iI’m not sure how much thought I gave to the subject beforehand, but in real-time, at the box office, with the playbills reading Ghetto, and me, dutifully leading my father and myself to our seats, carefully looking at the numbers, I felt a weight stealthily invading me, which I still ignored, because in one split second my father set off a mini-commotion, telling all our neighbors in rows 6 to 9, that unlike them he came from the real ghetto.
Forget the debate - can you or can’t you dramatize the Holocaust, from Spielberg to Tarantino, but it’s always good to revert to tradition, or to our Holocaust, which unfortunately no one can take away from us. But still, there were moments when I stuck my elbow into my ribs, “Hey, you, aren’t you enjoying yourself a bit too much?” But after a while I felt myself indulging in the bliss of psychological agony. At some point the actors managed to trick me into feeling that I was in the ghetto. In a state of panic, I swallowed two pretzels – the theatre’s secret recipe – during the show, my stomach developing a hunger that originated in my mind, and my body nervously reacting like someone who is going to get sick from all this.
My anti-virus program was evidently a day behind, because when I left the theatre I bought two more salty pretzels, offering bites to other people, hiding the real number in my purse. Those are the rules of the ghetto, never show more than you need to at any given time. Then I felt that I was about to faint. But my father was unconcerned. In fact he was as light as a feather, and suggested with a great deal of charm that we go for a beer. When I asked him what he thought of the play, he only said, “Look, don’t go by me, I’m no yardstick.” So, if he’s nothing to go by, am I? Who’s the yardstick?
The cast, under the grandiose command of Omri Nitzan, brings a great deal of talent and joie de vivre to the stage, a bit too much joie de vivre. Datner proves how charismatic he is when necessary, Itay Tiran stars in the role of Kittel, the evil Nazi, the artist who toys with the Jews for fun, Anya Bukstein is wonderful, Eli Gorenstein displays despondent socialism, and Rami Baruch plays the role of Weiskopf the tailor well, interpreting the stereotypical Jew with a great deal of courage, but even the high standard of acting cannot cover the description of the Holocaust, which by definition is always embarrassing, because like in Schindler’s List, no ghetto Jew looks like that. The magnificent dresses, the fine coats, the people looking well, and the false assault on the food marks embarrassing and humiliating hunger. There’s no way to design hunger. Hunger is hunger.
I heard some of the older people in the audience say that in the original production the ghetto was only alluded to, and was therefore more effective, but in 2010 the theatre, too, is trying to aim at the taste of the tri-dimensional – we need the Holocaust, let’s put on a musical. The closer the impact, the farther away it is, foreign, with a whiff of something which art avoids, but nevertheless this is what this play is dealing with, the triumph of spirit, despite everything, and everything here is nothing less than the Holocaust itself, one needs a theatre in the ghetto. I have no answer to the question of whether we need a ghetto in the theatre of our lives.
I was very sick, and when the worried chef hovered over me late at night he tried to understand what had really happened to me, what had suddenly thrown me off my feet. At some point I felt him taking my pulse, looking at me with that expression which tries not to worry people who are already worried. “Did you eat anything when you were out?” he asked. “No,” I replied with the last bit of my strength, “only a pretzel.” Okay, he found nothing unusual about my pulse and we fell asleep together on the couch.
Only in the morning, when I told him how many pretzels I had eaten, and in such a state of hysterics, did it became clear that the virus that had invaded me was one I caught from imagining the ghetto, the plague that attacks you in the middle of the day in Tel Aviv, coming from out of nowhere. On such a day, when people here are being murdered and imprisoned in solitary confinement, beaten and humiliated, now, at this very moment, in an arbitrary scheme - and what is behind it is not systematic hatred but hereditary hatred - the worse it gets, it will be worse for everyone, that’s what evil is like, ever more domineering and heavy-handed without knowing what to do with what it already has, with what has already been conquered in sorrow and tears.
From an article by Miri Hanoch, published in Haaretz, March 19, 2010