Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"I can tell you what it’s like," Yocheved Menashe

Here’s another reaction to “7 Jewish Children.” It’s from my friend Yocheved (Yo for short) in Israel….

I can tell you what it's like to be a teacher of grade 11 and 12 students whose school bus just ran over a land mine, which for some reason didn't explode immediately but shortly thereafter. It's a miracle of G/d that they were all still alive to talk about it – and I was the first one they told.

I can tell you what it's like to have a class discussion, with kids from different grades and different schools, to find that every one of them has been directly affected by a suicide attack – me included.

I can tell you what it's like when a suicide attack occurs and you're frantic until you get to school and can make sure all your students are present and accounted for.

I can tell you what it's like to see a bombed out bus.

I can tell you what it's like to have a student in your class whose parent was killed in a suicide attack.

I can tell you what it's like to be on a bus on your way to teach young people or on your way home when it's stoned by Palestinians. Or what it's like when they’ve surrounded the bus and boxed it in with trucks and a mob, including children, and you're stuck there until the IDF comes to get you out.

I can tell you what it's like to have two of Israel's finest guard you with assault rifles while you wait for a bus.

I can tell you what it's like when I do get to the school and I get to teach the greatest kids in the world. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

All the best,
Jerusalem, Israel
(Formerly of Toronto)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"7 Jewish Children" & ugly knit blankets

My husband and I were both listening to Michael Enright's CBC show last Sunday when he played a "read" of “Seven Jewish Children.”
We’re not dumb as stumps. We generally have the intelligence to have lively discussions on many views of many topics. But neither one of us could follow what was going on.

He thought it was seven sets of parents talking to seven children. I thought it was supposed to represent the voices of children, but that it was some freaky sort of nostalgia because the voices were all adult.

When they got to the part that went something like "Tell her we didn't mean to kill the babies," I couldn't listen anymore.

In the AGO they have a display of ugly knit blankets laid out on the floor. Somehow this too is art, but I don't get that either. I find myself irritated that this collection of thrift store uglies is given space and credibility in an art gallery. The play annoys me in the same way.

Margaret Beach

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What it’s actually like to raise kids in Israel, an Israeli mother’s reaction to “Seven Jewish Children”

What really annoys me about the Caryl Churchill play is this: I’m an Israeli parent. I have raised 5 children in Israel, which is no easy task, over and above the normal difficulties of parenting. Like the majority of Israeli parents I have wrestled with the dilemma of how to raise happy, balanced children in an environment with so many instances of violence and fear.

One has to cope with the fears of a child whose father and / or brother has gone to war. One has to cope with the anxieties of children forced to wear a gas mask for hours at a time for weeks on end and forbidden to leave the house. One has to cope with the nightmares resulting from seemingly unending terror attacks. One has to decide on a balance between the freedoms a teenager demands and the obvious dangers. One has to comfort teenagers who have buried friends.

But all the while, from their infancy, one tries not to opt for the easiest route. So one buys children’s books promoting Arab-Israeli co-existance. One takes them to play with the children of Arab friends. One encourages them to study hard in Arabic lessons in school. One discusses current affairs and politics, taking care to present the other point of view. When they go to the army one makes sure that they discuss their difficulties and moral dilemmas over a shabbat meal.

And then along comes Caryl Churchill and makes a complete stereotypical lie out of all those years of parenting and all those sleepless nights of dilemma.

- An Israeli Nurse (and Mom)

Photo: Israeli & Palestinian children at a soccer camp near Haifa with Argentinean football coach Daniel Passarella, 2008

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Seven Jewish Children," an incitement to hatred

There are those who delight in Jews admitting to their crimes, and with confessions in short supply, they invent them. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is one such invention. Supposedly written by Jews, though actually concocted by the Czarist secret police in about 1895, the Protocols outlines a Jewish plot for world domination. It’s the stuff of comic books but was Hitler’s guiding text.

“Seven Jewish Children,” a ten-minute play by Caryl Churchill, follows in the tradition of the Protocols. The play pretends to show Jews discussing what to tell their children at seven points in modern Jewish history, beginning with the Holocaust and ending with the recent conflict in Gaza.

Using this set-up, Churchill has her Jews confess to the worst lies of the Israel-haters. But Churchill goes a step further than usual: her play drops the standard “anti-Zionist” fig leaf and explicitly targets Jews.

Churchill’s Jews trade on the Holocaust: “Tell her we’re the ones to be sorry for,” they say. “Tell her they [the Palestinians] can’t talk suffering to us.”

Churchill’s Jews confess to having become Nazis: “Tell her we’re the iron fist now.”

The world hates Churchill’s Jews, but they’re defiant and declare themselves superior: “Tell her I don’t care if the world hates us, tell her we’re better haters, tell her we’re chosen people,”

Churchill’s Jews are genocidal and racist and revel in killing Palestinians: “Tell her I laughed when I saw the dead policemen, tell her they’re animals living in rubble now, tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out.”

Churchill’s Jews are child killers: “Tell her to be proud of the army. Tell her about the family of dead girls, tell her their names, why not tell her, the whole world knows why shouldn’t she know? Tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?”

In short, like the Protocols, “Seven Jewish Children” has all the sophistication of a bad comic book. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the play less dangerous. Performed in respectable venues, the play may help make supposed crimes of the Jews a subject for legitimate debate.

Also, there’s an audience that’s hungry to hear nasty things about the Jews, especially among the chattering classes in Britain. It’s no surprise the play was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London, England.

For its part, Britain’s Guardian newspaper was so eager to spread Churchill’s propaganda worldwide that they commissioned their own production and made it available on-line.The Guardian’s theatre critic Michael Billington praised the play, stating that Churchill: “Shows us how Jewish children are bred to believe in the ‘otherness’ of Palestinians.”

In fact, Jewish children aren’t “bred” for anything. Nor are they taught to be racists, as Billington and Churchill suggest – not in my house, nor in other Jewish homes in Canada, Israel or elsewhere. And, for the record, we don’t kill babies, either.

The play had its Canadian premiere on May 3 at the Espace Geordie in Montreal. It was directed by Rose Plotek, who teaches drama at York University’s Glendon College, and was sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices Montreal.

Independent Jewish Voices labels itself a group for Jews opposed to Israeli policies. More accurately, it’s a group for Jews who have converted to the orthodoxy of the far Left.

With so many Jews associated with it, the Montreal production is reminiscent of medieval times when Jewish converts to Christianity would make a career of slandering their former co-religionists.

I wish this play had sunk into the obscurity it deserves. Unfortunately, its extremism has insured that “Seven Jewish Children” has been widely noticed.

The National Post devoted a front-page story to the controversy over the play.
On the Radio Canada website, the CBC promoted the play with a short puff piece headlined: “Une pi├Ęce pour les enfants de Gaza.”

In English, the CBC devoted the first hour of “The Sunday Edition” to the play. Michael Enright, the show’s host, interviewed Howard Jacobson, an English novelist and one of the play’s most articulate critics.

Enright also interviewed Abby Lippman of the IJV and put some sharp questions to her. Unfortunately, the program began by broadcasting a reading of the play – all 10 antisemitic minutes.

“Seven Jewish Children” will make its Toronto debut at Theatre Passe Muraille, where I’ve seen many plays. I won’t be going there any more.

Notes: Be sure to read "What it's actually like to raise Israeli kids, an Israeli mother's reaction to "Seven Jewish Children." It's short and from the heart:

Howard Jacobson has an excellent piece in the Independent on “Seven Jewish Children” and contemporary antisemitism in Britain here.

Dave Rich and Mark Gardner of the Community Service Trust (the body that monitors anti-Jewish racism in Britain) have a piece analysing the antisemitism of “Seven Jewish Children” here.

This article, "'Seven Jewish Children,' an incitement to hatred," previously appeared in the 7 May 2009 Jewish Tribune, a community newspaper published weekly by B’nai Brith Canada, in the Canadian blog Dust My Broom, the British blog Harry’s Place, and will be in the May 20 edition of the Jewish Post & News in Winnipeg.