Baseless hatred, in Hebrew sinat hinam, may be defined as conflict, often vicious, among different Jewish communities. The term itself derives from the Talmud which ascribes to sinat hinam the destruction in 70 CE of the Second Temple, and sinat hinam will be our destruction also, says Shlomi Moscowitz in Tasting Meal (or Menu), a smart comedy about a very serious subject.
The incomparable and master of comedy Moti Katz plays award winning, ultra-secular, ultra-left-wing journalist Joel and the equally incomparable Limor Goldstein plays his architect wife, Hila.
The couple has just returned from experiencing the ultimately pretentious tasting menu at the ultimately expensive wedding venue being considered for the nuptials of their daughter Rotem (Hadar Baruch) to Netanel (David Shaul), the product of an ultra-right religious settler family from “over the green line.”
Neither family wants the wedding to take place and in the blistering confrontations among the various protagonists, each side’s entrenched prejudices slam into each other head on, with Rotem’s younger, fey, guitar-playing, scene-stealing sister Neta (Na’ama Shitrit) trying to ride herd on the hatreds; trying to do something, anything, asking “Why can’t I be apathetic like everybody else?” The action takes place on Dana Tasarfaty’s huge island-shaped (“no man is an island” a la John Donne?) sofa with lots of cushions that are both weapon and refuge.
There’s a lot going on in Tasting. Of course the tasting menu itself is a metaphor for the value-denuded hollowness of much of our keep-up-withthe- Joneses lifestyle that we don’t need and in this family’s case, certainly can’t afford. Joel and Hila are recognizable individuals.
Less so are Natanel’s parents, Yehuda (Yoav Levy) and Nurit (Aya Granit Shva).
Apart from their cast-iron beliefs, the couple itself seems to be cut from a preconceived mold. Like their beliefs, they and the actors playing them are too rigid.
Rotem and Netanel are a different metaphor and are delightfully played by Baruch and Shaul. They’re the (often confused) coming generation, the one that needs the courage to think for itself, to ask the right questions, either to bring us together, find a way forward together, or to preside over our destruction once again.
“It’s the job of theater to be here and now,” says Cameri artistic director Omri Nitzan, and he’s been asking “whither Israel?” in recent productions including Mephisto, To the Edge of the Land with Habima and now Tasting Meal.
The play starts with Neta aggressively singing Ehud Manor’s “Ein li eretz acheret” – I have no other country. We’d do well to remember that, without the aggression.