Telling her story

Secrets of London-born playwright, actress, director and comedienne Hadar Galron.

By NADINE WOJAKOVSKI
January 14, 2018 21:03
Hadar Galron's 'Hasodot' (The Secrets), selling out at the Beit Lessin Theater.

Hadar Galron's 'Hasodot' (The Secrets), selling out at the Beit Lessin Theater.. (photo credit: KFIR BOLOTIN)

Hadar Galron is not afraid of being controversial. In fact she thrives on it, in the belief that it will advance the cause of women in the modern Jewish world. The London-born playwright, actress, director and comedienne starts 2018 with a record number of projects on the go, all themed around one subject: women.

She is currently enjoying the success of seeing her play, Hasodot (The Secrets), selling out at the Beit Lessin Theater. Based on the 2007 Israeli movie Galron co-wrote with director Avi Nesher, The Secrets (directed for stage by Kfir Azulay), the play is actually inspired by the true story of a friend of Galron’s. It tells the story of a young ultra-Orthodox, intellectual girl, Naomi, who dares to aspire to become a high-ranking national rabbinic legal authority. She convinces her father to postpone her wedding and allow her to study at a girls’ seminar in Safed. There she meets the rebellious French Israeli Michelle and, in yet another taboo, falls in love with her, risking everything she ever thought she wanted.

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Still on stage are two satirical one-woman cabaret shows, which Galron both wrote and performs in.

Passion Killer (co-written with Aharon Feuerstein) and Pulsa 2018, are both performed at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater and Beit Mazya in Jerusalem. They are also touring the country. These are her bread-and-butter shows, first started in 2001, in which Galron serves up her take on the status of women, be it in the Bible or through Jewish law. Passion Killer, performed both in Hebrew and English, takes the stories of righteous biblical women, like Eve, Esther, Tamar and even the harlot Rahav, telling their stories from their points of view.

“These women were not the martyrs they are often portrayed as: they were brave women who looked their fate in the eye – saw how bad it was – and decided to change it,” explains Galron. “They went against the laws and the law-makers, against society’s consensus but not against God. After all it was He who gave women their passion – and they used it well. Being able to change one’s own fate is much more difficult than preaching others.... They chose not to be victims and their courage turned them into leaders and symbols.

“The first passion in the Torah was given to women – not surprising considering how dangerous passion can be in the hands of men... I believe God intended to make lives with passion – not to take lives.”

The 47-year-old mother of three grew up in an Orthodox family – first in London before making aliya at 13. In Israel she was sent to a religious high school. Her education equipped her with the skills to study biblical texts vigorously. In turn, it also made her an ardent critic of aspects of the religion that do little to elevate women to their rightful status – as equals to men.

“I have much love for the world I come from but I’m also very critical and very aware of the glass ceiling above the heads of many women in this world, because people use religion as a way of showing the hierarchy between men and women. This is especially apparent within the Jewish law of marriage.”

Indeed, as demonstrated in Pulsa, she wants to show that women trapped in unwanted marriages have the chance and choice to challenge the status quo. The religious imbalance against women, she stresses, does not exist in harmonious marriages, but where there are deep cracks. Change, she believes, will come from the painful, yet brave sacrifices women are willing to make, so long as they are able to rise above their oppressive experience.

Having said that there are aspects about Jewish life and tradition that she loves, and which are non-negotiable.

“Shabbat – as a day of rest – is the greatest creation of God and is the greatest donation to the Jewish world.”

Galron’s foray into theater followed her army service. She pursued a degree in theatre at Tel Aviv University, where she began writing and performing professionally before launching her comic duo act with another Orthodox comedienne, Noya Mendel.

Professional success followed in 2005, with her highly acclaimed play Mikveh, which takes a peek at Orthodox women’s lives via the most intimate monthly ritual. Although highly controversial at the time, it was nominated for six national theater awards and won two – including Israel’s prestigious “Play of the Year“ award in 2005. It has since been successfully staged outside Israel, with the longest running performance (11 years) in Prague’s national theater.

Later this month she returns to Prague to begin rehearsals at the municipal theater for a comedy she wrote about the challenges of modern motherhood. I-MAMA, featuring eight actresses playing women of one family and one male playing all the men. She will also be returning to the Czech Republic this May, to direct The Secrets.

But arguably the most exciting project is her first ever TV series for adults, for the Reshet TV channel, due to be released in a few weeks. It is a psychological drama she wrote with Gadi Taub and Anat Barzilai. Inspired by some true stories, it is called The Harem, and is about a man living with over 20 wives and enslaving them.

Galron, a woman of many talents, has added another string to her bow. She is also the inspirational artistic director of the three-day-long International Shalom Festival (ISF), taking place at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The ISF, founded by Nigel Goodrich, has taken upon itself the mission of “building cultural bridges and celebrating coexistence and peace.”

Inspiration for Galron’s ideas seems to flow naturally, although sometimes the process has proven challenging. Last year, she tragically lost one of her younger sisters, Yaeli, to pancreatic cancer after a very short illness. “Losing a younger sister is one of those junctions where you realize that really the more I think I understand, the less I know.”

But from that tragedy came some enlightenment as she witnessed her sister reach a highly spiritual place, which Galron found “spellbinding.” “In her last month, the doctor kept telling us he doesn’t understand how she is still conscious and walking and talking, that what we are seeing is not her medical state but her willpower. But it wasn’t (only) that. It was literally like watching the immortal soul slowly overtake the painful body. A few days before she passed away she asked me to keep in touch with her wherever she is, and also to keep referring to us siblings as five – not four.”

After the shiva, Galron felt numb and wondered what on earth she could do now, if anything. Out of the blue she got an offer to direct a musical show based on author David Grossman’s book Falling Out Of Time. Grossman, who lost his son Uri in Lebanon in 2006, wrote this part prose, part poetry to tell the story of bereaved parents setting out to reach their lost children. Additionally, Hila Cohen-Elazar, the singer who adapted the book, was reaching out to her own late father, David “Dado” Elazar, the IDF chief of staff during the Yom Kippur War.

“It came at the right time,” notes Galron. “It was a way to begin speaking to Yaeli. I felt God was showing me how to turn this low pit in life into an opportunity. It was probably about the only thing I could do then.”

Telling stories is what Galron was born to do, but it’s the voice of the woman she wants heard, noted and celebrated.

“Writing is my soul. When I tell these stories, it’s about making what is traditionally his story into her story.”

Pulsa and Passion Killer are currently at the Cameri Theater, Tel- Aviv, and Beit Mazya in Jerusalem, as well as select stages throughout the country. For more information, call: (050) 533-7269 Hasodot is running at the Beit Lessin Theater in Tel Aviv and has begun touring the country. It will be on stage at The Jerusalem Theatre from March 6-8. For more information, call: (03) 725-5333.


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