# 221 – Apartheid & Culture in Israel by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
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# 221 – Apartheid & Culture in Israel

Helping others to understand Israel - and Israelis to understand others...
  • Joined Sep 2016
  • Published Books 409

January 5, 2013

‘Apartheid’ derives from the Afrikaans translation of ‘apart-ness’. It is understandably identified with South Africa, where it became a legalised policy. It is still a undeniable status in many countries of the World, under many guises. (I would hate to be a Palestinian in Jordan, let alone Syria, Lebanon and Egypt).  I would hate to be a Buddhist in Saudi, a Catholic in North Korea or a Frenchman in Kensington. (That’s a joke!!!!!).


If anything that has a resemblance to apartheid exists in the West Bank (partly-occupied) or Gaza (under siege), then it is quite clear to all decent-minded people – or to those who know – that this is not a policy based on the need to be apart, but on simple security needs. Anyone who has an opinion, or does not agree, can write to me….

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Anyone who has an opinion, or does not agree, can write to me….


One can argue that there is culture in just about every country of the World. ‘Culture’ is a big word, covers almost any subject. I think we can all agree that the more culture, the better. In Israel, there is an abundance of culture – coming out of our ears.


Yesterday, Aviva and I had the pleasure of experiencing that abundance. We went to one of our leading theatre companies, the Cameri, and witnessed something very special: a fantastic production of ‘The Trojan Women’ by Euripedes, originally written over 2,400 years ago. One the great anti-war plays.


Take a good look at this poster:

  • A Japanese production by one of the great directors of our times.

  • Actors from Japan and Israel.

  • That means 3 languages, for half of the Israelis were Israeli Arabs (Palestinians).

# 221 – Apartheid & Culture in Israel by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com


  • Sub/supra titles in 4 languages (well…I had to know what was going on).

  • Terrific acting, unbelievably beautiful staging, full of drama. There was noticeable difficulty for all to applaud at the end. Their hands were damp from wiping away the tears.

(For those of you who, for whatever reason, don’t know anything about this subject, I have copy/pasted the following, written by Dr. Varda Fish, Israeli producer of the play).


Yukio Ninagawa

Yukio Ninagawa, one of the greatest directors of modern theatre, will direct The Trojan Women by Greek tragedian Euripides in a coproduction of the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv and the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, Tokyo’s biggest theatre. The production will be performed in three languages, Japanese, Hebrew, and Arabic, with a cast comprising actors from all three cultures.


The play has been translated from Ancient Greek especially for this production: by Shimon Bouzaglo into Hebrew, by Harue Yamagata into Japanese, and by Egyptian translator Amin Salaam into Arabic. The production was initiated by Dr. Varda Fish in conjunction with the Cameri Theatre. It will premiere in Tokyo and Tel Aviv in December 2012, and will be one of the main events marking sixty years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Japan.


One of the greatest Japanese directors, Yukio Ninagawa has for many years been a source of inspiration and influence for modern theatre all over the world. His unique visual style is captivating in its beauty, it is extremely sensual and intellectual, traditional and avant-garde, and draws from traditional Japanese theatre, namely Kabuki and Noh, and from them he creates a new language that touches upon contemporary life.


Ninagawa began his theatrical career in 1955 as an actor. His first directing work was in 1969 when he directed the production of a Japanese play by Kunio Shimizu. Over the years he founded two theatre companies that work in two Tokyo theatres: Theatre Cocoon and Saitama Theatre. In 2006 he founded the Saitama Gold Theatre for people over fifty-five years of age.


The diverse repertoire of plays Ninagawa has directed includes contemporary and classic Japanese drama, including plays by renowned playwrights Chikamatsu and Junichiro Tanizaki, Shakespeare, Greek tragedies, Chekhov, and modern European drama. He frequently goes back to directing plays with a new interpretation, and his productions are performed on some of the world’s leading stages.


The production of Titus Andronicus he directed was invited to participate in the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company Complete Works Festival (2006-2007), his production of Coriolanus was performed in the Barbican Theatre in 2007, and his Kabuki-style production of Twelfth Night was performed there in 2009.


Many of his productions have been performed at the Lincoln Center in New York, and the Kennedy Center in Washington. Ninagawa has won numerous awards for his work all over the world, and last year he received the prestigious Order of Culture presented by the Emperor of Japan for his contribution to culture.


The Trojan Women by Euripides

One of the greatest political dramas of all time, and perhaps the best known anti-war play, is being staged in Israeli theatre for the first time in Euripides’ original version, which was first performed in Ancient Greece in 415 BCE. The adaptation of The Trojan Women by Jean-Paul Sartre, who turned it into an anti-colonial play during the Algerian War, has been performed in Israeli theatre several times.


The most well-known adaptation in Israel was staged in 1983 in the wake of the First Lebanon War, which was directed by German director Holk Freytag for Habima National Theatre. A year later, the Cameri Theatre staged Hanoch Levin’s adaptation, The Lost Women of Troy, an anti-war play that also alludes to the dangers inherent in democracy. Ninagawa’s choice of Euripides’ play expresses not only his commitment to peace, but also his desire to expose by means of his remarkable visual theatre language, a profound emotional world shared by all three cultures: Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese.



After a ten-year siege, the Greeks finally enter the city of Troy by means of the wooden horse conceived by the goddess Athena. They destroy the city, kill all the men, and now mean to return to their homeland taking the women with them as slaves and concubines. The war broke out when Paris, King of Troy, abducted Helen, the beautiful Spartan wife of Greek general Menelaus, and absconded with her back to his homeland.


Now Menelaus returns to Greece with his wife, vowing to kill her. Hecuba, the dethroned Queen of Troy, is to be taken by Odysseus, her daughter Cassandra is to become Agamemnon’s concubine, and Andromache, wife of Hector son of Hecuba who was killed in the war, is to be taken by Neoptolemus, brother of Achilles who was killed in the war as well. Her baby son, Hecuba’s grandson, is to be thrown from the battlements by the Greeks who fear that the boy will grow up to avenge the destruction of the city and rebuild it.


The play is based on a series of myths about wars and passions, and is Euripides’ reaction to a long series of conquests and acts of slaughter, abuse of prisoners, especially women and children, that took place in his time. The most infamous war during his lifetime was the Twenty-Seven Year War between Athens, Sparta, and their allies. This was also the period when the Sophists and the art of rhetoric flourished, which was manifested in Athens in public debates in favor of war and against it.

# 221 – Apartheid & Culture in Israel by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
# 221 – Apartheid & Culture in Israel by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com

The Trojan Women shifts between hate and love of the country where they are destined to live a life of exile and humiliation. Andromache does not know whether to open her heart to her new husband or remain faithful to her dead one. Cassandra both wants and does not want to become Agamemnon’s concubine, and Talthybius, the Greek herald who is compelled to carry out his orders, is torn apart by pity for the Trojan women.


As far as culture is concerned, I suppose this play could have been performed during apartheid in S. Africa – as long as there were no non-whites in the production and a segregated audience. (Can’t remember the status of Japanese there – I believe they, or at least some of them, would have been accepted as honorary whites).

Here in Israel, no problem. There IS NO APARTHEID in Israel. Got it, rest of the World?

Happy New Year,


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