Nocturnal Histories: Nighttime and the Jewish Temporal Imagination in Modern Hebrew Drama
The paper examines the utilization of night as dramatic time in modern Hebrew plays as a device to explore the meaning of Jewish history. A long Jewish religious tradition links nighttime to questions of exile and redemption and constructs it, through texts and ritual performance, as a time to reflect upon time. Modern Hebrew theatre, although often considered a secular enterprise, follows this tradition either through direct allusions or more implicitly, while also critiquing or deconstructing its premises. The plays analyzed here, ranging from the 1930s to the 2010s and varying in political stance, stage nocturnal debates regarding the meaning of time and history, but also participate in broader such debates within Israeli society. Most prominent in these plays is the tension between religiosity and secularity in the understanding of time, as they interrogate the complex relations between Zionism and traditional concepts of redemption. As such, Hebrew and Israeli theatre takes part in shaping the temporal imagination of its surrounding culture and investigating its theological undercurrents and political ramifications. The paper suggests reconsidering Israeli theatre’s relation to Jewish religious performative traditions, as the case-study of nighttime exemplifies.
Keywords: Israeli theatre; theatre and time; theatre and history; theatre and ritual; On This Night; Tashmad; Tikkun khatsot; Night of the Twentieth
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