how do you survive

I’m at a loss for what to write on the TJ blog. I’m slightly afraid of how to frame this show for our audience. Hopefully, I’ll figure it out soon since the blog is sitting there stagnant and our e-audience is drooping. But it’s difficult. I’m not sure what we should be sharing with the audience. This show is very controversial. It was obvious how much so Thursday as the playwright joined us and detailed why he wanted this show done now in this city.

The play is a true product of Israel. It’s the desperation of the Israeli Left. It’s Motti’s cry to the Jews of America to question where their support goes. It’s a fear of where we are heading. One of the council members watching the read through yesterday said she felt nauseous. I don’t think that will be everyone’s response but it is a valid response. I feel nauseous when I think of the situation. We all should feel so, maybe it will lead to action.

I’ve been reading a great deal about Israel recently, as you may imagine. Beyond the history of the situation I’m fascinated by the psychology of those living in Israel and Palestine. At this point they’ve been so beaten down, by attacks, by lack of hope, by death, by lack of opportunities. Of course a play like this is a product.

In the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago Israeli writer David Grossman wrote a beautiful article about the effect of the conflict. I suggest reading the full article as Grossman captures the despondency of the people and how he has found survival,

And I feel the heavy toll that I, and the people I know and see around me, pay for this ongoing state of war. The shrinking of the “surface areas” of the soul that comes in contact with the bloody and menacing world out there. The limiting of one’s ability and willingness to identify, even a little, with the pain of others; the suspension of moral judgment. The despair most of us experience of possibly understanding our own true thoughts in a state of affairs that is so terrifying and deceptive and complex, both morally and practically. Hence, you become convinced, I might be better off not thinking and opt not to know perhaps I’m better of leaving the task of thinking and doing and establishing moral norms in the hands of those who might “know better.”…each and every one of us, the conflict’s citizens, its prisoners, trim down our own vivacity, our internal mental and cognitive diapason, ever enveloping ourselves with protective layers, which end up suffocating us…

When I write, even now, the world is not closing in on me, and it does not grow ever so narrow: it also makes gestures of opening up toward a future prospect…

I write, and I feel how the correct and precise use of words is sometimes like a remedy to an illness. Like a contraption for purifying the air, I breathe in and exhale the murkiness and manipulations of linguistic scoundrels and language rapists of all shades and colors. I write and I feel how the tenderness and intimacy I maintain with language, with its different layers, its eroticism and humor and soul, give me back the person I used to be, me, before my self became nationalized and confiscated by the conflict, by governments and armies, by despair and tragedy…

And I write the life of my land, Israel. The land that is tortured, frantic, drugged by an overdose of history, excessive emotions that cannot be contained by any human capacity, extreme events and tragedies, enormous anxiety and paralyzing sobriety, too much memory, failed hopes and the circumstances of a fate unique among all the nations: an existence that sometimes appears to be a story of mythical proportions, a story that is “larger than life” to the point that something seems to have gone wrong with the relation it bears to life itself. A country that has become tired of the possibility of ever leading the standard, normal life of a country among countries, a nation among nations.

Shortly after reading the Grossman article I was reading Saul Bellow’s book To Jerusalem and Back (1975). He quotes from a 1974 book Unease in Zion. The quote is from an essay by A.B. Yehosua. When he wrote there was still hope. The situation was difficult, but the ending of the wars created a sense of solidarity for the Israelis. The news brought people closer together, a feeling of living through history, writing was difficult due to the lack of solitude. It is interesting to see the similarities and differences between Grossman and Yehosua, two Israeli writers years apart in the same torn apart land.

It is true that because our spiritual life today cannot revolve around anything but these [political] questions when you engage in them without end you cannot spare yourself, spiritually, for other things. Nor can you attain the true solitude that is a condition and prerequisite of creation, the source and its strength. Rather, you are continuously summoned to solidarity, summoned from within yourself rather than by any external compulsion, because you live from one newscast to the next, and it becomes a solidarity that is technical, automatic from the standpoint of its emotional reaction, because by now you are completely built to react that way and to live in tension. Your emotional reactions to any piece of news about an Israeli casualty, a plane shot down, are pre-determined…Hence the lack of solitude, the inability to be alone in the spiritual sense, and to arrive at a life of intellectual creativity….

You do not achieve peace from history. The feeling of being swept along and of uncertainty as regards the future prevents you from seeing things in any perspective whatsoever…You live the moment, without any perspective, but you cannot break free of the moment, forget the moment. You cannot cut yourself off and not read newspapers or stop hearing the news over the radio for weeks on end, as you could six or seven years ago.


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