Carousel takes a wrong turn in Jerusalem

Jewish dietary laws were very far from my mind when I booked tickets to a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, in which much of the second act takes place at a clambake in Maine. The musical came to the Holy City courtesy of Encore, a local amateur theater company whose enjoyable production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore I wrote about on January 10. The company includes Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, as one might expect in Jerusalem. The audience at the matinee I attended was largely Orthodox.

Perhaps someone in the audience flinched when the company sang “Real Nice Clambake,” which describes in great detail a codfish chowder with ribbons of salted pork (I distinctly heard the word “meat” substituted for “pork”), clamshells and red hot lobsters slit down the back, peppered, and doused in melted butter.

But I took it all in stride because, having read the program before the show, I had seen the following disclaimer:

“All the food products used on stage in this production have been certified kosher/pareve under rabbinic supervision. Although reference is made to shellfish, the items in question are only to establish the New England locale of the play and do not in any way constitute an endorsement of such eating habits.

“For further reference, please see Leviticus 11:9–12 and commentaries thereon.”

What Leviticus and the commentaries thereon have to say about clambakes in New England I do not know. What I do know is that no one would have considered a disclaimer like this necessary in Jerusalem 20 years ago. Holy mackerel. When they put on the Mikado again, will they need to write that actors seen bowing to the Japanese potentate are not really worshiping false gods?

From one flotilla fiasco to another

On the morning of June 26, 2011, Oren Helman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office, sent out the following warning to foreign journalists: “I would like to make it clear to you and to the media that you represent, that participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions.”

That evening, Helman gave a pathetic defense of the policy when grilled by two veteran Israeli journalists, Yaron London and Motti Kirschenbaum, on their nightly TV news show. How could we expect reliable coverage of the event if journalists were not allowed to witness it, London and Kirschenbaum asked. Helman had no answer. But he did say that the policy was the outcome of a series of meetings of top-level government officials. All of them suffering from a severe shortage of cortical neurons, he failed to add.

The following day, however, the light must have gone on in someone’s brain, because the GPO rushed to send out a new announcement: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Monday), 27.6.11, instructed the responsible authorities to formulate a special procedure regarding foreign journalists that participate in the flotilla and arrive in contravention of the Entry into Israel Law. When the matter was brought to his attention, the Prime Minister directed that the regular policy against infiltrators and those who enter Israel illegally not be implemented. It has also been agreed that members of the Israeli and international media will be attached to Israel Navy vessels in order to create transparency and credible coverage of the events.”

Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.


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6 Responses to “Carousel takes a wrong turn in Jerusalem”

  1. David Says:

    Yes, sad that an atmosphere prevails where that kind of disclaimer is made. It surely did not ‘need’ to be made.

    Not on topic, but what if any is the reaction in Israel to the Dutch parliament’s vote to ban shechita in the Netherlands?

  2. Judy Labensohndy Labensohn Says:

    Dear Esther, It’s good that you are documenting the fall of the Jewish State, scene by pitiful scene. Keep at it.

  3. zig zager and evans Says:

    only in Jerusalem, the city that was”united together” but makes cold war Berlin look like a play ground.

  4. birdseye Says:

    You have no sense of humor.The disclaimer was a joke, and my mom, who also attended the show, laughed when she read it out to me. I think you are looking for a fault where there is none. I enjoyed the production (despite it being too long, but that’s also Rogers and Hammerstien’s fault).if Jerusalmites are such a bigoted and small minded lot, why does the show’s star, Kendell Pinkey, who is niether Jewish or Israeli, make the effort of flying in to Jersalem just to take part? No one made a fuss in “Encore” about who is observant or even Jewish, except you, As someone who knows the volenteers behind the company, I can testify that the atmosphere is one of fun and companionship, and no none takes anything too seriously. You should lighten up too, especially when attending musicals.

  5. Daniel Pedersen Says:

    @birdseye: completely right. Even though I understand Ester Hecht’s sensitization top this issue, this is not one of them. Did anyone really think that people would be eating clams and lobsters on stage?
    All the Encore productions I’ve been in make a point of adding a bit of Jewish flavor to all of its productions:
    BS”D on the sign at Skidmore’s ranch in Oklahoma!
    A Rabbinic Doctor of Divinity in Pirates of Penzance, not to mention a police chorus in Yiddish
    The Mikado who says “oyyy!”

    and on and on…
    You couldn’t find a more open, pluralistic, inclusive group anywhere
    Daniel Pedersen

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