Responses to Our Voices Festival Readings – Round Up from “1948” and “Hand In Hand Together”

The expansion of our Voices Festival has led to an intense inquiry into that period when Israel’s formation was in its infancy.  The readings presented at the end of last month and a week ago, Monday night, both capture the sharpness of the ideological differences that accompanied Zionism as it moved from abstract proposition to concrete realization, and experiences of a group of Palmach soldiers as they move from training course through a series of battles up to war’s end, as refracted through the prism of memory and an older veteran trying to hold onto the meaning of his memories from Israel’s first war.

Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival Readings
Reading: 1948
From the memoir by Yoram Kaniuk
Adapted for the Haifa Theater by Noya Lancet
Directed by Derek Goldman (Our Class)
Musical Director and instrumentalist: Ari Roth

Featuring Ashley Ivey, Mark Krawczyk, Sasha Olinick, Joshua Morgan, Adi Stein, Dylan Silver, Sarah Taurchini and Elizabeth Jernigan

Monday, March 31, 2014
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Discussion to follow

A veteran remembers the camaraderie and fog of war.

Reading: Hand in Hand Together
By A.B. Yehoshua
Translated and Directed by Guy Ben-AharonFeaturing Michael Tolaydo, Megan Graves, Conrad Feininger and Stephen Patrick Martin

Monday, April 7, 2014
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Discussion to follow

David Ben Gurion and Zeev Jabotinsky debate different visions of Zionism.



4 thoughts on “Responses to Our Voices Festival Readings – Round Up from “1948” and “Hand In Hand Together”

  1. While reading Hand in Hand Together, it was sometimes difficult for me to distinguish which characters were making which arguments and where the plot was heading. The piece does not provide a large portion of context for those unfamiliar to the conflict. Therefore, it took me awhile to even begin to understand what these two leaders were discussing. I think this difficulty also came from the nature of the piece’s conflict. Unlike in other plays, the conflicts focused on warring internal factions. Since I do not know much about Zionism, their internal arguments hashed out in the play were difficult for me to follow.

    One takeaway from the piece was the endurance of strong friendships. These men, who were at odds, came to realize that they had a rapport between them. The two men remained politically against the other; however, they were both able to see around these issues and notice each other as people. I think that this is a simple lesson, however profound. We learn from a young age not to judge each other and treat everyone the same. However, as we get older, this simple task becomes clouded with harsh realities. Treating everyone equally is not always the easiest commitment to make when his or her views or ideologies are angering. The budding friendship between the two men demonstrates this principle of equality and is a refreshing reminder of that simple children’s lesson.

    Another interesting part of the piece was how early in Israel’s history the setting took place. At first, the class had seen Camp David, which focused on Israel as a state and some of its conflicts. Moving “back in time,” the preview of Golda’s Balcony focused more on an emerging Israel. This was the earliest piece I had encountered. Hand in Hand Together focused on Israel as part of the future, potentially not even near (if I interpreted the piece correctly). It is always important to spark discussions on not only major, high visibility events and issues, but also those smaller, in comparison, and that is what I think this piece does.

  2. When I heard “Hand in Hand Together” read at Theater J last Monday, I was impressed with the play’s delivery. It was incredibly evident that the dialogue between David Ben Gurion and Zeev Jabotinsky embodied the sharp differences of opinion in the Jewish Community, almost in the mold of the aphorism,” Two Jews, Three Opinions”. Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky appeared to agree on nothing even though they both shared the common goal of establishing a Jewish State. During the play, I was drawn to the difference in styles between Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion with Jabotinsky being more militant and Ben Gurion appearing as more of a pragmatist. This difference in approach had much to do with the background of the two leaders. With Jabotinsky being trained as a philosopher he was able to develop approaches to Zionism that were more theoretical, whereas Ben Gurion had more pressure to develop more practical means to attract Jewish migrants to emigrate from Europe and the United States to Israel.

    Next, I found Ben Gurion’s discussion of his tombstone to be very powerful. Before hearing “Hand in Hand Together” being read, I was unfamilliar with the concept of being “Born Again” in Judaism. Ben Gurion was so attached to the concept and the state of Israel that he asked that only three dates be placed on his tombstone: the year he was born, the year that he emigrated to Israel and the year that he died. He placed the year that he emigrated because he felt that his life was so irrevocably changed by moving to Israel that it was as if he had started a completely new life. He used this sentiment throughout the negotiations with Jabotinsky to figuratively express his commitment to Zionisim and the concept of a Jewish Homeland.

    Further, the discussion between Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky about what to do to save the Jewish Community from the rise of Nazisim was enlightening at showing the difference of opinion between the two leaders, as Jabotinsky favored an international boycott of the Nazis and Ben Gurion supported increased immigration to Palestine. Ben Gurion expressed to Jabotinsky his view that implementing a boycott of the Nazis would be impractical as many of the Jewish Leaders that Jabotinsky would depend on to facilitate the boycott were heavily dependent on german business, so the boycott would likely not achieve its desired aims of isolating the Nazi Regime.

    Finally, I was surprised by the attitude of awe from Marussiah especially regarding the supposed “popper of the Jews”. Even when Jabotinsky and Ben-Gurion were vigorously debating the best way to ensure the survival of the Jewish Community in the face of impending potential destruction at the hands of the Nazis, Marussiah still appealed to them to try and free her mother who had been sent to Siberia. Further, this showed the power and strength of stereotypes- that even as the Jews of europe were threatened with destruction by Hitler’s Nazis that the belief of their unrepresentatively high political power still was widely believed.

  3. When reading the play, “1948” several reactions come to mind throughout the brief script. First, I was immediately impacted by the “Song of the Palmach”. The sheer pride and courage that these young soldiers had to achieve their dream of Zionism was felt while reading the song, and felt even more so when I listened to the Song of the Palmach on the linked video.

    Next, this play does an excellent job of transporting the reader to the battlefield. When reading the play, I too am able to, to a certain extent, fathom the extreme hardship that these soldiers went through in order to defend the newly established state against attacks. The flashbacks throughout the play help the reader connect with the soldiers and the hardships that they face as well as the gravity and importance of what they are fighting for.

    Further, “1948” excellently portrays a sense of national pride among the soldiers in the IDF especially those who left their family to fight for something that had been for thousands of years, a dream and almost a fantasy. In a way similar to the US Revolutionary War, soldiers who had almost nothing to defend and everything to fight for left home and went to Jerusalem to fight to establish Israel and defend its new borders. Also, “1948” portrays the true struggle that these soldiers faced as they were ill-equipped to fight the war and often lacked basic supplies. Similar to the narrative of the founding of other nations, they were able to persevere and succeed. However, what made the war of independence and the founding of Israel unique was the size of Israel compared to its neighbors- all of which were hardened enemies.

    In “1948”, a quote that resonated well was the quote about Rashi and the need for a new type of Jewish hero. For millennia, the Jewish people had been known for their scholarship around Jewish texts, with Rashi being one of the foremost scholars. This quote does an excellent job of showing the transformation that occurred for many Jewish pioneers- the Jews who came and settled in Israel, they needed to (and did) remake themselves from scholars into fighters and because of this won their independence from the British and the Arab armies who attacked them.

    Throughout “1948” I was impressed with the diversity of life experiences that were incorporated into the play. It is impressive how the playwright was able to show how diverse the immigrant community to Israel was and how each of these types of people have a distinct story, but yet have commonalities of struggle during the immediate establishment of Israel.

    Additionally, I was impressed how “1948”’s playwright was able to capture the inherent personal struggle with killing innocent civilians. I was glad to see the playwright address the difficulty involved with killing in conflict since those civilians on the opposing side are often innocent human beings. This is one of the most devastating parts of war- how emotion and state attachment cause the unnecessary killing of innocent civilians.

    Overall, I was impressed with the play, “1948”. I wish I had an opportunity to see the play produced. It likely would have led to an excellent post-show discussion.

  4. A couple things came to mind while reading 1948. First, the fact that the characters were all Actor #. This gave them a sense of anonymity. These people could have been anyone fighting at this time. It adds a bit more mystery, wonder, and sadness to the play, as it shows how this war affected so many. Also, the descriptions of their experiences were very intense, and it is clear how traumatizing it would have been to be fighting at this time. For example, these lines particularly stick out to me: “Actor 6: (Sitting up) We realized that they could see the whites of our eyes so we shut them. Actor 5: ( Sitting up)We lay there holding the grenades to our chests so we could blow ourselves up, and not be taken prisoners and be tortured.”

    A key theme of the play was memory. There are many, many allusions to memories throughout and I really thought they fit in well. For me, it created a sense of disorientation and ambiguity, exactly as a war does. (i.e. “Actor 4: And what is memory? I’m trying to fish myself out of what seems to be memories, but perhaps I was someplace else?”). The theme of memory comes to a fulfillment at the end, culminating in a thought provoking and confusing statement: “Actor 4: No memory has a country, no country has a memory. Actor 2 translates to Arabic. Actor 4: I can remember or invent memory, and at the same time invent a country or think that in the past it was different. There is no country that can be different if it was first not different.” Trying to determine what happened and what did not, while also trying to escape the nightmares of the terrors that did occur, shows just how daunting and devastating not only the 1948 war was to soldiers, but applies to people fighting in wars everywhere and at all times.

    Last, I liked the stage directions. There is a lot of movement such as when the actors come off stage, run over and around the audience, and speak to them directly. There is no way this play could lose your attention. This definitely contributes intensity of the play.

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