‘Aliyah,’ the musical

They call themselves the Drama Mamas, and they showcase life in Israel.

‘Aliyah,’ the musical (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Aliyah,’ the musical
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of 20 mostly American women from Hashmonaim will perform an updated version of the musical Aliyah for the first time in Jerusalem on March 30, depicting the everyday challenges of the 2,700 American Jews who make aliya annually. The proceeds of the charity show will support needy families for Passover.
Elisheva Liberman wrote the words and is the director of the “for women-only” play. Pamela Moritz, Beth Mischel and Chaya Berkowitz play, sing and dance in the performance, and sat down for an interview with In Jerusalem before the rehearsals.
Asked what it was about making aliya that inspired them to write a musical, each member of the team contributed to the discussion.
“The Aliyah musical explains something that everybody here can relate to,” said Liberman, referring to Americans, other Englishspeakers and anyone “who tries to make a home in a new country with many cultural differences.”
“You really have to laugh at yourself because it is such a crazy experience,” she said. “I decided to show the consciousness between the mystical Israel the immigrants have in their mind when they want to be a part of history, and what the reality is when you try to live your life here.”
According to Moritz, “We don’t take ourselves so seriously, we want to have fun and share this with the audience. The show is about making fun of frustrating moments in the process of making aliya, and of the cultural shock of daily life.”
In the musical, even grocery shopping comes under the heading of culture shock. “The line is not a line, carts are angular, horizontal and vertical, and you try to figure out where the line is,” said Moritz.
She was interrupted by Liberman with, “And why are five carts in the line standing there without anybody next to them?” “In America,” said Mischel, “you leave the line only when you forgot the milk, but here you first put your cart in line and then start your shopping; meanwhile, your space is reserved. It’s just crazy.”
Liberman gave another example of a cultural difference many immigrants struggle with. “Somebody who enters your house asks you straightaway: ‘How much do you make for living, how much did the house cost, can you afford it?’ That sounds very rude for Americans, but it is a normal question for Israelis, it means that they care.” Moreover, going to the pharmacy and buying something private can be a shocking experience, according to Moritz. “Once there was a woman at the counter and a man stood right behind her. I went to him and said, ‘The line is over there, why don’t you step back a little.’ And he answered, ‘In Israel, we don’t follow these rules.’” The women at the table laughed about Moritz’s story; they had all experienced something similar.
Asked why they made aliya, Mischel says that Israel is the Jewish homeland. “For me, my daily life now fits to the Jewish calendar.
In America, I loved the lights of Christmas and New York City in the snow, but I couldn’t relate to it.” She explained that although Christmas and New Year are public holidays in the US, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are not, so to keep them one needed to use up some of one’s annual vacation time.
Still, there are some parts of Israeli culture that the women feel they will never be able to adjust to. Like to the fact that “life in the Middle East is way slower than in the States,” as Berkowitz pointed out.
Moritz added, “What is wonderful about Israelis is this attitude of “hakol beseder [everything is OK],” no matter what’s happening.
I don’t know if I will ever have that. No matter how many rockets are being fired into Israel, no matter what is going on with Iran, it is all going to be ‘all right’ in the end.”
Talking about moving to a conflict zone with young children, Mischel said, “I feel actually safer here. Terrorism exists all over the world, I don’t think that anyone is immune from it. I feel Israel is more equipped to handle it.”
Moritz referred to one of the things she loves about Israel, which she said, appears in the play: “People feel that we are family. If there is any danger, people will gather and talk about it or pray for our children in the army. These are our sons, this is our future and that is unifying. All mothers know what it feels like to have a son or a daughter giving up themselves to the country.”
The women also noticed differences in their religious life in Israel. In America their friends had similar backgrounds, in Israel the cultural variations amaze them. “Here, especially through this play, I’ve met so many people who are on such a different end of the religious spectrum than myself. In the show, we have ladies who are haredi, we have ladies that are not religious at all and we have everything in between. You learn to appreciate the differences if you give yourself a chance to,” Liberman said.
The women all agree that they regret nothing about making aliya – though some of them miss family or American customer service. They all gained a lot, Moritz said. “To see my kids grow and mature in this country makes me very proud. They are forced to grow up much faster because kids here are very independent, maybe because they know they are going into the army. The values they have and their sense of community, they maybe wouldn’t have that in America.”
Equally, Mischel added, “Children in America are scheduled to so many things, going to school, four hours of homework, extra activities, coaching. That is not life in Israel. Here the kids walk to school, in America they get on a bus or their parents drive them. In Israel, they have the freedom to play and be kids. That is wonderful to see.“ Adjusting to the country by learning Hebrew is a big challenge for some of the Drama Mamas. “We’ll let you know when we are done,” Moritz said.
The show is in English, for women and girls aged 12 and up only, and will take place on Sunday, March 30 at 8 p.m., at the Gerard Behar Center, 11 Bezalel Street, Jerusalem; www.drama-mamas.com