Theater Review: 10 minutes from home

By Maya Arad; Directed by Shai Pitovski; Habima, November 3.

‘10 MINUTES FROM HOME.’ (photo credit: GERHARD ALON)
(photo credit: GERHARD ALON)
Had Yigal Amir not assassinated Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995, would there now be peace and harmony in the Middle East? Was Rabin a visionary statesman or a deluded dreamer? Could Oslo, and other possible agreements, have worked? Commissioned by Habima to write a play to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the murder, Arad decided to ask these questions via the October 1994 kidnap and subsequent murder of soldier Nachshon Wachsman by Hamas terrorists. She wanted “to write about [Rabin’s] peace, and the war for that peace,” which, or so contends 10 Minutes from Home, was irretrievably lost when Amir’s bullets killed its major architect.
Just five months previously Rabin, then Israel’s prime minister, and arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat had signed the Gaza and Jericho First agreement in Cairo, so that the kidnap was a blow to the kidneys.
Hamas gave Israel five days to release Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, at the time in an Israeli jail, plus another 200 Palestinians. Wachsman would be killed if their demands were not met, and nobody thought they were bluffing.
10 Minutes from Home uses those five tense days to run backwards and forwards in time, from then until today, 20 years “after,” trying for coherence where none exists, because we’ll never really know, will we? To get there, Maya Arad goes to the classical tradition. We have a narrator, sort of, in Rabin’s secretary Marit (Ayelet Robinson). We have a sort of Greek chorus of Bereaved Mothers in Naama Armon, Ricki Blich and Razia Israeli, representatives of the Culture of Death that bedevils our lives here.
We have anxious parents Esther and Yehuda (Ruthi Landau and Aharon Almog) and we have the protagonist, the chain-smoking Rabin himself in the person of Dov Reiser, an actor who here rises to new heights as a man and a leader impaled on the horns of a dilemma. Indeed the acting overall is impassioned and forceful.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s “iron wall” strategy (a 1923 article) to deal with the Arabs from a “position of unassailable strength” is ironically represented by actual “iron walls” on designer Niv Manor’s spare stage.
10 Minutes from Home packs a visual and emotional whammy, a tribute to director Pitovski and his committed cast. But it’s still more a political statement than a play. “Look what might have been,” it seems to be saying, “and look where we are now.”
Whether where we are now pleases you or not, and despite an occasional preachiness, 10 Minutes from Home is definitely a theater piece worth seeing.