How I felt watching a play about myself
25 years of work documenting the Israeli occupation has miraculously become a work of art.
The lights in the Ha-Asurim theater hall went out and the show began. I had no idea what I had let myself in for.
I was visiting the Israel Fringe Theater Festival in Acre's Old City, as I do every year. I'd read a review by Zipi Shohat in Haaretz about the play "Key Words," in which my name was mentioned. But a whole play about me? Moi?
I felt I had received a punch in the gut. For the next hour and 15 minutes I sat with a lump in my throat and a chill down my spine, feeling emotionally spent. It was like suddenly seeing your image on a huge billboard, or a giant mirror showing you and your work. Almost 25 years of Sisyphean, frustrating work documenting the Israeli occupation had miraculously become a work of art.
Gavriel Hadar, an excellent actor in a red golf shirt, a tiny notebook in his hand, plays me. And this man is me. Strange, confusing, flattering, moving. I felt recharged for another 25 years of reporting. After all, the show must go on.
Stories long forgotten suddenly received new life. The dead, injured, deported and tortured, the women giving birth, the children and elderly - all seemed to come to life in that hall. Headlines I had worked on with Miki Kratsman, my regular photographer, echoed in the air. The reports about the wondrous Machsom Watch women, the IDF spokesman's appallingly sanctimonious comments and the ranting-raving talkbacks brought it all back - on the stage.
Theater written about reality, transformed into reality again before my unbelieving eyes. I sat completing sentences in my head, mumbling them quietly, as I once saw playwright Hanoch Levin do on the theater steps in the unforgettable general rehearsal for Requiem, his last play.
The on-stage Gideon Levy is driven off by an elderly Palestinian. I too have become in the eyes of playwrite Eldar Galor a part of the occupation machine.
I did not agree with the assumption that we are the real victims. Nor do I have any idea how other people see the play. I only know that the anonymous young woman who sat facing me couldn't stop crying. I found Martin Mugliner's direction fascinating and the actors superb. But who the hell am I to judge?
Afterward we all - actors, director, playwrite, musician, lighting man and I - sat and talked. I don't have a clue what I told them, I was too excited. One man told me at the exit that my work was too serious for such a personality cult. Oded Kotler told me he'd rather read my original stories, as they appear in the newspaper. But never have I felt such satisfaction from my journalistic work as I did in that hall. Never have I been so proud that another chilling story of mine about abuse committed by IDF soldiers, appears Friday in this paper you are now reading.
Granted, a play is just a play and Acre is only Acre. But maybe, I thought for one moment in Ha-Asurim hall, it hasn't all been in vain.