The Admission was one of the featured plays in hotINK at the Lark 2013, an annual international festival of play readings curated by Catherine Coray and produced at the Lark Play Development Center in New York. You’ll find an interview with author Motti Lerner and translator Johanna Gruenhut below the play excerpt.
The play takes place in the spring of 1988 in different places in Haifa. The Arab village of Jirin, that is mentioned in the play, never existed; it is merely a parable.
Avigdor: Colonel in the Israeli army during the 1948 War of Independence. In 1988 he is the owner of a big construction company (64).
Yona: His wife (60).
Giora: Their son, lecturer at the University of Haifa. He was wounded in the Lebanon war of 1982. Both of his legs are lame. He uses crutches (35).
Neta: His girlfriend, an architect (29).
Ibrahim: A refugee from the Arab village of Jirin (58).
Azmi: His son, owner of a restaurant (35).
Samya: His daughter, lecturer at the University of Haifa (30).
The play takes place in Giora’s mind as he’s lying on a hill facing Jirin, watching the bulldozers plowing in the Wadi. This allows for the breaking of realism and the introduction of characters able to watch scenes in which they do not participate.
The set is abstract and minimal to allow for quick changes of locations and to suggest that the events are taking place in Giora’s mind.
A hill in the depth of the stage. Clouds of dust drift above. The sound of bulldozers plowing down the other side of the hill is heard aloud. Giora enters on crutches, trying to climb the hill; he falls and rises, falls again and now can’t get up.
Lights out on the hill. The sound of the bulldozer fades out.
An Arab restaurant in downtown Haifa. Afternoon. Giora stands in the doorway, leaning on his crutches. Azmi wears a suit, holding a mop and cleaning the floor, careful not to wet his shoes. Ibrahim, his father, is in the kitchen, unseen.
Giora: You’re never satisfied?! This is the nicest restaurant in all of Haifa now. Look how much light comes in through the windows. You put in air conditioning; new tables. I see you’ve changed the tiles too.
Azmi: How am I ever going to repay the loan to your father? In the past month, I’ve had one customer a day, and he orders hummus to go! That’s not even half the salary of a cleaning girl from Jenin!
Giora: He won’t say a thing. Even if it takes you two years to pay him back. Give me the mop. By the time he comes, everything will be clean.
Azmi: One more word, Giora, and I’m gonna dump the bucket on you. (Angrily) This morning I asked Khaula to help me out a few minutes. Not for clients. For you. But she’s like a mule: “I didn’t marry you to clean for you.” Her father’s a lawyer. Not a cook like her husband. I washed floors in stinking restaurants when I was ten. But soon she’ll see where tears come from. Tonight I’ll drag her here by the hair and she’ll clean the bathrooms.
Giora: You don’t have to fight with her because of us. (Takes a mop) My father’s never been bothered by a little dirt.
Azmi: (Grabbing the mop from Giora) Sweep in your own house. (Notices the smell from the kitchen) He’s in there cooking for two hundred. Yesterday I trashed ten kilos of lamb. It smelled so bad, even the zoo wouldn’t take it. The entire Intifada is on our heads. What do they want from us? Did someone hang a flag here? Someone throw a stone? People whose weddings I catered hide from me now on the street.
Giora: Don’t worry. I’ll speak to him today.
Azmi: Don’t tell him “two years.” Tell him I’ll start the payments as soon as this mess is over. (He bumps into the bucket and the water spills) Yin’an din’hu this goddamned bucket. (To the kitchen) Where’s the rag, Dad? (To Giora) Now my shoes are soaked. (To the kitchen) Where’s the rag, Dad?
Samya enters, dressed in an elegant suit. She finds the rag in the entrance.
Samya: Here it is.
Azmi: Glad you’re here. This morning dad burned a pot of rice and broke four plates. Go help him with the fish. He’s already cut two fingers.
Samya: (To Giora) Are you heading back to the university later? We have to talk.
Giora: Something happen?
Azmi: Ya’allah, Samya, go already! (Samya turns to the kitchen, Azmi to Giora) Tell him I have lots of other debts. Because of this shit situation I’m not even paying for this water.
Azmi wipes up the water from the floor. Giora uses the mop to push the water to the exit. Avigdor enters. Samya stops. Azmi grabs the mop from Giora.
Azmi: Hello, Mr. Avigdor. Welcome. How are you?
Avigdor: (Looking around) How beautiful. Congratulations. Mabruk. (Shakes Azmi’s hand) I see you’ve opened up especially for us.
Azmi: Today is the Grand Re-Opening. I’ve turned everyone else away. T’fadal. Sit. (Cleans a chair and offers it to him) I don’t have busboys today. They were detained at the checkpoint.
Avigdor: (To Giora) And I see that besides your position at the university you now have a part-time job cleaning floors. (To Samya) Hello, Samya.
Samya: Hello. I received the letter about the grant yesterday. Thank you very much.
Avigdor: (Shaking her hand) All the very best.
Azmi: Let me bring you something to start with. (Pointing at the kitchen) Dad’s not feeling well. He’s been talking to himself since early this morning. If he says anything strange, don’t pay any attention. (To Samya) Why are you still standing here?
Azmi and Samya exit to the kitchen. Avigdor lights a cigar.
Giora: I heard you met with the dean yesterday.
Avigdor: Yes. By chance.
Giora: And by chance you told him I was leaving the university.
Avigdor: I said, I hoped you weren’t planning on spending your whole life there.
Giora: He’s convinced my letter is in the mail. He’s already searching for my replacement.
Avigdor: It’s about time. What are you afraid of? You’ve overcome your injuries very nicely. Go out and see. Bulldozers are flattening the hills. Cement trucks are laying foundations. Builders are building. Tomorrow there’ll be homes. Roads. Children going to schools.
Giora: I see you’ve convinced yourself already.
Avigdor: Neta earns twice as much as you at the company.
Giora: She told you that?
Avigdor: She doesn’t need to say anything. Every morning she walks into my office and what she wants is written all over her face.
Giora: What does she want?
Avigdor: That in June you’ll leave the university. In July you’ll get married. In September you’ll start working for the company, and in April there’ll be a bris.
Giora: No doubt you’ve already gotten him a job in the company, too.
Avigdor: Naturally. With an office and secretary and a car and expense account!
Both laugh. Ibrahim, Azmi, and Samya, emerge from the kitchen carrying platters and plates of appetizers, salads, drinks, etc. Lights up on Avigdor and Yona’s home. Yona is watching what’s happening at the restaurant.
Ibrahim: Salam aleykum. How are you? A’halan u’salan, Abu Giora. This is just to whet the appetite. These are the first olives of the season. We opened the jars just this morning.
Avigdor: Allah y’a’tik el a’afi, Ibrahim. Shukran.
Ibrahim: And don’t be angry about the salad. Because of the curfew in Gaza, there are no cucumbers in the market, no radishes, no lettuce.
Azmi: Even the fish are under curfew.
Giora: It’s okay, Ibrahim.
Ibrahim: And the tomatoes are from my garden.
Avigdor: I see you’ve already collected za’atar.
Ibrahim: Of course. After the rains it tastes the strongest.
Giora: Thank you.
Ibrahim: It’s all thanks to you, Abu Giora. For all the help you’ve given us. With the renovations, the permits. And also with Samya.
Avigdor: Mabruk, Ibrahim.
Azmi: From now on, you’re our guests. Everything is on the house! Whatever you want, as much as you want. Salads, meat, wine. Anytime.
Avigdor: No way, Azmi.
Azmi: This is my restaurant, and here I decide! (Pours wine) L’chaim!
Ibrahim: About the za’atar, Mr. Avigdor. Yesterday I went to Jirin to collect some, and suddenly I saw people. I asked: “Shu hada, who are you?” and they said they work for you. Surveyors. That you’re going to dig there. That can’t be, can’t it?
Avigdor: We’re building there, Ibrahim.
Ibrahim: Digging for what? What’s to dig for?
Avigdor: People need homes.
Ibrahim: In Jirin?
Azmi: We’re eating now, Dad. Go put the fish on the grill.
Samya: I’ll do it.
Azmi: He’ll do it. (To Avigdor) Today we have grilled eggplant. Pickled mushrooms. Shrimps. Calamari. All fresh from this morning.
Giora: (To Avigdor) That’s your third glass, dad.
Avigdor: If you’re not going to drink, I’ll drink the whole bottle myself.
Ibrahim: (Pouring wine for Giora) About Jirin, Abu Giora.
Azmi: Go put the fish on the grill, Yabba!
Ibrahim: Why are you building in Jirin? All of a sudden?
Avigdor: It’s a small country, Ibrahim. People build everywhere.
Ibrahim: I’m from Jirin, Abu Giora. I was born there.
Azmi: Enough, Dad.
Avigdor: What do you say? From Jirin? When I was a kid, I used to go down there with friends, with canteens and sleeping bags, we used to drink from the spring and rest under the fig trees.
Ibrahim: But why dig there? It’s forbidden.
Azmi: Cha’las. We’ve already heard this story. Go put the fish on the grill.
Giora: (To Avigdor) What is he talking about? We don’t have the permits?
Avigdor: (To Giora) Of course we have.
Ibrahim: The earth won’t let you dig there.
Azmi: We’ve already heard this too, Dad.
Samya: Let him speak. They’re building on his village.
Azmi: He’s going to put the fish on the grill right now.
Ibrahim: (Exploding) It’s forbidden to build there! I am saying “forbidden.” The stones are screaming “forbidden.” The skies are crying “forbidden.” And you’re not listening.
Giora: We’ve been talking about this plan for years now, Ibrahim. It’s the neighborhood that will be named after my brother.
Ibrahim: (To Samya) Tell him not to dig there.
Azmi: Let’s go to the kitchen, dad. (To Avigdor) I told you he wasn’t feeling well. (To Ibrahim) Now’s the time to climb trees? Who will pick you up when you fall?
Giora: What’s the problem? Why is it “forbidden?”
Samya: (To Ibrahim) Sit down, drink a little water. (She seats him, and turns to Avigdor) His house was there. He goes there every holiday. Maybe you could just explain the plans to him.
Ibrahim: (Standing) I’ll die before he digs there.
Avigdor: (Standing) I think it’s best if we go.
Ibrahim: (Barring him) You will listen until I’m through.
Azmi: Be’chiatak, Yabba. Dachil Allah.
Giora: (To Samya) What’s going on with him? What does he want?
Ibrahim: It’s him. He was there. It’s his face. Those are the eyes. Every night I see him. For forty years.
Giora: (To Azmi) What the hell is he talking about?
Ibrahim: There. In the yard of the mosque. He shot them. All of them.
Ibrahim grabs a knife from the table and lunges at Avigdor.
Samya: Stop, Dad! Drop the knife!
Giora: Let go of him!
Ibrahim: Son of a bitch. Ten years I’ve been cooking for you. Ten years I put food on your table, and the whole time my heart was bleeding!
Ibrahim stabs Avigdor in the shoulder before Azmi and Samya pull him away.
Later that afternoon. Avigdor and Yona’s house. Avigdor’s wound is already stitched up and bandaged.
Avigdor: What do you want from me? You know more than the doctor? He said nothing about a transfusion.
Avigdor: I drank.
Giora: You have to go to the hospital, Dad.
Avigdor: What for? He’s the chief of the department. If he thought I needed to be hospitalized he would have taken me there himself.
Giora: He said you need tetanus shot.
Avigdor: He’ll bring it to me in the afternoon. (Angrily) He nearly stabbed me in the neck, that bastard.
Yona: (To Avigdor) Take a pill. In a few minutes the stitches are going to hurt.
Giora: Your blood pressure’s high, Dad.
Yona: His blood pressure is fine.
Avigdor: What came over him? The Intifada’s made him insane? I’ve been eating there for ten years, and he’s never had any complaints.
Yona: You want another pill?
Avigdor: No. Every day a new monster rises from the ground.
Yona: I’m not at all surprised. He sees the riots in the refugee camps. He hears the Sheiks’ incitement in the mosques.
Giora: I don’t understand this doctor. He doesn’t think you need an x-ray? EKG?
Avigdor: He’ll bring it with him later this afternoon.
Giora: Why not now?
Avigdor: Because the moment I enter the hospital they’ll call the police. They’ll stop them, question them, arrest them. For what?
Giora: This man deserves to sit in jail for the rest of his life.
Avigdor: He’s sick. He would die there in a few days. (To Yona) Get me another glass.
Giora: (To Yona) You don’t think he needs an x-ray?
Avigdor: I won’t waste a whole day waiting in line at the hospital, Giora. I have more important things to deal with. Tomorrow I want you to give notice at the university.
Giora: To hell with the university, Dad. Soon we won’t be able to walk in the streets. They used to be our friends. What should we think? That they were pretending?
Avigdor: Sit, calm down. I was the one who was stabbed. Not you.
Yona: Tomorrow we’ll find out that they stopped him at one of the checkpoints and searched him, or that a hot-headed soldier killed a member of his family in one of the camps. (To Avigdor) Give me your hand. (She places his arm in a sling.)
Giora: Aren’t you going to press charges?
Avigdor: He’s insane. He hallucinates. He hears the ground talking to him. You want their restaurant shut down?
Yona: If he’s arrested they’ll start rioting here too.
Avigdor: Tomorrow morning you’ll send a letter to the dean with a copy to the provost.
Giora: What are you talking to me about? This lunatic stabbed you with a knife.
Avigdor: Why did you study business management? To work in a miserable university department?
Yona: Dad can’t keep running the company, Guri. All the doctors say so.
Avigdor: And don’t tell me to go public. I’m not going to let shareholders ride on my back.
Yona: Dad will just be the board chair and you’ll manage everything else by yourself.
Giora: I don’t understand what’s gotten into you. Don’t you see that he was trying to kill you?
Avigdor: Don’t you see that you’re blowing this up to avoid an answer?
Giora: He deserves to pay for what he’s done.
Avigdor: I have a few more pressing battles these days. Next week you’re coming to the board meeting.
Giora: (Angry) I do not want to discuss it now!
Avigdor: I’m sixty-four years old, Giora. I’m not so healthy. What do you want me to do? Dismantle the company? Sell it? Donate it to charity? You’re a smart guy. Tell me.
Giora: I already gave you a plan to go public. You’re not even willing to consider it. (Gets up)
Yona: Where are you going?
Giora: If you’re not going to issue a complaint, I will.
Yona: Have you gone mad too? Sit down. (He doesn’t) I’m thinking of you, Guri. In the company you’ll have more flexibility. You’d be able to continue with electric treatments in America. The best experts are there.
Avigdor: Mom asked you to sit down.
Giora: I heard. (He still doesn’t sit)
Avigdor: I can’t promise you that if you continue with those treatments, you’ll lose the crutches and start walking. But I can promise you that if you take over the company, you’ll do a lot more than most people who can run!
Giora: I’m not taking over the company, Dad.
Yona: We’ve been discussing this since Udi died.
Giora: I’m not Udi. (To Avigdor) I can’t understand you, Dad. In a proper world, when a man is stabbed, he goes to the police. No? If you wait too long they won’t accept the complaint.
The doorbell rings. Neta enters. Lights up on Samya’s house. Samya is watching the scene in Avigdor’s house.
Neta: (To Avigdor) It looks like you’re still alive. How do you feel? (She hugs him)
Avigdor: Now, excellent.
Neta: I thought I’d find you in bed with an IV. I’ve already planned to transfer your office to your bedroom, and the board meetings to the living room.
Yona: He’d come to the office with the IV.
Neta: I hope you’re not planning on eating there ever again. (To Avigdor) What about the Arabs who work for us? We should check that none of them are about to go nuts too.
Avigdor: (Laughing) Because of two or three stitches?
Yona: Make sure that nobody hears about it in the office. Tell them it was an accident.
Neta: (To Giora) He didn’t stab you? I hoped you’d lie in bed for a few days and every morning I’d bring you coffee. (Kisses him)
Giora: We’re going, Neta.
Yona: Where are you rushing? She’s just got here.
Avigdor: See what you have in your hands, Giora. What are you waiting for? (To Neta) What did I introduce you to him for? (Joking) I’m not kidding. If you don’t marry him this July, I’ll fire you.
Giora: We’re getting married, Dad. We’ve told you.
Avigdor: So get on with it! Open your calendars. We need to find a hall!
Giora: I think Neta and I should discuss this alone first.
Avigdor: (To Neta) You can take vacation next week and find a dress.
Yona: And a ring.
Giora: You’re talking to her instead of me? Talk. Never mind. I don’t understand what’s going on here. You still have blood on your shirt. At least talk to your lawyer. You have friends at the police station. (He turns to leave)
Yona: Enough, Guri.
Neta: Wait a second.
Giora: (He stops) We’ve decided to get married in July.
Neta: You have that conference in Boston in July.
Giora: Fine. We’ll get married at the end of June.
Avigdor: Can we pick a hall?
Giora: Yes. (Sees that Neta is hurt) Okay. At the beginning of June.
Avigdor: Excellent. The beginning of June.
Giora: You don’t want to check with your mom?
Neta: I hope she’ll live till then.
Avigdor: That you leave to me. I’ll talk to her. It’s settled?
Avigdor: This is how you settle?
Giora takes the hint, he kisses and hugs Neta.
Avigdor: Now go home and celebrate. (To Yona) We also want to celebrate a little. Right?
Neta: See you later.
Giora: The beginning of June isn’t too close to Udi’s birthday?
Yona: It’s perfectly all right.
Giora: (To Avigdor) I’ll call later tonight to see how you’re doing.
Giora and Neta exit. Silence.
Yona: Does it hurt?
Avigdor: He stabbed me with all his might.
Yona: It’s best if you rest in bed. Your blood pressure’s a little high. (He’s silent) I hope Giora doesn’t do anything stupid. We have to watch him. (He’s silent) Do you want to delay the groundbreaking a few days? Maybe until they remove the stitches. (He’s silent) Udi has waited many years for us to build something in his name. He’ll wait another week. (He goes to the bar and takes a glass) Don’t drink. You just took a pill.
Avigdor drinks, puts the glass on the table, and turns to the kitchen.
Yona: Where are you going?
Avigdor: I haven’t eaten since this morning.
Yona: Wait. I’ll warm something up. What about the surveyors you sent to the Wadi? They’ll continue?
Avigdor: Of course.
Yona: Tomorrow the workers are putting up the platform. Maybe we should send a guard to watch over during the night?
Blackout. The sound of bulldozers is heard louder.
The next day. Afternoon. Giora’s office at the university. Giora and Samya.
Samya: He didn’t sleep. He was tossing and turning in bed. Crying. Talking to himself. Only this morning, when he heard your father is alive, did he get some rest. For an hour.
Giora: He’s lucky my dad didn’t go to the police.
Samya: I’m taking him to the doctor tomorrow. I’m not sure he understands what he did. He can’t explain any of it.
Giora: What’s to explain? We all saw.
Samya: We saw him lose control–for a second.
Giora: If that knife would have penetrated another millimeter, my father would be dead.
Samya: He didn’t intend any of it. You know him. (Giora is quiet) What should I tell Azmi? He wants to visit your father. He wants to invite you over for a meal.
Giora: My father’s in bed. They’re removing the stitches next week.
Samya: Good. Come next week. (Giora isn’t too excited. Silence) You never told me your father was commander during the battle at Jirin.
Giora: There’s nothing to tell. They fought there just like in other places. When we were kids he took us once to see the monument on the hill. Eight of his soldiers died there. (Resolute) Your father would be better keeping his hallucinations to himself.
Samya: He hallucinates. You’re right. But…
Giora: But what?
Samya: I was scared. I didn’t understand what he was saying. This morning I went to the Library. (She shows him a book and a notebook) This is by a historian from Damascus. This is a dissertation that was done here, in the history department. According to his calculations there were ninety-six dead.
Giora: Are you out of your mind?
Samya: Look. He also has testimonies from soldiers who took part in the attack.
Giora: I don’t need to look. I know we have too many self-hating historians. How you can fall for such lies? You know lots of other people who did for you as much as my father? Even after my brother was killed. Even after what happened to me. Just last week, he asked the Minister of the Interior to extend the jurisdiction of Dir El Asad.
Samya: I know.
Giora: You don’t know. He built the school in Tamra without any profit for himself.
Samya: I know that.
Giora: So I don’t understand. How can you believe what’s written here?
Samya: I don’t. I don’t believe anything. But my father has always been a rational man. Suddenly he picks up a knife and stabs?
Giora: He’s never talked about it until yesterday?
Samya: Until yesterday he told us that they were chased away. But then yesterday he said his father and two of his brothers were killed there.
Giora: And you believe him?
Samya: I don’t know. Their names are in this book.
Lights up on Avigdor office where Avigdor and Neta watch the rest of the scene.
Samya: I’m not accusing your father of anything, Giora. I know how rumors spread among us. But I also know my father.
Giora: If your father recognized my father ten years ago, why did he wait until yesterday?
Samya: He doesn’t want them touching the bones buried in the Wadi. He wants to give them a proper burial and put up a memorial.
Giora: A memorial for who? If there were bones buried there, someone would have talked about it. Five hundred soldiers have been quiet for forty years?! If you think my father did something like this, return all the grants he’s given you, including the post-doc you got yesterday.
Samya moves to exit. He stops her.
Giora: Wait a second. You can’t run away like this.
Samya: I’m leaving. You’re running away.
Giora: Until yesterday you thought your father and two uncles were expelled. You never asked where they were? You never tried to see them?
Samya: He told me they died in a refugee camp in Tul Karem.
Giora: So until today you believed him when he told you they died, and today you believe him when he tells you they were killed?
Samya: Today I don’t know anything anymore.
Giora: I’ve asked you many times, Samya. And you’ve always said they were expelled. I asked your brother too.
Samya: When did you ask me?
Giora: The hotel in London. I begged you again and again. You shut yourself in the bathroom and locked the door.
Samya: I seem to remember you begged for something entirely different.
Giora: I don’t remember having to beg.
She puts the books on the table, moves to him and hugs him. He responds. Lights up on Yona in her house. She watches Giora and Samya.
Samya: You know why your father gave me the grant for the post-doc?
Giora: Because he believes in you.
Samya: Because I have to do it in England.
Giora: What does that have to do with anything?
Samya: He wants to separate us.
Giora: He doesn’t know we see each other.
Samya: That’s what I wanted to tell you yesterday.
Giora: No one knows.
Samya: He thinks I’m standing in the way of you getting married. (He is silent) Am I in your way? Are you getting married? Have you decided? (He is silent) You don’t think I deserve to know? (He is silent) I’m not surprised. I’m surprised you haven’t told me. I’m surprised how naive I was. (He holds her hand. She drops his) When did you decide? Yesterday? Because of what happened at the restaurant?
Giora: I’m not the only one who decided. You did too. And it had nothing to do with what happened at the restaurant. When I asked you to move in with me, you wouldn’t consider it. When you heard I’d been injured, you stayed in London. When you came back, you never called.
Samya: I thought we’d gotten over that. I thought we’d take a sabbatical together next year.
Giora: It’s getting more and more complicated, Samya. What happened in the restaurant is just one symptom. Since the Intifada, we hardly speak. Every time a Jew kills an Arab, or an Arab kills a Jew, we fight. We haven’t slept together in six months.
Samya: Don’t lie to me, Giora. You know exactly why we haven’t slept together. I thought you’d be more honest. I thought you’d be more brave. That you were capable of standing up to your father. I was wrong. I’m probably not as smart as I thought. (Painfully) We’ve been talking about this sabbatical since the beginning of the year.
Giora: In the last few months we haven’t mentioned it. (He tries holding her hands again)
Samya: Don’t touch me.
Samya exits. In her haste she leaves the book and notebook on the table. Blackout.
Night. Avigdor and Yona’s house. Avigdor and Neta enter. Neta supports the exhausted Avigdor and walks him to the sofa. Yona rushes to him.
Yona: Where were you? I asked you not to leave the house.
Avigdor: I’m alright.
Yona: You want me to call the doctor?
Avigdor: I’m just a bit dizzy. It’ll pass.
Yona: Drink. (Offers him) You’re very pale.
He drinks. She measures his blood pressure by attaching the band to his forearm.
Avigdor: (To Neta) Tell her.
Yona: Quiet a minute.
Neta: (To Yona) We found a hall.
Avigdor: Just a hall?
Yona: I said quiet. (Finishing to take his pressure) I want the doctor to see you today.
Avigdor: I’m absolutely fine. It’s because of the stairs. (To Neta) Go ahead, tell her.
Neta: We were at the Dan hotel. They’re giving us the garden and the pool too. We started to decide on the menu. But suddenly the wound started bothering him.
Avigdor: This is your wedding, sweetheart, and I’m more excited than you are!
Neta: (To Yona) He took a painkiller. On the drive back he got dizzy.
Avigdor: When I asked them about the garden and pool they turned their backs on me. But when she talked to the manager, he just melted.
Neta: Because you offered to pay more.
Avigdor: Because of your smile.
Neta: (To Yona) When he wants something, he doesn’t take no for an answer. (To Avigdor) I think you ought to stay home tomorrow.
Avigdor: Of course.
Yona: (Irritated) I’ll ask the doctor to hospitalize you.
Avigdor: Fine. I’ll stay home.
Yona: This is for you, Neta. Congratulations.
She hands Neta a small box. Neta opens it and reveals a pair of earrings.
Yona: Put them on.
Neta: You didn’t have to.
Yona: Who am I going to buy earrings for? Giora?
Avigdor: I’ll put them on for you. (He gets up)
Avigdor succeeds in putting the earrings on Neta.
Neta: Thank you.
Avigdor: (To Yona) I’m sitting.
Yona: I called Giora this morning. He didn’t answer. Is he all right?
Neta: His back was bothering him. Probably because of what happened in the restaurant. But he got up early. Did some exercise, and left for the university. I hope we don’t hear about it anymore.
Yona: He must know that he doesn’t have a chance of becoming department chair anytime soon.
Neta: He thinks that you’re pressuring the dean not to appoint him.
Avigdor: That’s not true!
Yona: He’s working too hard over there, Neta. He didn’t come with me to the pool this week. He missed his appointment with the physiotherapist. Yesterday I went to his orthopedist myself. He has a critical surgery in September.
Neta: He’ll do it. Give him a few more weeks. He’s already much more independent. He doesn’t give up. He fights. When he feels more confident, he’ll join the company, on his own will.
Avigdor: We can’t wait a few more weeks. Don’t you see what’s happening? I need a positive answer within the week. I want to bring it to the board. That, and your promotion.
Neta: Okay. I’ll speak to him.
She gets her bag and turns to leave. Giora enters. Lights up on Ibrahim and Samya’s house. Samya watches the scene in Avigdor’s house.
Giora: What happened?
Neta: We got the Dan hotel.
Avigdor: That’s all you have to say?
Giora: I’m very happy.
Avigdor: Tell me, Yona’leh, who does he resemble? In my family we knew how to celebrate.
Giora: (To Neta) You got earrings. Very nice.
Avigdor: (To Giora) Don’t we deserve to celebrate a little?
Yona: They’re giving us the garden and the pool too.
Neta: (To Giora) I’ll tell you on the way there. We still have to finalize the menu.
Giora: (To Avigdor) How are you feeling? Still in pain?
Avigdor: Oh, a lot. I may die tomorrow.
Yona: Ha. Ha. Ha.
Giora: I need to talk to you, Dad.
Avigdor: About what?
Giora: Come sit for a second. (Points to Avigdor’s study)
Giora: I was in the library today. I found a dissertation that was written in our history department about Jirin.
Yona: You’re talking about that nonsense again?
Giora: There are some strange things in it. (To Avigdor) Look. (Showing him the notebook) He claims that dozens of people were killed. (To Neta) I almost lost my mind.
Yona: You really did lose your mind.
Neta: You promised that you wouldn’t meet with those people anymore.
Giora: I didn’t.
Avigdor: I thought you came to tell me you were joining the company.
Giora: Read. (Extending the notebook once again)
Avigdor: I’ve heard about this “historian.” He called me a couple of years ago. I didn’t see a reason to meet with him. I suggest that you check who financed his “research.”
Yona: Daddy doesn’t feel well, Guri. Don’t bother him with this. (Takes the notebook and places it on the table) This morning I was at the house on the corner down the road. They’re prepared to sell it.
Avigdor: He’s not bothering me. It’s good you came. Let’s get this affair off the table and move onto more important things. The village blocked the main road. They attacked cars. Buses. Ambulances. We had no choice. At four a.m. we attacked. The first company from the Wadi. The second from the road. The third stormed down from the hill. Eight of our men were killed. They lost fourteen.
Yona: (To Giora) Everything clear now? (Continuing) I want you to see this house. It’s like new. No stairs. You can drive your car all the way up to the doorway. If you don’t hurry, someone else will take it.
Neta: (To Giora) We’ll go early in the morning.
Yona: You might have to do some renovations before you move in. I would make the bathtub bigger. And widen the doorways.
Avigdor: At ten they surrendered. They knew that most of the Arabs in Haifa ran away. And the rumors of Deir Yassin already reached them. The mukhtar came to me and requested they be sent to Tul Karem. At four they got on trucks. At six we returned to base and buried our dead. And now let’s get to the more important things.
Yona: (Firm) I think it’s best you go lie down, Avigdor, before your blood pressure goes up.
Giora:(Taking the notebook) There are ninety-six names in here, Dad.
Avigdor: I’m not sure there’s a person for every name.
Neta: The manager of the hotel is waiting for us, Giora. We have a wedding in two months. There are a few things we need to do, besides standing under the chuppa. See you later.
Giora: And you counted only fourteen?
Yona: (Too loudly) He told you only fourteen!
Giora: (Hurt) I want to be certain that I heard.
Neta: I don’t understand why you’re so obsessed with this.
Giora: It’s outrageous that our university would print lies like these. (To Avigdor) Let’s talk to your soldiers, Dad, and publish another book.
Yona: If you publish a book, they’ll publish ten.
Avigdor: (Laughing) You want me to start writing books now?! I have a board meeting next week. I want you to come. I want you to come prepared.
Giora: Everyone who reads this, Dad, will believe that these are the facts.
Yona: Who’s reading it? Who will read it?
Avigdor: If this scumbag had bothered to investigate, he’d have found these “dead” living in refugee camps in Jordan.
Yona: Why are you telling him all this? You want him to go find them?
Avigdor: Better he knows what went on there. How we fought. How we survived. How we earned our lives here. And then maybe, finally, he’ll understand why he has to come to the board meeting next week. (To Giora) The time to ponder is over, Giora. This wound is worse than I thought. I almost fainted in the car today.
Yona: Don’t you see that our life here can’t be taken for granted, Guri? Not ours, and certainly not yours. After all you’ve been through, you can’t waste it.
Giora: I’m wasting my life?!
Yona: This affair is dead and buried.
Giora: I’m trying to live my life! To understand what happened to me. What was stolen from me. Every day I’m trying to get a little of that back.
Interview with Motti Lerner and Johanna Gruenhut
IT: Please describe your collaboration–how it came about, how you worked together, what you found most rewarding, challenging, surprising, and so forth.
ML: Our collaboration was initiated by Ari Roth, artistic director of Theater J in DC who heard about the play in 2010 and wanted to know more about it. Johanna did a rough translation of an early draft, we started discussing it, and discovered that we need to collaborate in order to reach a better precision of the Hebrew nuances and the sensitive historical-political terminology that is used quite frequently in the play. We did most of the work by email, but in early 2011 we finally met in a workshop of the play at Theater J and revisited the translation. I think that our biggest challenge was to transform a play that is understood almost immediately in an Israeli social and political context to a play that is understood naturally in an American context. This transformation was particularly difficult because the play is rooted in a very specific conflict in time and place.
JG: I have translated a few Hebrew plays. It is always hard to get meanings to be precise, as Motti said. But he is also right that with this play, there was an added challenge: the politics and history built into the story make it so that audiences hearing it in Hebrew bring so much context to their understanding. As Motti said, there are things they understand immediately, but that are not said in the play. So the challenge was to translate, and fill in at the same time.
IT: In the statement you included with your hotINK application materials, you wrote that “the play has been translated in several phases according to the development of the play in Hebrew….” Can you describe more specifically the relationship between the development process and the translation process?
ML: The play has developed slowly and gradually through parallel readings and workshops in Israel and in the U.S. Each time I made progress in Israel it was a basis for another progress in the U.S. and vice versa-so actually we had to translate the changes I did in Hebrew in Israel, and also translate the changes I did in English in the U.S. This created a very close collaboration between Johanna and me that lasted more two years and will continue until the opening of the play in the U.S. in April 2014.
JG: This play was revised in several ways over several years. Usually it was revised in Hebrew, and sometimes in English-but either way, it always needed to be retranslated as a result in the relevant direction. And this could be especially tricky because changing something in one place could mean that a translation would need to be adjusted in another place, not necessarily where there was an explicit change. So every revision to the text necessitated a sort of examination of the whole translation.
And then, on top of that, the revisions arose from us understanding the play and the characters better. Sometimes, understanding them better makes you want to retranslate because you realize you can phrase things differently, more personally.
IT: I felt that the use of Arabic words and idiomatic expressions added so much texture to the characters and the play as a whole. Please discuss your decision to leave this language untranslated and your views on the role of Arabic language in the play.
ML: The play is about two families in Israel-one Palestinian and one Jewish. The Palestinians speak Arabic and the Jews speak Hebrew. The Palestinians usually speak Hebrew with Jews. Language is always a great vehicle for characterization, but here we felt it was important to show the linguistic differences in order to emphasize the fact that there are two people living together in the same country, with different national identities and different national cultures and they still must struggle to co-exist in this country in spite of the national and cultural differences.
JG: As a translator I made the decision early on that English was Hebrew in this world. In other words, I was not moving the actors, just translating for the listener. In the original text the Palestinian characters use Arabic words and phrases, and the contrast between them and the Hebrew is obvious. So the question arose of how to make the same contrast -English could not be both Hebrew and Arabic in an obvious way. So, I left in the Arabic.
IT: What other aspects of the characters’ speech were you most concerned about preserving in translation?
ML: We wanted to preserve the cultural differences and the generational differences between the characters. Both the Jewish and the Palestinian parents speak slightly differently than their children.
JG: What Motti said is exactly right. I would just add that conversations in male friendships have a different language than conversations between lovers, and conversations between Israeli lovers can sound different from conversations between Palestinian lovers, and mixed relationships. We wanted to capture as much of this as possible.
IT: I understand the play has generated some controversy that has affected its production. Please discuss the reception of the play both in Israel and abroad. Is the controversy typical for theatre that explores this history, or has the situation of The Admission been in any way exceptional?
ML: The play will open in Israel for the first time in November 2013. It was scheduled for productions in three theatres in the past, but after these theatres announced the production and even began preparing it–the productions were canceled. I can only guess that there were fears and perhaps pressures that led to it. You can also guess that these pressures had to do with the huge difficulties we face in Israel and in Jewish communities outside of Israel to discuss the events of the 1948 war that led to a conflict that is still unresolved. I have written several plays that dealt with political controversies in Israel, but “The Admission” was received with deep fears more than any other of them. The more fear the play has created, the more I was convinced that its production is necessary.