Volume 3, Number 46
"There's a Jewish story everywhere"
Israel jeopardizes Egypt and the Palestine Authority by conducting its indirect 'non-negotiations' with Hamas
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Israeli government and military did what increasingly appears to be an extraordinary job of degrading the Hamas arsenal and leadership, reasserting deterrence not only against Gaza but against Hezbollah and Iran, and limiting civilian casualties. [It now appears that 12, not 41 people were killed outside the UNRWA school that Israel did not hit- nine adult males (some known Hamas members) and three civilians.]
But the Israeli government is giving Hamas leadership an opportunity to whine, moan, cry and make demands in Cairo - and be listened to.
At some point in the Gaza War, JINSA suggested that Israel simply announce that it had completed the current phase of response to aggression and that it was ceasing fire until the time it was necessary to fire again. And then behave accordingly.
Ultimately, Israel did announce a sort of unilateral cease fire, but it was directly coupled with an Egyptian-negotiated unilateral Hamas cease fire. Then began the negotiation that wasn't. Israel on one side, Hamas on the other and Egypt in the increasingly uncomfortable middle, non-negotiating the opening of border crossings, non-negotiating the release of Hamas terrorists and non-negotiating the release of Gilad Shalit.
All of these non-negotiations have the effect of giving Hamas a role where it deserves none and undermining Israel's right to self-defense and right to have its illegally-held prisoner returned. And they have, not surprisingly, driven a wedge between Egypt and Israel - particularly after the Israeli government added the requirement that Shalit's return is the key to opening the border, but engaging in a concurrent non-negotiation about the number of terrorists it would pay Hamas for the release.
Whoever doesn't understand that Israel is negotiating with Hamas, please leave the room. Senator Kerry did a better job of avoiding Hamas while he was in Gaza than Israel has done using Egypt as a go-between.
One result is that international agencies, most of which are totally corrupted by their close financial and political relations with Hamas, have no incentive to be more cooperative with Israel and less with Hamas. Not to let them off the hook for their corruption or anti-Israel policies, it still has to be recognized that Hamas is the clear controlling government power in Gaza. President Obama dipped into an emergency fund for $20 million this week for extra aid to Gaza through international organizations including UNRWA. To whom will UNRWA answer?
Another result is pressure for a Hamas-Fatah "unity government." For those who believe Fatah is an appropriate negotiating partner for Israel or a better steward of international largesse, the resurrection and legitimization of Hamas by Israel in Cairo makes it much harder to think Fatah will have the upper hand in any such government. The idea that Fatah, not Hamas, will control reconstruction funds flies in the face of Hamas control on the ground, and any "unity government" will have to take account of the Hamas demands that Israel is currently entertaining.
A third result is rising tension between Egypt and Israel. Egypt, for its own very good reasons, detests Hamas and was supportive of the Israeli action. Being forced into the role of arbiter, Egypt finds itself having to take a more pro-Hamas position in order to remain acceptable to Hamas in order to remain the arbiter, which it must in order to avoid being accused of being too pro-Israel. Not to let Egypt off the hook for its lax control of the Gaza border, it still has to be recognized that the Egyptian position would be stronger if it didn't have to sit with Hamas and relay Israeli instructions.
None of the above - international aid organizations, Fatah or Egypt - are what we consider really good partners. All are less bad than Hamas; all are Israel's interlocutors in various areas. The incoming Israeli government should consider reasserting a unilateral Israeli position on security, borders and international aid that requires interested parties to deal with it, cuts out Hamas, and stops undermining the neighbors.
JERUSALEM—Two clocks are ticking in Israel-Palestinian relations, one loudly and the other quietly but perhaps even more persistently. That’s how Amos Oz, the celebrated Israeli writer, describes the present situation in and around his country.
Throughout the generations history shows individuals or groups of individuals, in real time, combating social injustices and putting themselves at risk for social, ethical, religious or financial reasons. Take for example the case of the romantic adventure novel The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy in the early 1900’s.
The action takes place following the end of the French Revolution in what was called ‘The Reign of Terror.’ ‘Pimpernel’ first was performed as a play in 1903. After a not so brilliant success and the last act rewritten it was performed again in 1905 in London at the New Theatre, ran for 2000 performances. .
Briefly, it tells the story of Sir Percy Blakeney a baronet, who is wed to the beautiful French actress Marguerite St. Just. Before the wedding, however, Marguerite in private passed some incriminating information about the baronet’s dear friends Marquis de St. Cyr and his sons to Citizen Chauvelin, a French Republican agent. The French then sent them to the guillotine. When Percy finds out, on his wedding day, he pretty much ignores his now wife, assured that she is a French spy.
After relegating her to decorating flowers and spending time in the garden, he gathers his fiends together to form a secret society of English aristocrats who call themselves “The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel” (or the Davids against the Goliaths). Their goal is to secretly band together to rescue their counterparts in France from the brutal guillotine. The leader of this group, Percy, whose trademark is a drawing of a small red flower that happens to be the insignia on his pinky ring, conjures an outlandish plan to infiltrate and rescue from the guillotine as many French citizens as is possible.
He and his team of nobles (think fop) don bizarre disguises and conjure up almost implausible escapades and capers. They somehow manage to secretly and successfully enter France and disrupt and foil many a beheading under the reign of Robespierre and his gang of outlaws. It’s the swashbuckling and Robin Hood mentality that’s food for the adventurous of mind and hope against hope for the underdog.
Think of Batman, Superman, Spiderman and all the other adventure heroes who change into their disguises in a flash to save the world. Or think of others whose actions once again, imitate art: Raul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who was said to be inspired by the film Pimpernel Smith, who began rescuing Hungarian Jews during WWII, and Harald Edelstam , who was called the “Black Pimpernel” in honor of his helping Norwegian resistance fighters. Monsignor Hugh O’ Flattery, an Irish priest, saved thousands of people—British, American and Jews during WWII—and was dubbed “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican” in 1968 by author J.P. Gallagher. Varian Fry, who is credited with saving such luminaries as Marc Chagall and Jacques Lipchitz , has been often called the “American Pimpernel.”
There have been at least a dozen adaptations of “Pimpernel”, as you can see, over the years including the 1934 movie with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon along with a British TV series which ran for about a year. Yet again, another incarnation appeared, this time in the form of a Broadway Musical composed by Frank Wildhorn with lyrics by Nan Knighton.
The Broadway production opened in 1997 and had its world premiere at the Minskoff Theatre. By 1998 things were looking bleak for the adventurous little caper. Once again the little guys, (‘the shows fan base’) weren’t ready for it to go away. ‘Word of mouth’ changed the paradigm and it has been capturing imaginations, showing up in Broadway/San Diego seasons as well as Starlight a few years ago. Now you can see it again at The Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido through April 26th.
Just as a measure of its popularity, it was in Budapest, Hungary in October (different cast of course) and in February it will be at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, if you’re inclined to travel. My recommendation is to take the short jaunt up to Escondido because you will be delighted at what you see.
Let’s begin by saying that this is a big leap for the Welk Theatre. Not that they haven’t undertaken big musicals in the past, they have. Recently however, the smaller more economical shows have been showing up on their marquees. Knighton’s score while boasting about 25 or so numbers has none that you will hum on the way out, the cast is large (19) by any standards and the appeal is most likely to attract a younger (she says with tongue in cheek) audience. Musical director Justin Gray’s electronic orchestrations sound like a big band but he might do well to tone down the very loud and ear piercing sounds of the trumpet.
That said, the production has the look, feel and moves of a well-oiled Broadway show. Jon Engstrom who directed and choreographed is able to bring out from his cast, the lighter sides of the story while balancing the seriousness of the situations. His choreography is fluid (the Pimpernels pull off their dancing swagger with flair) and the direction is focused moving the plot along seamlessly. There is also a feeling of anxiety every now and then as to whether or not the Pimpernels would be found out, captured and beheaded. Leading a double life is not for the faint at heart.
Andrew G. Hammer’s sets are beautiful, detailed, commanding and easy to look at but a bit bulky to move. They do however work well as opposite sides of the political tapestry. Carlota Malone’s period and detailed costumes and Jason Craig Donaldson’s wig designs, with a few exceptions, looked right. But it is the actor who must convince and here is where the production stands out. Allan Snyder is the perfect dandy/ hero as Percy. He’s tall, good looking and lanky with a fine set of vocal chords and convincing as both baron and liberator.
Matthew Tyler (reminded me of Javert in Les Misérables) is the evil looking (dressed in black) Chauvelin who would just as soon blackmail as have an affair with the beautiful Marguerite (Michaela Leigh). He also has a powerfully strong voice. His acting is on the mark as he tries in vain to capture Pimpernel while blackmailing and wooing Marguerite. Leigh, while losing her French accent now and then has a beautiful voice and dramatic flair to make her another believable character in the long cast of characters. Supporting cast members all do yeomen’s work.
For more information log on to www. WelkTheatreSanDiego.com
See you at the theatre.
Let me introduce her to you should you not be familiar with the world of the classic ballet. She gained her fame in New York with American Ballet Theatre in the 1940’s and her star ascended and continued to ascend through the rest of the century. In the 1960’s as our relations with her native country, Cuba, turned cold she had to make a choice between her homeland and the United States because of the travel restrictions placed against Cuba. She loyally chose Cuba.
So for many years, though she traveled and danced on the world’s most renowned stages, the United States was left bereft of her magic. Americans often went abroad to see her - but she could not come to see us. Then in the 1970’s travel restrictions were eased and she was allowed to enter our country. Why she chose to accept the invitation of the San Diego Ballet is a question that has never been answered. She could have chosen to dance anywhere - anywhere at all.
There are a number of classical ballets whose roles represent the epitome of a ballerina’s accomplishment. The romantic ballet Gisellenot only presents vast technical difficulties, it is also considered the Hamlet of the ballerina’s repertoire. The dancer’s dramatic and technical range is on view to the fullest extent. In this particular ballet, Alicia Alonso excels. She is considered one of the century’s foremost exponents of Giselle. It is her favorite ballet.
Another striking ballet in which Alonso showed off both her dramatic and bravura gifts was Carmen.This particular production was also danced by Prima Ballerina Assoluta Maya Plisetskaya to Rodion Shchedrin’s arrangement of Bizet’s score. Both Shchedrin and Plisetskaya (husband and wife) are important members of the Jewish community in Russia. Among Alonso’s many famous partners was Azari Plisetsky – Maya’s brother.
At the time, though I was not a member of the San Diego Ballet Company, I was taking a daily ballet class with the company. Because of the travel restrictions, most of the dancers had never seen the legendary Alicia Alonso, but everyone was steeped in her fame. As we, the company and I, stood at the barre that morning we took our class literally trembling with excitement. No, she was not in the studio with us; she would take her class privately with her own coach accompanied by her special partner, Jorge Esquivel. The ballerina had found him - a hungry orphan on the streets of Havana and had taken him in and trained him to be her partner. He was a marvelous dancer.
Just as our class finished, the ballerina, her entourage and a large contingent of the press arrived. The fabled Alicia Alonso stood before us and was formally introduced. The dancers applauded, hardly able to believe their eyes. Everyone was asked to leave the room so the ballerina’s private class could begin. The other dancers reluctantly left. The press and cameras were shut out and the door was closed. I had gone to the corner of the studio to retrieve my things, but instead of leaving I sat down on the floor, drew my knees up to my chin and made myself invisible. I would be a fly on the wall, a speck of dust, a nothing. I know they saw me but did not ask me to leave. I have never been able to understand why everyone else was told to go and I was allowed to stay.
Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonso walked to the barre. By chance she chose the exact spot where I usually stood during class. Through a large window a shaft of sunlight slanted in and into that shaft of light she stepped and stood. The swirling dust motes filtered the golden light and softened her image and increased the magic. She placed an alabaster hand on the dark sweat soaked barre and drew herself up - back straight - head up - ready for the day’s work to begin.
The pianist played. She pointed her toe. Ah, I thought, that is how a pointed toe really should be! The love and toil of fifty years went into that pointed toe. The firm curve of the arch of her foot, the fluidity of that simple movement took my breath away. Expressive as a hand that foot could punctuate the music or caress the floor. The pink satin of her slipper glowed softly and the ribbons sculpted her ankle. She turned her face toward the sunlight and I am sure she felt its warmth and it dimly penetrated her eyes. For you see, this great ballerina is blind.
In a daze I watched the rest of her class. She did the exact same things all of us did everyday. But she filled the room with her presence as she has filled the dimensions of every theater in which she has danced. She possessed the space around her as she has taken possession of every stage upon which she has stepped. This woman before me had danced with all the great companies of the world, every great male dancer has been her partner, every great capital has received her; London, Beijing, Leningrad, Moscow, Paris, New York, Madrid, Sydney, Tokyo. For decades her name has had first claim on a theater marquee. Like fine wine a truly great ballerina becomes finer with age.
Later I watched her in rehearsal with the ballet company. She undertook every role of the ballet becoming in succession the young Giselle, or the old mother, or the visiting princess. She was showing the rest of the dancers exactly what she wanted. Because of her blindness every prop and dancer had to be exactly placed so the ballerina would know where they were on the stage. The dancers were awed, overwhelmed, enthralled. They were also jealous of me, the only one to have seen Alicia Alonso take her class.
The studios of the company at that time were located downtown and I had parked on a city street. When I returned to my car I was brought sharply back to the realities of life. I had multiple parking tickets. But it was with a sigh of infinite satisfaction that I joyfully wrote a check to pay those particular fines. It was worth every cent.
JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE
(a) Lou Boudreau
Background: This Hall of Famer, one of the best-hitting shortstops ever, batted 355, with a .534 slugging average, 34 doubles, 18 home runs, 106 RBI, and 116 runs scored in 1948 – and struck out just nine times.
CAROL ANN GOLDSTEIN