It is a remarkable coincidence that ‘The Human Scale’ written and acted on stage by the Pulitzer winner journalist Lawrence Wright from The New Yorker and brought to stage by director Oskar Eustis for the New York Public Theater was brought to Israel (at the Cameri Theater) exactly during these days when the Middle East is going through fast changes and when maybe the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a prisoner of Hamas for almost five years may hopefully be favorable solved. Wright starts his text from the fate of this soldier, and broadens the perspective to a discussion of what has been happening in Gaza and Israel in the last decade, getting back even to earlier stages of the conflict that impacts the region and the whole world for such a long time.


It is difficult to characterize ‘The Human Scale’ as a theater play, it is more like a multimedia-supported lecture in the origins of the conflict in the Middle East and its political and human dimensions. It is written for American audiences, and these certainly have a different degree of familiarity and a different perspective than the Israeli ones. It is no entertainment, and yet both in New York (see the chronicle in The New York Times) and in Tel Aviv the audiences gave up a regular theater evening to come and listen and see, be informed and provoked on a political subject. For me as a local attendee there were no news in the information that the play brought, yet there was no dull moment either on the stage for the whole evening and hearing the perspective of the conflict seen and told once from the outside was refreshing.

(video source ThePublicTheater)

Presenting the play for Israeli (and later for Palestinian) audiences involves risks that the author and organizers of the tour were certainly aware. Despite the good intentions and the wide experience of the journalist, simplifications and errors could not be avoided. I will not list the things that enervated me, because I am sure that almost any local participant at the performance found a few of his own, whatever part of the conflict he is. The devil is in the details, and the complex situation in the area has many details and many devils. Overall the message however passed, and the thinking process about the value of human life and about the mirroring of the enemy in the behavior of each one of the parties in this long and painful conflict was triggered. The play asked some of the right and painful questions. I did not expect to hear answers here.

If the intent of the authors was to ask painful questions and generate debate, one such opportunity could have happened when at the end of the play last evening the audience was invited to stay for a panel discussion followed by a Q & A. Invited to the panel were the author / lecturer / actor Lawrence Wright and the director Oskar Eustis, and also an Israeli human rights activist, and Israel Harel, a founder of the settlers Gush Emunim movement and once a head of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Unfortunately the moderator after letting the American guests say more or less what was expected from them to say, and the Israeli invitees on stage recite their gospels from the two sides of the Israeli political debate left too little time for the public and the real debate to happen, maybe becoming concerned when the questions from the audience became sharper and more direct than his own ones. True, the debate could have lasted the whole night and I am not sure that anybody would have moved one inch from his beliefs. The consolation is that such debates do not really need external catalyzers, as interesting as this event coming from New York because of the  different perspective, and they happen on daily basis in most of the Israeli press, media or in the street.