Climb every mountain

Any connection between the story of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and Notzar Theater company’s ‘Har’ is purely circumstantial.

‘Har’ is a combination of three short plays written by Yaron Edelstein and directed by Dalit Milstein. (photo credit: NICOLE DE CASTRO)
‘Har’ is a combination of three short plays written by Yaron Edelstein and directed by Dalit Milstein.
(photo credit: NICOLE DE CASTRO)
 If you’re looking to base a play on a colorful, controversial and iconic figure of contemporary Israel, you could do much worse than go for Arik Sharon.
That, ostensibly, is the central theme of Har (Mountain), the latest project of the Notzar Theater company. The play also goes by the subtitle An Israeli Tragedy about Fighters Inspired by the Figure of Arik Sharon.
The work is a combination of three short plays written by Yaron Edelstein and directed by Dalit Milstein, who also contributed to the writing. It will be performed on September 22, 23 and 30 (all at 8:30 p.m.) at Notzar’s cozy premises on Nafha Street in Bat Yam.
Subtitle notwithstanding, Milstein is not too happy with the connection made with the late Israeli prime minister, defense minister and decorated military commander.
“It is not really about Arik Sharon,” she says. “It is about leadership.”
“It isn’t about Sharon per se,” concurs Edelstein, although admitting that there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that suggests that Sharon is the linchpin of the work. There is, for example, reference to the legendary Unit 101, the IDF facility established to mount reprisal attacks against Palestinian and Egyptian targets, which was formed and headed by Sharon.
And there are more Sharonesque aspects to the venture, albeit with universal themes. The storyline depicts the predicament of five men aged 20 to 60 who are caught up in an endless war to capture “the mountain.”
In each of the three plays they go off to battle, kill and are killed and reappear to rejoin the hostilities. Each section of the trilogy ends with fewer soldiers, but the men still find it impossible – or refuse – to abandon their revered leader, whom they also dub “mountain.”
The plays go by the names of Coronation, Monarchy and Dethroning which, if you think about it, is a natural sequence of events in regard to the fortunes of political leaders – particularly in the United States. First, they go through election campaigns, with all the associated hype. The ensuing euphoria of victory is generally gradually replaced by a more sober view of the new leader’s abilities and, as things turn sour, the leader is eventually unceremoniously deposed.
Har is the result of a lot of grafting, and Edelstein and Milstein were keen to feed off factual sources before getting into the creative side of the project.
Edelstein, for example, went to the National Archives in Jerusalem and listened to hours of tapes of communication between soldiers in the trenches near the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War. In that war, Sharon gained national acclaim when he took a force with him across the canal, a move which many considered to have saved the country from defeat.
There were also loud mutterings about the number of casualties resulting from Sharon’s actions in the war.
All that is alluded to in Har.
In Coronation, five soldiers leave for a reprisal action, kill one of the members of the group after he is wounded, and appoint Har as their leader and swear undying allegiance to him.
Monarchy finds the four surviving soldiers covering Har’s rear as the leader plows forward and crosses the canal. The soldiers, however, come under intense enemy fire.
In the last part of the trilogy Har’s three loyal soldiers wait a long time for reinforcements and for their leader.
When Har eventually turns up, he realizes his folly.
True to the political-social activist ethos of Notzar, Milstein wants to stir things up with Har and to leave us with food for thought.
“It is like the old adage about the puddle that appears to be clear and pure on top,” says the director. “But all the poisons have sunk to the bottom, and they continue to affect us even though we can’t see them. When we stir the water up, all the bad things come to the surface.” That, says Milstein, is a positive thing. “The puddle may seem ugly, but we can then see the evils and address them.”
Edelstein and Milstein took Har very seriously from the word go. The work took a full five years to write, and the director’s father, historian Dr. Uri Milstein, was on board as an adviser. The playwright and director also consulted various IDF veterans, including the late prime minister’s son Omri.
However, Milstein does not want us to read too much into the Sharon- Sharon connection.
“I have known Omri since we were kids,” she says. “He is a friend, and I thought it would be a good idea to consult him and ask him about the price a leader pays. Omri is also one of the people who paid that price, so it was right to talk to him, too. You can read about that in the Bible, in the Book of Samuel, and we wanted to study the subject from all sorts of sources.”
Milstein notes that when she and Edelstein embarked on the project, they did not really know where it would lead.
“This play turned out to be bigger than me and Yaron. I think this play makes all kinds of statements that we did not anticipate at the start, about leadership and about Israeli society in general. The play is deeper than us, and that is a very moving experience for us,” she says.
The cast of Har includes Eran Bohem, Eran Ben-Zvi, Icho Avital, Sasi Saad and Nimrod Ronen, with live music provided by cellist Tom Cohen and video art by Noam Levkowitz.
“It is has been a long and very difficult process for me, working on Har,” says Milstein. “I was wary of getting into this project, but I feel it is very worthwhile, and I hope people leave the shows with plenty of food for thought.”
For tickets, call (03) 635-0772.