Making a good Job of the Bible

“Let’s return the Bible to all of us.”

Director Yossi Izraeli (photo credit: GERARD ALLON)
Director Yossi Izraeli
(photo credit: GERARD ALLON)
One of the basic challenges directors have to deal with at the outset of a new project is making sure they have good material to work with.
When it comes to getting an interesting action-packed emotive script, one can do a lot worse than turning to the Bible.
Yossi Izraeli is keenly aware of that, as will be evident when he presents his intriguing interdisciplinary theatrical/ musical take on the Book of Job as an Incubator Theater production at the Jerusalem Theater on June 4, as part of this year’s Israel Festival.
The 78-year-old director has put together a first-rate cast for Job, with venerated actor Sasson Gabbai playing the titular role and internationally acclaimed opera singer Keren Hadar as his wife. Other members of the troupe include Amit Olman, Eyal Nachmias, Yosef Albalak and Omer Hevron, with Incubator CEO and artistic director Arik Eshet in the role of God. As if the aforementioned weren’t enough, Izraeli also got award-winning composer Josef Bardanashvili to pen the score.
Izraeli is an ardent fan of the biblical book.
“They say there are 70 faces to the Torah. For me, the Book of Job is the 71st,” he pronounces, referencing the concept of different levels of interpretation of the scriptures.
“It is an entirely exceptional book. Not a lot is known about its origins, although we do know it was written in the fifth century BCE – by the way, that’s at the same time as Oedipus [Rex] was written [by Greek tragedian Sophocles].”
The director says there is much to explore in the biblical book.
“It is an enigma, and an enigma is always fascinating. The book, in fact, talks about God like a Greek god. He is capricious and plays around with Job, together with Satan.” There are theological themes by the dozen to be had.
“One of the questions that comes out is what is the origin of evil, and there is the issue of punishment and reward. Then there is an even more interesting theological issue – to what degree are human beings capable of comprehending divine logic. That is fascinating.”
After hearing some of Izraeli’s open-ended views on the scriptures, and man’s relationship with The One Above, it comes as little surprise to hear that, in his version of the biblical book, Job’s wife does not always toe the mainstream religious line.
“She sings ‘lo hitgadalnu velo hitkadashnu,’” says the director, referencing the opening words of the kaddish prayer – “We are not glorified and we are not sanctified” – in place of the original “Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name.” Job’s distaff side, however, comes round. “In the end she says amen,” Izraeli adds.
Izraeli has a history of proffering first timers to local audiences, and adopts a fearless approach when it comes to addressing all manner of issues, and theatrical and literary material.
“This production of Job is only a stage on the way. I would be delighted if other direction picked up the gauntlet and also took on this kind of text.
Judaism has become so political, so shallow, so simplistic. I feel we should make the most of this amazing literature we have [in the Bible].
“A month or so ago I saw a letter from parents against [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett, who wanted to make the Bible matriculation examination a mandatory five-unit level. The parents went mad, as if the Bible has become the property of [Bennett’s political party] Bayit Yehudi.
“Let’s return the Bible to all of us.”
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