“Wrestling Jerusalem”— A Cinematic Journey

“Wrestling Jerusalem”

A Cinematic Journey

Amos Lassen

  Aaron Davidman takes us on cinematic journey into the heart of the Israeli – Palestinian story. He embodies seventeen different characters as he explores the universal questions of identity and human connection by taking on a multiplicity of conflicting viewpoints to chronicle the complex humanity at the heart of one of the world’s most troubling conflicts. Davidman who also wrote the script makes no generalizations and gives no easy answers as he gives is an experience that looks at the issues that we face regarding Israel/Palestine.

Most of us have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But not as many of us have listened to others’ perspectives and really considered and tried to understand them. In this 90-minute solo performance, Davidman begins with two words, “It’s complicated” and the rest of the show is an act of understanding as Davidman wraps himself in complications of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Deep sadness and wistful hope are emotions that come out of the portraits of Israelis and Palestinians that we see here. While there are no answers to the questions that we have neither are there solutions to the conflicts that we see and hear about in this performance. It does insists that peace is possible, that it’s “not a fantasy.”   By embodying all 17 of these human beings so deeply, Davidman allows us to fully experience that possibility. He respectfully represents views “that range to extreme points on either side of the messy debate and the act of doing so becomes its own trauma… Davidman manifests the inner and outer turmoil in a physical performance marked by often-anguished gestural passages, stirring liturgical verses, unexpected humor, and a series of neatly etched characters.”  

The film is a short and tightly structured piece that embodies the many different voices, points of view and opinions that Davidman encountered on several trips to Israel. He based “Wrestling Jerusalem” on real events and actual people he interviewed and recorded, plus composite and invented characters based on people he met and conversations he had.

Among them we meet a fervent, friendly Muslim who tells him we are all the same under God; the son of Holocaust survivors whose teenage son died in a bus bombing in Haifa, and who had attended a peace camp for Israeli and Palestinian children two weeks prior to his death; an Arab woman whose commute between East Jerusalem and Ramallah takes her hours to travel a short distance each day ; a lieutenant commander in the Special Forces who served in the West Bank (“You find yourself doing, for maybe the right purpose, or for your need, doing very bad things, very immoral things…”); an older Israeli-Arab woman; a religious Jew who declares, “We’ve been running for thousands of years. We’re not running anymore”; a Jewish activist (and former member of the Knesset) who laments that Jews have historically fought for human rights—but “It’s not the case in Israel”; a Palestinian who says there will be no two-state solution—“We will rule this land again”—and a Jewish-American medical student who supports Hamas and says, “I’m fighting for the underdog. Remember the Holocaust? Apparently not!”

Then there is Aaron Davidman himself, an open-minded visitor attempting to hold all the varying viewpoints involved. Among the various monologues and dialogues that comprise the text are singing, choreographed movement, gestural language and abstractions, humor and a Kabbalistic story (a story of creation told by the Jewish mystics, who say that it is the work of human beings to “repair,” or heal, the world).

It is true that there is no way to talk about the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian struggle that is not already worn almost to bits. Yet Davidman remains convinced that somehow something constructive can be done. “Wrestling Jerusalem” is certainly not the last word on the issue; but it opens the door so that others might put their thoughts into words and hold sane meaningful discussions on the issue of Israel/Palestine.


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