A Contentious Play Caught in the Eye of a Political Storm

If not for the protests, it’s unlikely that anyone would tie ‘A Parallel Time’ to Walid Daka.

Oren Golan

As everyone knows by now, on orders of Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the Al-Midan Theater’s production of the play “A Parallel Time” was removed from the repertoire that is part of the “culture basket,” despite having been included in it on the basis of the professional opinion of the relevant Education Ministry committee.

Additionally, the Culture Ministry under Miri Regev and the Haifa municipality under Mayor Yona Yahav withdrew funding from the theater on the basis of the play – without first seeking any clarification from the theater.

How has “A Parallel Time” been described in the press? As glorifying the life of terrorist Walid Daka, who tortured and murdered soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984 and is serving a life sentence for the crime; as a play written by Daka or based on his writings, one that glorifies the murder and defames the state and the IDF. Moshe Tamam’s niece, Ortal Tamam, objected to Daka being made into a “cultural hero” and Minister Bennett objected to the portrayal of the killer as “human” – all with public funding.

The background been reported a number of times in the media, yet is still unknown to many of the active participants in the debate: The murder of Moshe Tamam was carried out by accomplices of Daka. Daka claimed at his trial – and still claims – that his confession of involvement was extracted from him through torture, that other members of the terrorist cell incriminated him and that he has changed his views. But I agree that these are claims and not necessarily facts.

What is factual is that “A Parallel Time” was not written by Daka in prison. It was written and directed by Bashar Murkus. Daka read the play for the first time this week. He is not a character in the play, though some of the text is based on letters and essays he wrote in prison. The play does not mention the murder at all.

Let me be clear: Like Naftali Bennett, Miri Regev, Yona Yahav, Ortal Tamam and most of those who are opposed to the play, I have not seen it either. But unlike many of them, I have read the text, in its Hebrew translation by Ala Halihal.

It’s a play that conveys the experience of Palestinian security prisoners. They pass the time, fight over a lighter. One of them, Wadi, wants to get married and requests permission to do so. He meets with his beloved when she visits him, and he writes letters to her and to the son he hopes he will have one day. These sections are taken from Daka’s letters. In the play, when the wedding is about to take place (and media pressure from outside is mentioned regarding this,) the prisoners, using tools and materials obtained through legit and less legit means, build an oud they want to play at the wedding.

At one point in the play, one of the prisoners is asked, “What were you caught for?” And he answers: “I had big dreams.” At another point, the following exchange takes place on stage: “Why did they lock you up?” “I kidnapped a soldier.” “And where is he?” “The instructions were: If there are problems with smuggling the soldier, then he must be gotten rid of.” “Instructions from whom?” “From above.” “From above? From God?”

Daka did get married in prison, but despite repeated requests he did not receive permission for conjugal visits with his wife (unlike, incidentally, Yigal Amir, admitted murderer of Yitzhak Rabin; not that it matters.)

If not for the protest that has been stirred up, it’s unlikely that anyone who saw the play would have tied it to Daka and Tamam. Those who are against the play could argue – as I would if I were in their place – that this is a big part of the problem; that the play “A Parallel Time” ignores the facts (of the murder and its background) that are the essence of our lives. And the other side would answer that it’s not the essence of their lives. It the essence of the tragedy.