‘Ladies and gentlemen, the flight will begin to take off shortly. Please take your seats and fasten your seatbelts.”
Perhaps an airline announcement is not the most traditional way to start a play. For the Cameri Theater’s play, Shalom Lach Eretz (Hello, My Country), it is quite appropriate. The 90-minute play is the work of The Cameri New Generation. Written and directed by Moriah Zarchia, the play features hilarious acting.
The accents, though purposely over-exaggerated at times, will leave you wondering where the actors are from. This play had more English than most performances seen on the Israeli stage.
The play has a format of four stories told as mini performances. The theme of being a foreigner is the common thread in the stories. The play is the Aliyah experience in reverse. Rather than being about the difficulty of coming to Israel, it is about the difficulty of leaving.
The first of the four stories is that of a young gay couple who moved from Israel to Berlin. The couple stereotypically opened a hummus bar. They moved in the hopes of finding a place where their son could grow up in a country where a child with two fathers wouldn’t stand out. They neglected to factor in standing out as an immigrant and as a Jew. Through some stereotypes and flat holocaust jokes, revelations about their bullied son come to light.
The next story is about three people in Dubai rising in an elevator towards the success of selling their start-up. A broken elevator followed by a mysterious text message leads to the question of how important is wealth if it means betraying your country. The comedic elevator man, Abu, is the tech support who helps them by calling the elevator company.
“Abu, would you ever betray your country?” asked the Israeli’s trapped in Dubai.
“Oh no, I’d never, ever betray Pakistan.”
The elevator is fixed at last. Are they going up or down?
From a financial motive, we move on to culture. An Israeli woman worked hard to immigrate into French culture. Her dream is to marry a French man and live like the Parisians. She arrives home from her first date with just such a man. Her cousin’s unexpected arrival causes discord between her Israeli identity and French culture.
The last story finds four friends in Atlanta on Yom Kippur. Posting excessive amounts of stories on Instagram, lounging by the pool and discussing their idol, Kim Kardashian. Until one of their group reveals that she is fasting. The girl erupts with homesick tears. Her friends decide the best way to help her is to go to a synagogue. The friends ask a reluctant Jeremy, “Do you want to be like Nebuchadnezzar and separate us on Yom Kippur?”
Jeremy, the American reform Jew from Atlanta, confesses, “you know what? I gosh darn don’t!” For them, it is trying to find some home when they are anywhere but.
The play seeks to sum up multiple types of immigrant experiences. At first glance, this is a simple comedy about being out of place. A deeper look reveals the questions asked from such a play: What does it mean to be a Jew in the diaspora? What does it mean to do it on purpose?
Through the laughing and painful relating, the audience is overall left with the strong feeling, it’s good to be home.