Chapter 14 Playing Soldiers: Reimagining the Israeli Defense Forces on the Fringe Stage

In: Imagined Israel(s): Representations of the Jewish State in the Arts
Jacob Hellman
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The ever-controversial Akko Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater, known colloquially as the “Akko Fringe,” is no stranger to pushing the envelope in its productions’ depictions of Israeli characters on the Israeli stage. Through two of the plays performed at the 2013 festival, Sefer HaPanim Sheli (My Book of Faces) by Inna Eizenberg and Pffffff by Aharon Levin and Yaron Edelstein, the soldiering experience in twenty-first-century Israel is reimagined through the eyes of its late Generation X / early Millennial playwrights, ex-soldiers themselves. In My Book of Faces, several young Israeli ex-soldiers communicate with one another over social media, using the virtual platform as a multimedia megaphone, a political war zone, a playground for pseudonymity, and more. Modeled after one of Israel’s most popular social media platforms, Facebook, Eizenberg’s play gives audience members an inside look at a virtual Israel, which exhibits differences and surprising similarities to reality. In Pffffff, an unidentifiable sound emitted under the waters of the Persian Gulf is captured by an Israeli submarine. This triggers a doomsday plan to be set into motion, which causes chaos and tremors across the Middle East, all the way up to Israel’s Ministry of Defense. A postmodern game of chess where the Israeli “pawns” are tasked with making the moves while those higher in power flounder, this play examines the “what if” of a potential worst-case scenario and imagines the Israeli response from the top down and the bottom up. Through situations ranging from the deadly serious to the seriously kooky, these plays reimagine the nation and its military culture on the actual stage, showcasing the contemporary Israeli imagination while asking questions of politics, morality, and identity.

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