I am moderating a talkback discussion on the play 16 Wounded in Jackson WY next week, at Off the Square, Oct. 10. The play will be done “open book” — they are rehearsing but do not expect to be able to do all the lines from memory yet. I am not sure how much explaining, commenting or moderating I will be doing but presumably the session will have some responses from the actors, and Q&A from the audience.
Students in History and Literature classes should consider coming. The play articulates some important questions regarding a central issue of the Arab/Israeli situation: to what extent is the Holocaust the “father” of the situation in Israel, and what we would call today Palestinian angst, victimhood, and terror its “unnatural son.” Can close family-like relations overturn the innate character of historic family relations? How do we understand victimhood and violence in the Middle East?
The Holocaust and Israeli-Palestinian impasse are two fundamental images that shape our world-view today about evil, about violence, and about forgiveness and love. Although I personally think that Arab-Jewish violence and the continuing, indeed—growing—symbolic power of the Holocaust are at least as much the result of other issues and trends than their cause, these are important elements that shape our world today. And, regardless of what one thinks about the Holocaust, about Palestine or Israel, the play’s exploration of the interpersonal dynamics of what functions as a kind of adoptive family raises important questions for discussion in our world of atraditional family units.
In some ways, the characterization of the Arab violence in the play reminds me of issues raised in numerous recent films. For example, the issues are similar to those raised by both by Palestinians in the prizewinning movie Paradise Now, and by Israelis in Weekend in Tel Aviv (translation of the Hebrew title; its English language release title was For my Father). in my humble opinion, they are raised in other ways—and in the context of even discussing how to make a film about violence—in the Tunisian film The Making Of, le Dernier Film. The answer is quite different from the way that friendship transcends marriage and stands up to extremism in Wedding Song, a film by a Jewish French filmmaker of Tunisian heritage. (I had suggested some of these films for a second program at Off the Square it was not possible to put this program together).
The play is worth seeing.