Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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ELIACH / THE HOLOCAUST IN HEBREW DRAMA
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They are rather taken from the survivor’s experiences
and post-Holocaust reality. The Israeli playwright is concerned
with the fate of the survivor, his ability or inability to cope
with reality, and the central place of Israel in his life. Israel
is viewed as the only positive force and solution for the Jewish
survivor and for others who seek justice.
For the Israeli playwright, because of his Jewish literary
background, and the unique position of the Jew during the
Holocaust, coping with the Holocaust in drama is virtually an
overwhelming task. The Jewish author comes from a literary
tradition in which, for the most part, the suffering of an in-
dividual is submerged, diffused and transformed into national
suffering and consciousness of the past, present and future.
The biblical book of
Lamentations,
describing the greatest
Jewish catastrophe prior to the Holocaust, the destruction of
the Temple, does not mention a single protagonist, a single
victim. It is the national collective suffering of a people and
a city in which the individual and the nation become one. The
suffering, exalted, individual hero, the basic element of a drama,
is totally absent. This is in sharp contrast to the Greek and
New Testament tradition which focuses always on the solitary
figure of the sacrificial victim: the Hanged Man, Christ or
Oedipus. The figures of Oedipus, Christ, Hamlet and Lear
dominated European stages for centuries. The Israeli author,
who may be better equipped to cope with the anonymity of
the victims, is at a distinctive disadvantage as a dramatist.
Unlike the European playwright, the Israeli playwright is
physically removed from Europe, from the sights, sounds, and
languages of the Holocaust. The physical landscape of Ausch-
witz is not a factor in his daily life. For the Israeli writing on
the Holocaust, Auschwitz is a source of constant mental anguish,
the anguish of an historical victim. His guilt cannot be dom-
inant, for as a Jew it was not his civilization which produced
Auschwitz; neither is he a tormented, guilt ridden heir to that
civilization. His people was neither executioner nor bystander,
but victim. When writing about the victim, the Israeli play-
wright seems to prefer the survivor who settled in Israel and
ד Lillian Atlan,
Mr. Runaway
(Monsieur Fugue). An English version by
Marc Prensky was produced at TRC, New York, on Feb. 9, 1975.