Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"Diaspora" and Masada

THE PERFORMING ARTS: Death And Sex At Masada. Politics, Birthright Israel trips and a powerful myth animate ‘Diaspora’ (Ted Merwin, Jewish Week).
Few places are as iconic in Jewish life as Masada, the desert stronghold where, as the story goes, a courageous group of Jews chose to die at their own hands rather than perish by the sword of the conquering Roman army. Each year, tens of thousands of young American Jews make a pilgrimage to the site, where they learn about its importance in Jewish history. And just two years ago, a pair of pop culture versions of the Masada story hit our screens, the melodramatic CBS movie, “The Dovekeepers,” with its implicit call for religious tolerance, and “The Siege of Masada,” a documentary by the Smithsonian Channel that called Masada the “Alamo of the ancient world.”

Now comes Nathaniel Sam Shapiro’s Off-Broadway comedy “Diaspora,” directed by Saheem Ali, in which a group of Birthright Israel students touring Masada travel back in time to 73 C.E. and encounter a small band of women and children who survived the catastrophe. The play also comes as Birthright is in the news for its recent decision to disqualify the Reform movement from participating as a trip provider, even as both Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox groups are increasing their share of free, 10-day trips to Israel.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on the history and archaeology of, and revisionist views on, Masada, start here and follow the links. Past posts on the Dovekeepers series are here and here and links. And for the Smithsonian documentary, see here.

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