Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Band’s Visit

Scene from The Band's Visit (Playbill)
10 Tony awards.

Tony is the name of the award given for achievements in theater production on Broadway.  It’s comparable to the Oscar for movie production. The play that won those 10 awards including best musical, best actor and best actress was The Band’s Visit.

For a variety of reasons (mostly because of: the ridiculously high ticket prices – making it a rich person’s entertainment medium;  the fact that I do not live in New York City; and a tone to so many of its productions that are anathema to my values ) …I don’t normally pay much attention to Broadway.  

But last Sunday night the play that won all those awards was about a subject near and dear to my heart. Peace between Israelis and Arabs. First my disclaimer: I did not see this play. But I have seen and read enough about it to know its premise. Which is a fairly simple one. It is the idea that there is a humanity between peoples far more uniting than their differences are dividing. People of different cultures, values, and ethnicity, can in fact find common ground in their humanity that surpasses and overrides all their politics.

The story is about an Egyptian police band that got lost and somehow ended up in a sleepy Israeli town in the Negev desert. There is no hotel or transporation. They settle in to a small restaurant owned by an Israeli woman who offered them lodging. Throughout the course of their stay they overcome their barriers, and find companionship with each other through an undercurrent of shared melancholy.

The implied message is that if we all just shed our politics, we could get along famously – in the brotherhood of man. Who wouldn’t want something like that? It doesn’t matter whether you are politically right wing or left wing. True peace is the ultimate goal for everyone.

There have in fact been numerous programs that have tried to make the same point this play does. Integrating the two worlds in microcosm. Well intentioned people  that ‘threw’ together young Jews and Arabs who have been indoctrinated to be suspicious of - and mistrust each other. By working together for a common goal unrelated to their politics their mistrust and suspicions melt away.  It happens every time it’s tried. The idea being, if it works in microcosm, why can’t it work in macrocosm?

As things stand now, it can’t. As long as Islamic fundamentalism rules, there can be no realistic rapport developed between the two peoples.

There is little likelihood that the kind of good will that exists in these small groups can overcome over 100 years of hatred against the Jews that Arabs have been indoctrinated with through their faith. Especially when they are the ones calling the real shots among their people . As does Hamas in Gaza. Is there any sane person that believes that the leader of Hamas would ever find common ground with any Jew – whose very presence in the holy land represents an impediment to fulfillment of one of their religious imperatives?!

Scenarios like the one in the play amount to nothing more than wishful thinking at this point. Wishful thinking cannot be the basis for policy. That is a prescription for disaster.

The Band’s Visit was likely an excellent play with good intentions. But I would not be surprised if that wishful thinking by voters factored into their huge number of awards Sunday night.

What about all that talk about the American Left (of which Broadway is a hard core member of) abandoning Israel? It would seem that they haven’t. At least not the kind of Israel depicted in this play

What they seek is not the kind of Israel I seek, however. Which is the kind of Israel God intended piece of real estate to be. The kind that hosts a people that adheres to the Laws of God via His Torah. They seek a Jewish state based on secular humanism that has nothing to do with Judaism. The kind that most of Israel’s founders envisioned. 

What they reject is the very thing that defines us as a Jewish people. The more they see of that in Israel, the less they want to have anything to do with it. This is what they are abandoning. They only embrace what was depicted in the play: A totally secularized Jewish sate with humanistic values and little connection to the Judaism of our ancsetors. An Israel without Judaism. 

But there can be no Israel without Judaism and no Judaism without the Torah. It’s as simple as that.

That doesn’t mean we can’t find common ground with Palestinians. Islam has much in common with Judaism. But as long as Islamic Fundamentalists rule the day in that region, all we can do is hope it will someday change. Until then Israel can do nothing more than be vigilant in thwarting their continued attempts to destroy the Jewish state by any and all means.  At this point in time messages like the one in The Band’s Visit are just fairly tales.