Academia

The Eleven-Minute War: 1967 as a turning point for Israeli theatre

Conference talk
International Conference Shibboleth 1967/1968, Uniwersytet Warszawski, Pałac Staszica, Warszawa (4th December 2015)

Tags: Hebrew theatre | Israel studies | Theatre criticism | Theatre history

Abstract

A shift in self-perception following the six-Day War led to a moral crisis in the Israeli society. The mood of national unity which had persisted for two decades after the Independence came to an end, while an ideological gap began to widen. On the one hand a euphoric climate of victory dominated the country, on the other the idea of self-righteousness was brought into question.
Such an inner conflict, even though on a society rather than a personal level, was too good a dramatic material to be ignored by sensitive authors.
Shortly thereafter, the conflict abruptly made its way onto the stage through the innovative work of young playwrights. In 1968 Hanoch Levin staged You, me, and the next war, a satirical cabaret mocking Israeli military rhetoric. The opening sketch, “The victory parade of the Eleven-Minute War”, was an explicit parody of the Six-Day War celebrations. Even more biting were later shows by Levin, such as The queen of the bathtub.
Those shows were met with heated reactions from an outraged audience, sometimes getting close to assaulting the performers, but a new trend was established once and for all.
Paralleled by the New Wave in the fiction, Israeli drama rebelled against the traditional narrative, refused the stereotyped mythical figure of the institutionalised hero, and called into question the national rebirth process. The new paradigm was not limited to plays strictly concerning political life: it also affected the depiction of the Holocaust on the stage, until then included in the heroic narrative.
Since then, socio-political issues have been central to the work of influential playwrights such as Yehoshua Sobol, Danny Horowitz, Amos Kenan, and others. Original Israeli plays dealing with social and political problems were the most successful in Israeli theatres during the 1990s, an epoch marked by the first Intifada and the peace talks.
Israel today has a vibrant theatrical scene, where half of the plays are local productions showing a great deal of variety. Such a mature scene would not have been possible without the 1967 turning point, when a deep conflict was brought to light by the young Israeli theatre.

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