The JTA reports:
B’nai Brith Canada has asked Toronto’s mayor to “use his good offices” to prevent the staging of a controversial play at a city-owned theater.
The Jewish human rights group says “Seven Jewish Children” by British playwright Caryl Churchill is “blatantly propagandist” and “aimed at delegitimizing not only Israel but its Jewish supporters worldwide.”
The good news is that you can watch Caryl Churchill’s Play, Seven Jewish Children, right now. It’ll take under 10 minutes. Make sure you have your box of tissues with you.
While some British critics greatly admired the play, which was presented by a Jewish director with a largely Jewish cast, a number of prominent British Jews denounced it as anti-Semitic. Some even accused Churchill of blood libel, of perpetrating in Seven Jewish Children the centuries-old lie, used to incite homicidal anti-Jewish violence, that Jews ritually murder non-Jewish children. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews told the Jerusalem Post that the “horrifically anti-Israel” text went “beyond the boundaries of reasonable political discourse.”
We emphatically disagree. We think Churchill’s play should be seen and discussed as widely as possible.
Though you’d never guess from the descriptions offered by its detractors, the play is dense, beautiful, elusive and intentionally indeterminate. This is not to say that the play isn’t also direct and incendiary. It is. It’s disturbing, it’s provocative, but appropriately so, given the magnitude of the calamity it enfolds in its pages. Any play about the crisis in the Middle East that doesn’t arouse anger and distress has missed the point.
Israel-based human rights activist Rebecca Vilkomerson wrote in a letter, also in The Nation:
I’ve read Caryl Churchill’s play, “Seven Jewish Children—A Play for Gaza” three times, and cried through each reading. As a mom and an activist, living in Tel Aviv and raising two daughters, I found the play to be devastating and true. Beyond that, it is remarkably compassionate and clear in its historical consciousness and the awareness that our deepest urges, to protect our children, can have terrible moral consequences. There’s not an anti-Semitic word in it.
As my Israeli husband said, “she captured exactly how it really is to live here.”