A Trip To Israel, the West Bank, and Almost Gaza
Part 1: Facebook carried daily updates of our journey and I'm reassembling them in chronological order, as we've just returned from 8 days away and an exhilarating yet ultimately bittersweet journey to deepen connections and launch new collaborations with Israeli and Palestinian artists. The bittersweet emerges from the shocking news, received while traveling home with a stop over in Istanbul, that our cherished new friend and collaborator, Israeli author Gilad Evron, died in his sleep of a heart attack this past Monday night, just two nights after sharing dinner with us and a group of friends at Motti Lerner's house, and three days after hosting us and ULYSSES ON BOTTLES set designer Frida Shoham, at his gorgeous home in the Old City of Jaffa. Our trip will be forever tinged by his gentle grace, the hopeful twinkle in his eye, and the horrible news of his untimely passing.
More later, on our extraordinary time with Gilad. But first, our chronicle.
Here's the day-by-day accounting of the trip that Managing Director, Producer and ULYSSES ON BOTTLES director, Serge Seiden, and I took.
Day #1: Guess where we're off to on Turkish Airlines? Our honeymoon, naturally (though some on Facebook take the honeymoon part seriously!)! First stop, Istanbul!
Were we worried about booking with Turkish Air, some two months after the attempted coup in Turkey, some 4 months after terrorist attack on the teeming airport itself? Turns out that lots and lots of people - including a huge number of religious Jews - are flying Turkish Air because of the cheap fares and good service, with the concerns of summer pushed out of mind. So we were no more brave than thousands of other families flying en masse, but the fact that it entered the mind -- that others asked us whether we were nervous to fly -- is an indicator of the fear that we live with, absorb, and often let influence our decisions.
When we land, we're thrilled to be hosted by AFTER THE WAR playwright Motti Lerner at his lovely home in Ramat Hasharon.
We've got an ambitious five day plan that includes travel to the Akko Alternative Theatre Festival, dinner in Haifa with Sinai Peter and his
wife Timna, a morning and afternoon in Jaffa working with our ULYSSES ON BOTTLES author, the aforementioned Gilad Evron, separate Friday night shabbat dinners, a day trip to Bethlehem and further south in the West Bank, and that's just through part 1 of the weekend.
Day 2: The Akko Alternative Theatre Festival
We see PALESTINE: YEAR ZERO by Einat Weitzman featuring the great director, producer, and now actor, George Ibrahim. For an article about the controversy touched off by this meticulously researched and staged show, see http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/218691
George Ibrahim wins the best actor of the Akko festival - and our friend Shlomi Eldar, the great Israeli journalist writing for Al-Monitor from here in DC, has a wonderful feature and interview with the actor at the same time. Worth reading here: "Why one Palestinian actor came back to the Israeli stage"
Serge goes off with Frida to see another eventual Festival Award winner OBSERVATION 1976, while I see a very unique piece about the refugee crisis as it impacts 4 different Middle East sectors, from Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Southern Sudan. Reminiscent in content to our production of PROMISED LAND, which originated at Habimah Theatre, co-created by Shay Pitovsky and Shahar Pinkhas, the new work by Stav Palti-Negev is a performance designed for one audience member at a time. The four actors are situated in 4 different white chambers and host an individual audience member for 5 minutes duration, with a designed sound cue coming at precisely 2.5 minutes through to prompt a transition in the story telling for each of the performances at precisely the same time. Here's the ground plan:
It's an experience (25 minutes total) that sticks with you and will be expanded as Stav returns to New York and her residency at the Public Theatre as part of their prestigious Emerging Writers Program. Here's a picture of the cast all together:
What's more memorable are the individual white rooms in which the actors appear with an arresting design installation consisting of one basic theatrical gesture. In the photos below you'll see what was so unforgettable:
Our trip to Akko ends with a gorgeous walk at sunset overlooking the sea.
Day 3) It's the day we didn't know would take on such significance. We write, in our Facebook posting, of our morning in Jaffa, from October 21, 2016:
"Great day of meetings and hanging out in Jaffa with ULYSSES ON BOTTLES playwright, Gilad Evron, and later in the Jaffa flea market, translator Evan Fallenberg. We wander through the market, swim on the beach, stroll through the port, making up for morning traffic slog made all the more intense by the 6th annual bike marathon that closed down the Ayalon Highway. We drive home in the relaxing, dwindling traffic before sundown and the pleasantness of shabbat to come."
Such was the charm of that Friday. On the post to come (part 2), we'll talk more about our cherished time with Gilad Evron, who we would see again the next night, and then lose forever two days later.