In the Bible we meet many fascinating characters in various challenging and impossible moments in their lives.
We see them deliberate between courses of action and we gather life lessons from their decisions. Many of these individuals have had such a strong impact on our society that we continue to name our children after them. But the Bible also has a cast of unnamed characters, many of which are women, whose stories are no less relevant.
It was these women that began the creative journey that resulted in the Chamber of Chambers: Women Without a Name event, which will take place Saturday night at the Elma Hotel in Zichron Ya’akov.
The process began with artistic director Lilach Dekel-Avneri, founder and director of the Pathos Mathos Company, an interdisciplinary group of artists dedicated to creating multi-sensory experiential performance events.
“In our last production, we looked at Greek mythology. It was natural that from there we would continue into our own mythology,” she explained in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“When we started to do that, the first instinct was to look at women. When you look at myths of women you find things that are very relevant and painful... today.
We found these four stories of women that had been marginalized and thrown out by society. When we got to these women, we saw that they are an amazing group. At first glance they may seem insignificant but they have amazing journeys, dramas and ethical questions surrounding them. We chose them in order to [hold] a mirror to society and the way that society treats them. They were very relevant to us as artists here now.”
The performance will take place in Elma’s The Cube Hall and will span four hours.
During this time, the audience will observe and participate in Dekel-Avneri and her collaborators’ responses to four biblical women’s tales: Lot’s Wife, the Sorceress of Ein Dor, the Concubine on the Hill and Jephthah’s Daughter. Among the artists participating are Eran Hadas, Lihi Chen, Hila Lahav, Maya Weinberg, Michal Weinberg, Zohar Meidan, Keren Katz, Assi Meshullam, Shahar Sarig, Lilach Ben-Ami, Dganit Elyakim, Adaya Godlevsky, Shachaf Dekel, Yotam Izraeli and Noa Sarig.
The first section of the performance is entitled “The Medium is the Message.”
“The first is the sorceress of Ein Dor,” explained Dekel-Avneri. “In her time, King Saul forbade the practice of clairvoyance. He threw out all of the seers. There is a dramatic moment where the king has no choice but to turn to a woman that is part of a group he is trying to boycott. Through her actions and texts, we learn a lot about her power, her empathy, her professionalism. She was the last person he met before he died. She was facing a death threat.
“Her story raises many questions. How you act when someone that has hurt you asks for your help. What lies behind the resistance to people with a connection to the future? With independent thought? All of the material that we discovered not through the myth itself but [reading between the lines], and there was the artistic potential to open more and respond, not necessarily through what is told but what is not told.”
The next step in the journey looks at Jephthah’s daughter. In the biblical tale, Jephthah is asked by the Israelite leaders to lead troops into battle against the Ammonites.
Jephthah makes an oath to God that if he is victorious, he will burn whatever exits his house first upon his return as a sacrificial offering. Unfortunately for Jephthah’s daughter she is the first to greet him.
“This story is about the victimization of people, about a father who comes home from the war having taken a vow. He knows that he has just one daughter, so who did he think would greet him, the dog? It’s a parallel to the Greek myth of Eugenia, who was also sacrificed.
We saw in this story our society, our handling of human sacrifice and the price we pay for nation. Jephthah’s daughter was the victim but Jephthah is also a victim here.”
In the third act of the performance, “You Are Hereby Dissected for Me,” The Cube Hall will be transformed into a courtroom, in which the audience can battle out the legal implications of the tale of the Concubine on the hill. In this part of the Bible, a man from the tribe of Levi offers his concubine to an angry mob of Benjamites. After she is brutally raped, the Levite chops her into 12 pieces and sends one to each tribe.
This event is thought to have sparked the Battle of Gibeah.
“This story isn’t taught very much today,” said Dekel-Avneri, “and if it is, it is given as an example of what happened when there was no king, of people ruling themselves.
But this story is about male abuse, exploitation and murder and the use of the body of women as a bartering tool.”
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The final event will examine the one fateful glance of Lot’s wife. As the tale tells it, as Lot’s family fled from Sodom, the angels commanded Lot, his wife and their daughters to go and never look back. Lot’s wife looked and was turned into a pillar of salt.
“We chose these women because they had no name. They were named for their husband, father, brother or profession.
But why? The fact that they have no voice demands of us to give them a voice. They invite action. To close the gap, to research, to find out what’s behind it. We are inviting the audience to a happening, to go on this journey with us. This event is interdisciplinary, which allows us to approach these stories from a number of different angles. We aren’t enacting these dramas, we are allowing the stories to reverberate in a performer’s voice, in drawing, in video, in song.”
“Chamber of Chambers: Women Without a Name” will take place at the Elma Hotel’s The Cube Hall on November 19 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.elma-hotel.com.