, heartbreak and regret, feelings that are all too familiar for those of us who live day-to-day in this part of the world.

There were typical Jewish/Israeli narratives of sacrifice, renewal, strength and perseverance, as well as typical Palestinian narratives of loss, betrayal and bereavement. As someone who thinks about conflict resolution and the long road we are on to reconciliation with our neighbors, this play struck me as a thoughtful presentation of the many narratives in this conflict. The hackneyed saying of “those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it” rings true in the world in which I live, where there are people with different pasts and different experiences, but all are parties to the conflict, whether they like it or not. I fear that if we do not confront all perspectives and if we do not include all in the healing process, then this conflict will never be resolved. As an Israeli, I cannot say that watching the play was easy, but is that not why we view art? To challenge ourselves and expand our perspectives?

It is important for me to write this response and to share that this play portrays an honest and thought-provoking story. For many in the US, it may be difficult to come to grips with the reality of the conflict, and the pain experienced on all sides, but in order to help us heal we must be able to shine light on the past and learn lessons. I support “The Admission” and I think this play is an important work that I hope can lead to deeper understanding, acceptance and eventually peace.

3 thoughts on “An Israeli Attends “The Admission” in Jaffa and Responds

  1. Groner’s piece is a perfect illustration as to why I am offended by The Admission, and deeply offended by the misappropriation of funds to produce it. She lauds the play by stating:

    “It is important for me to write this response and to share that this play portrays an honest and thought-provoking story. For many in the US, it may be difficult to come to grips with the reality of the conflict, and the pain experienced on all sides…”.

    Because the story is not honest, real or experienced by anyone, it can not shine light on anything.

  2. One has to know facts before they can draw “perspectives.” Ilan Pappe, an advocate of Israel’s destruction said “The struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth-seekers.” Pappe does not just interpret facts; he makes them up to suit his ideology. The postmodernists believe that it is perfectly OK to manipulate other people into believing falsehoods provided it suits the manipulator’s ideology.
    So, lets look at the facts and not perspective or feelings:
    Teddy Katz’s Master’s thesis purported to document a previously unknown massacre during Israel’s War of Independence. He alleged that in May 1948 the IDF murdered 250 Arab civilians after winning a battle in the town of Tantura.

    Veterans of the battle sued Katz for libel and won. Indeed, in testimony before the district court judge Katz admitted his thesis was a fabrication.

    Katz later recanted his admission and appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling that Katz had libeled the soldiers. The university appointed a panel of scholars to review his research materials. They found Katz had fabricated statements he alleged came from interviews with eyewitnesses and was stripped of his degree.

    Perspectives must be based on facts and not feelings.

    • Shall we talk about the facts of the Teddy Katz case? We could. Does Motti Lerner’s play pertain to the Teddy Katz case? No, it is a historical drama that invents a whole new set of Israeli family members and Palestinian family members who wrestle with accusations about the past as that wrestling impacts their present relationships. The play is set in Haifa and refers back to a fictional town — a Palestinian village that could be Lyddah, or Mi’ar, or Yajur, or Balad al-Shaykh, or al-Bassa, or Tantura; Palestinian villages that are no more. As a dramatist, Motti Lerner has both done his homework and extrapolated a dramatic debate and romantic triangle to show how a contentious, unresolved past leads to a turbulent present.

      COPMA and its many literate, impressive friends who respond to the group’s missives suggest that the past, as it relates to the actual town of Tantura is an open-and-shut, uncontentious affair. That the Israeli Supreme Court reviewed the evidence, ruled, and found any allegations of untoward or improper IDF actions not to have happened. There’s a problem with this assertion. The Israeli Supreme Court never reviewed the case. It never considered Teddy Katz’s appeal. It refused to discuss the case. The Israel Supreme Court passed on hearing it. The lower regional court ruling stood. So let’s just say that. And then parse the proceedings of that lower court.

      Motti Lerner’s play does not relitigate the libel trial – nor does it examine the fragile state of health of the defendant Teddy Katz and explore why he first succumbed to pressure, signed an apology for the dozens of superficial mistakes in his thesis, only to withdraw his admission less than 24 hours later. That’s not of interest to Lerner. What is of interest is that the past of Tantura was not set to bed, just like the past of Lydda was not set to rest and it took enterprising Israeli journalist Ari Shavit spending 20 years of his life researching it to bring all of his findings forward on the massacre and forced expulsions at Lydda, the precise descriptions of which made it into the pages of The New Yorker Magazine on October 21, 2013. The testimonies keep coming, from IDF veterans not involved in the lawsuit and, of course, from Palestinians as well. A study was conducted by one kibbutznik named Teddy Katz and then withdrawn from academic circulation as a lawsuit was issued, an apology issued and then retracted but not accepted by the lower court; a historical verdict has not been settled.

      Just ask historian Benny Morris. Or rather look at historian Benny Morris’ research. Read his book from 1998. Read his follow up article on Tantura from 2004 in The Jerusalem Report. Even read his scathing indictment of Ilan Pappe’s body of work from 2011 in The New Republic, and we’ll see that Morris — who discounts all oral testimony, preferencing Israeli-issued written accounts and after-action reports — acknowledges that atrocities occurred. Did a massacre occur? Morris says no. Motti Lerner’s characters come to much the same conclusion in Lerner’s fictional scenario. So let’s not called what happened at Tantura, or in the fictional play, a “massacre” then. Let’s call it what Benny Morris calls it. An “atrocity.” A series of small atrocities. That’s what Tom Segev concludes too. That’s what Yair Oron concludes in his newest book. The extent of these atrocities? Is it acceptable as a necessary cost of war? Would Israel have come into being without the kind of complete vanquishing of its foe in village after village, town after town, which led to the flight, and in some case, forced expulsion of its Arab residents? A state needed to come into being. Jews needed a place to live and it couldn’t live alongside a hostile neighbor which had fought to destroy the fledgling state. Lerner’s play acknowledges this. It accepts its characters’ logic.

      Shall we look a little more closely at the Katz case to see specifically why it’s not really so open-and-shut? We’ve got lots and lots of material to share. Maybe we’ll do so at the gathering at the Somerset on November 24. Perhaps that’s a better place for a civil dialogue. Thanks for checking in.

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