A Playwright Steps onto Reality’s Stage
I said I would translate the story of Yehoshua Sobol, from the July 27, 2006 issue of Yediot Achronot, upon finding no translation on YNetNews, the English-language version of Yediot Achronot online. The item is titled “Disillusionment”, and is an interview of Israeli playwright Yehoshua Sobol by Yoav Birenberg. It is a riveting read.
(Yehoshua Sobol speaking) “From time to time I can’t resist temptation, I open the Internet, and wham! The news items make me jump to the television, until I snap out of it, go back to writing, but then can’t resist the temptation again. I write and look, write and look, and try not to lose sanity, when every item about the situation shakes me and tears me to pieces”.
(Reporter’s commentary) The war in Lebanon not only caught Yehoshua Sobol, one of the foremost playwrights in the country, during the writing of a new play, “To the South of the Equator”, but also changed a goodly part of the worldview of the man who has been identified for decades with the Left camp. “I feel mainly the pain of disillusionment”, he says. “It’s like you wake up in narcosis. Once, people would feel nausea, revulsion and pains all together. That’s how it is with me”.
(Reporter’s question) What changes has the war generated in your worldview?
(Sobol) “This war is necessary. If we’d kept turning a blind eye toward what was happening in Lebanon, when an Iranian base was being set up in front of our eyes, we’d find ourselves in the future under the threat of the destruction of great concentrations of population by unconventional weaponry.
“There are some who said there’s been here nothing more than a minor border incident—two soldiers were abducted, three were killed, so you make war for that? I, as someone who belonged to the camp that stood for retreat from Lebanon under the thesis that, from the moment we went back to the international border, there would be no cause for the other side to attack us, was proved wrong. Reality has hit me in the face and I hope it’s hit the faces of many of my colleagues in the Left camp. If we’d kept slumbering a bit more, the disaster would have been much greater”.
(Reporter’s question) So your soul-searching is bigger than you thought?
(Sobol) “In the last two weeks I’ve been undergoing a very deep rethinking of my opinions. I find that they were, many times, based on charitable wishes, on the wishes of my heart. I expected that, following the evacuation, as soon as we got out of Gaza, the day afterward the Palestinians in Gaza would announce a tremendous building initiative, but they started bombardment on the Israeli inhabited areas with Kassams. In my eyes that’s a declaration that they have no intention whatsoever of building a state but, in fact, of continuing the business of self-destruction and our destruction”.
(Reporter) Tens of play directors and movie creators did, however, protest Israel’s policy in Lebanon.
(Sobol) “In my eyes this is an expression of being blinkered in the face of reality. A person who doesn’t let reality change his opinions testifies that his opinions are his last bunker. When I heard of the Directors’ Letter, I felt no small astonishment. I was very disappointed when I saw names of people I love and like there, them and their works. Apparently there is no connection between the works and the people. It pained me also because I think it gives the Left a bad reputation.
“The Left has, usually, claimed about itself that it’s rational and sane, and their act indicates a deficiency of sanity. To some degree it also indicates lack of courage and lack of intellectual honesty to look at reality and understand what a person who stood for getting out of Lebanon is obligated toward. Whoever stood for getting out of Lebanon believed it would bring us quiet on the northern border. As soon as the exact opposite happens, they should have snapped out of it”.
(Reporter’s question) Could such a letter be published among your friends in [the field of] theater too?
(Sobol) “I don’t think movie directors have a monopoly on being pathetic. There’s a song by Georges Brassens that says age doesn’t make any difference on a matter. Whoever is stupid is stupid”.
(Reporter) It looks like part of the artists and famous people are doing public relations out of their visits and shows in the inhabited areas of the line of conflict.
(Sobol) “There are people here who are searching for [a way] to express their solidarity with the suffering of the inhabitants of the north and also try to express their drive to contribute to the effort, because all of the society today is situated in a war effort. I think people are trying to say: I’m a contributor too, I’m not apathetic. I don’t think it should be made into public relations or any big deal, but it’s part of the nature of things and part of human nature”.
(Reporter’s question) Is it possible this reality will be part of your new plays?
(Sobol) “It’s early to say. I think the dust first has to sink and then we have to see what’s left of it. I have a lot of criticism also for commentators and media people who hurry to pounce with irresponsible criticism without knowing for certain what really happened. I see here a trait of an impatient nation, who wants immediate results.
“One of the lessons I’ve started getting from this war is that we need to change our perception of time a bit. We were used to deluxe wars and dramatic victories and quick return to normal life thereafter, and this war teaches me we need to take a big breath, breathe deeply and understand that we have here a long-distance run and not a 100 meter sprint. This war has also taught me to look critically at the slogan ‘Peace Now’, which expresses the Israeli mentality that craves satisfaction right now. And that has—no way around it—something infantile to it”.
If you take anything from his words, take this sentence: A person who doesn’t let reality change his opinions testifies that his opinions are his last bunker. Truly magnificent that a playwright has recognized the precedence of the play of reality over the fruit of his own creative and wishful mind. May the Supreme Playwright of All Places and Times Himself bless you, Yehoshua Sobol.