Jewish Drama & Theatre: From Rabbinical Intolerance to Secular Liberalism

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Were they originally motivated by political concerns? It is entirely possible that the board really didn't like the movie in the first place, since political intrusions into the creative process are uncommon here. The censorship board for theatrical works was abolished a decade ago, after contributing to the success of several banned works that refused to close. But what happened with ''Kadosh'' and with the Batsheva Dance Company did come at a time when internal social divisions were exacerbated.

The country was moving toward a celebration of its 50th birthday, three years after the Rabin assassination ripped it apart. Benjamin Netanyahu led a right-wing government in which the ultra-Orthodox wielded particular power. Tensions generally escalate here anyway when an artist is selected to represent Israel. Also in , for instance, a small scandal erupted -- and fizzled -- when Dana International, a transsexual diva, won the Eurovision pop music contest on behalf of the Jewish homeland.

The rabbis weren't thrilled, although many Israelis considered it a weird kind of post-Zionist accomplishment. In that context, some found it unnecessarily offensive to religious Israelis. Others -- especially after the Chief Rabbi of Israel warned that those who did not condemn Batsheva's ''forbidden act'' would bring upon themselves ''suffering, and even death'' -- wondered if what had transpired portended a wave of repression. So the moment had faded into a cautionary tale by the time Ehud Barak, a dovish hawk who preaches unity, was elected Prime Minister in May, putting secular liberals back in charge of the ministries that finance culture.

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Partly crediting themselves, Israeli artists say tolerance has grown nearly continuously over the last 10 years, with a steady movement toward greater freedom of expression on the sensitive subjects for their society: the Israeli-Arab relationship, militarism, religion and the Holocaust. In the journey toward tolerance, there have been dozens of battles. Hanoch Levin, a leading Israeli playwright who died this year, fought some of the crucial ones.

Starting in the late 's, he began defying the censors with works that skewered Israeli mores, subversively mocking its militarist pride, its political leaders and its very self-image. By the mid's, confrontational art was almost de rigueur but still powerful. Three years before the brouhaha over ''Anaphase,'' for instance, at the opening of the Israel Festival in , the Batsheva Company dancers sat with their backs to a capacity audience that included Mr. They appeared to be simulating masturbation until they turned to reveal that they were cleaning their army-issued guns.

It was a startling enough image to make the audience gasp. Rabin, a peacemaker but former general, seemed palpably uncomfortable.

But the only action he took was to shift in his seat. Similarly, a few years later, two provocative exhibits at the Israel Museum played with the Holocaust era in a way that many Israelis found disturbing. On the radio, Holocaust survivors protested that a line had been crossed. But both shows completed their full runs.

The days when theaters were stormed for presenting Palestinians sympathetically or Israelis critically are long gone. Now it is fashionable to collaborate with Palestinian artists and, as the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv does, to invite Palestinian teen-agers to Israel for special productions in Arabic. Early this month, for the first time ever, a Palestinian director's movie -- ''A Chronicle of Disappearance,'' by Iliya Suleiman -- was selected as the best Israeli film of the year by Israeli critics.

If anything, the resistance comes from abroad: Mr. Lewensohn, the director, cannot persuade Muslim musical stars to perform at the Israel Festival; they are certain they will lose their audience. The Parisians expressed initial concern when Dani Karavan, a world-renowned environmental sculptor, chose to construct ''Peace Sukkah'' for his contribution to a current exhibit on the Champs-Elysees.

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It seemed destined to offend several parties at once: religious Jews, right-wing Israelis and anti-peace Palestinians. Karavan went ahead anyway and constructed a traditional religious tabernacle, like those built all over Israel during the fall harvest festival, but subverted it to a political message. He centered in it an olive tree and topped it with handmade Israeli and Palestinian flags. Karavan laughed and recalled his last exhibit in his homeland, two years ago at the Museum of Israeli Art in Ramat Gan. Unlike most of his large-scale work, which espouses peace and tolerance in general terms, this was an angry exhibit of political art directed at the Netanyahu Government.

Karavan took an olive tree, hung it upside down by the roots and called it Har Homa, for the housing project outside Jerusalem that had stopped the peace process. He shot a bullet hole through a sabra, the prickly cactus that is emblematic of Israel, and called it ''Nature Morte. My wife wanted us to change our phone number.

The director of the museum said he would be fired. But he's still there and we still have the same telephone. Karavan continued. It was art, and at this moment, art is not so influential. Nonetheless, he continues to work from the heart, even if it means erecting giant projects in the desert that few will travel to see.

One of his latest, ''Path to Peace,'' is what he calls a ''border sculpture. Karavan's ambition is to find an Egyptian sculptor who will continue the path on the other side, but so far he has not found anyone ''brave enough,'' he said. They long to feel liberated from the yoke of being self-consciously Israeli in all their work and of being ''meaningful'' in a political context. He described a workshop of Israeli and Palestinian directors with Peter Brook in , in which everyone expressed a similar yearning to put on plays for the sole reason that they were beautiful or well-crafted.

Lewensohn said. We all of us wanted to do something out of love for the theater and not as compensation for the fact that we didn't go into politics. But there is no consensus within the arts world that it is acceptable to relinquish a sense of engagement. Some artists insist that their political work is not finished, contending that they themselves, by pushing at the edges of the acceptable, helped lead Israeli society down a road to greater tolerance.

This feeling is particularly striking in the visual arts, where conceptual mixed-media art rules. Years ago, Israeli artists began exploring this approach to engage burning questions, say, about the morality of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Many of those artists see pure painting or drawing, with no text or message attached, not only as a luxury but also as part of an alien European, Christian, old-fashioned tradition. One classical painter, Eli Shamir, who concentrates on straightforward portraits and Israeli landscapes, said that he was effectively shunned by the art establishment.

Shamir, who teaches drawing and painting at some of the finest art schools in the United States but cannot get equivalent work in Israel.

Israel: Liberals clash with ultra-Orthodox Jews over Jerusalem's Western Wall

James Snyder, an American who is director of the Israel Museum, said, ''At this moment, if, like Eli Shamir, you decide to be a representational painter, it's a political act. Gitai, a secular filmmaker, cast an Israeli-Arab actor in the role of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in his latest film, ''Kadosh. But it ultimately paints a stultifying picture, particularly for women, of life in a ghetto. The film board, which subsidizes nearly every Israeli film, told Mr.

Gitai, one of Israel's best-known directors, that it was turning him down ''on artistic grounds.

viptarif.ru/wp-content/cell/1273.php And it retroactively awarded Mr. Were they originally motivated by political concerns? It is entirely possible that the board really didn't like the movie in the first place, since political intrusions into the creative process are uncommon here. The censorship board for theatrical works was abolished a decade ago, after contributing to the success of several banned works that refused to close.

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But what happened with ''Kadosh'' and with the Batsheva Dance Company did come at a time when internal social divisions were exacerbated. The country was moving toward a celebration of its 50th birthday, three years after the Rabin assassination ripped it apart. Benjamin Netanyahu led a right-wing government in which the ultra-Orthodox wielded particular power. Tensions generally escalate here anyway when an artist is selected to represent Israel. Also in , for instance, a small scandal erupted -- and fizzled -- when Dana International, a transsexual diva, won the Eurovision pop music contest on behalf of the Jewish homeland.

The rabbis weren't thrilled, although many Israelis considered it a weird kind of post-Zionist accomplishment. In that context, some found it unnecessarily offensive to religious Israelis. Others -- especially after the Chief Rabbi of Israel warned that those who did not condemn Batsheva's ''forbidden act'' would bring upon themselves ''suffering, and even death'' -- wondered if what had transpired portended a wave of repression.

So the moment had faded into a cautionary tale by the time Ehud Barak, a dovish hawk who preaches unity, was elected Prime Minister in May, putting secular liberals back in charge of the ministries that finance culture. Partly crediting themselves, Israeli artists say tolerance has grown nearly continuously over the last 10 years, with a steady movement toward greater freedom of expression on the sensitive subjects for their society: the Israeli-Arab relationship, militarism, religion and the Holocaust. In the journey toward tolerance, there have been dozens of battles.