Archive for category Israel
At least in the minds of American and European diplomats. It’s a bipartisan affliction, but one to which Democrats and Europeans seem especially prone, probably because it’s an excuse to pressure Israel.
Today we can add another pronouncement from another US Secretary of State that it’s time for Israel to repent, as the end is near. John Kerry assured the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum that, “Well, the difference is that what happens in the coming days will actually dictate what happens in the coming decades. We’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities. And let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now – and I know I’m raising those stakes – but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.”
Here’s the list as it stood when I last posted on the Window of Perpetual Closing, back in November of 2010:
- February 26, 1995 – South Florida Sun-Sentinal – “Middle East Peace in Pieces”
- “Many U.S. diplomats say in confidential interviews that the partners for peace had but a short window of opportunity, a window that opened when the PLO and Israelis issued the declaration of principles for peace 18 months ago. Now, U.S. officials fear, that window has closed.”
- October 15, 1998 – Austin American Statesman – “Decks Clear for Mideast Talks”
- The decks literally cleared in southern Israel a few days later, when a bomb injured 64 people
- July 24, 2000 – St. Paul Pioneer Press - “Clinton Rejoins Peace Talks, Pressure High, Time is Short“
- August 14, 2000 – New York Times – “Washington Feels Time is Short for Restarting the Mideast Talks”
- April 5, 2002 – Jerusalem Post – “The Postwar Window of Opportunity”
- December 12, 2003 – New York Times – ‘A Bush Aide Criticized Israel For Not Doing More To Foster Peace”
- “In Rome international donors to the Palestinians said that, because of the installation of a new Palestinian prime minister, a ”window of opportunity” had reopened, permitting the resumption of negotiations with Israel.”
- October 19, 2006 – UN Security Council – “Mideast Peace Envoy Tells Security Council…Urgent to Help Restart Dialogue”
- “ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) said the challenge for the parties to the conflict, as well as for the international community, was to ensure that they embarked on a process leading towards lasting peace…. It was now up to the parties to avail themselves of that window of opportunity.”
- March 31, 2007 – Bloomberg – “EU Says Palestinian Government Gives Window for Mid East Peace”
- May 2, 2008 – MonstersAndCritics.com – “Rice Warns Time Is Limited For Achieving Mideast Peace Deal”
- November 16, 2010 – Washington Post – “Israeli officials say time growing short for West Bank peace deal” (I speculated at the time that elements within Israel might be coordinating with the Obama Administration)
Today is the UN’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s commemorated on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, and is generally pointed to, even by UN critics, as one of the few things that the UN gets right. For its admirers, the day pretty much absolves the UN of all sins.
I confess to having mixed emotions about it.
First, there’s the tendency towards universality that pervades everything Jewish-related that the UN does. The Holocaust has a specific, unique meaning to Jews that it doesn’t have to anyone else. This is a result of the special place that Jews held in Nazi ideology, and therefore the uniquely catastrophic results that the Holocaust had on the Jewish population and civilization of Europe. This point has been made before, but the need to draw universal lessons from a uniquely Jewish experience has the effect of lessening, rather than deepening, the lessons that we actually draw from it. It’s much easier, much more banal, to oppose “hate” in the abstract, than it is to look at the much more concrete way that a specific person or people is seen.
That universality has been the Trojan Horse by which, ironically, anti-Semitism has been given a new lease on life, when the Holocaust was supposed to have rendered it inert for all time. As British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has repeatedly pointed out, anti-Semitism is a virus, that mutates into whatever form the current zeitgeist finds most acceptable. Currently, racism is the one thing that can’t be tolerated. Therefore, it is convenient to condemn Israel – and Jews – for supposed racism vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Rebutting those charges is well beyond the scope of this blog post, and well-nigh impossible in the eyes of those who make them in the first place. But the charge of racism, accompanied by the de rigeur comparisons of 2013 Israelis to 1943 Germans, is what has allowed anti-Semitism to regain respectability within the Left. It will provide the cover for the very same diplomats shedding crocodile tears over the dead Jews of 70 years ago to condemn the living Jews of today for resisting a repeat of history.
In fact, there already is a Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, Yom HaShoah, and it celebrates life, vitality, resistance, and renewal, rather than the passive liberation and victim-status that the world prefers for its Jews. Two days were considered – first the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 14 Nissan. That was rejected because of its proximity to Passover. Instead, Yom HaShoah is commemorated a week before Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. Either one of those would be just fine for a UN Holocaust Remembrance Day, but either would make more difficult the UN’s current mission of demonizing and dispossessing the Jews of their national homeland.
If a Day of Liberation of the Camps were strictly necessary, perhaps the anniversary of the liberation of one of the camps by Eisenhower, who actually commissioned films to be made in order to perpetuate the awful memory of what happened. Instead, we get the liberation of Auschwitz, the Symbol of Symbols of the Holocaust, but one which was also liberated by the Red Army, which turned out to be in many ways, not much better than the Wehrmacht, and was servant to an ideology in every way the equal of Hitler’s.
Perhaps more ironically, there is a way to redeem this date specifically with respect to Jews. In 1945, as in 2013, it falls on Parshat Beshallach, the week where Jews read of the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s armies. Carrying the story a little further, we also read of the Amalekites attacking the Jews in their new sanctuary, with the intent of annihilating them, and the Jews’ success in fighting them off.
Don’t count on too many people pointing out those parallels.
UPDATE: As if to make the point, here’s a front-page cartoon from this morning’s Sunday Times of London:
This evening, the Romney campaign hosted a conference call for Jewish supporters, with the featured speaker being Dan Senor, author of “Startup Nation,” about Israel’s economy. Senor accompanied Gov. Romney on his recent foreign trip, and spoke about some of the highlights.
During the Q&A, I asked him specifically about his recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv. A 1995 law provides for that, but also allows the President to waive that action for 6 months. Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama have all repeatedly put off moving the embassy to Jerusalem. President Obama recently took this equivocation to new heights, when his spokesman refused to identify Israel’s capital:
The followed the BBC’s failure to identify any city as Israel’s capital on its Olympics site, while readily identifying Jerusalem as the capital of the as-yet non-existent country of Palestine. While the Obama administration is hardly responsible for the BBC, its failure to support Israel generally – beyond the security cooperation – no doubt contributes to an atmosphere where the Beeb can perpetrate such insults.
While I don’t think anyone can reasonably question Romney’s affection for and support for Israel, Obama’s supporters have taken to pointing out that President Bush, while also identifying Israel’s capital as Jerusalem, repeated waived moving the embassy.
Senor, I think, aptly separated the two issues. Moving the embassy isn’t necessary to recognizing a country’s capital. Likewise, it should be a no-brainer to recognize that Israel’s national governmental institutions reside in a part of Jerusalem whose position as a part of Israel has never seriously been questioned. Doing that in no way pre-judges the final status negotiations, which may take place sometime in our lifetimes.
In other words, doing so should have no immediate practical implications vis-a-vis the Palestinians, except insofar as they and other Arabs choose to be rejectionist of even minimal Israeli demands. It would, however, be of significant symbolic importance, making it clear that the US supports Israel as a normal country within the nation state system.
That the Obama administration is incapable of even that tells you all you need to know about the difference between Romney and Obama on this matter.
Colorado Democrats, and even Denver Democrats, like to portray themselves as being more centrist, less likely to be run by their wing nuts. Certainly, there’s been little if any evidence of an anti-Israel bias in the state’s Congressional delegation over the years. Unfortunately, their choice of speaker for Saturday night’s State House District 7 “Unity Dinner” calls that claim into question.
The speaker is California Congressman Maxine Waters, who, only three months ago, was peddling Jewish conspiracy claptrap to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a hard-leftist organization:
AIPAC has a lot of power, a lot of influence. They raise a lot of money, and they raise this money not just for re-elections, but also to see that the people who will support their agenda are in key places in all of the committees. and all of the leadership of Congress. So they do exercise tremendous power, and I think that the more money you take from AIPAC, the more you get tied down to their policies. I do not accept contributions from AIPAC.
Well, that’s mighty independent of her, given that AIPAC doesn’t make campaign contributions, spending its money on lobbying. Make no mistake, there are plenty of pro-Israel PACs, an they are often informed by AIPAC as to the positions of Congressmen on specific bills or appropriations. But AIPAC doesn’t even issue legislative ratings. So if Rep. Waters wants to stay clear of undue Jewish influence, it’ll take more than dodging non-offered contributions from a non-existent PAC. (The PAC in AIPAC stands for “Public Affairs Committee.”)
What’s disturbing is that the Denver Democrats would choose someone like this to speak at a Unity Dinner. The last couple of years, they’ve had more or less traditional liberals speak at their Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner: Cory Booker, Deval Patrick.
And, typically, the choice has evoked no response from the establishment Jewish institutions here in Colorado, dominated as they are by those who identify Jewishness with membership in the Democrat party.
Comes this report from Palestinian Media Watch, that a lecturer at Al-Najah University in Nablus is claiming that Moses led the Muslims out of Egypt. (No jokes about how if this is true, he’s the last Egyptian to have successfully led his people across Sinai.)
“We must make clear to the world that David in the Hebrew Bible is not connected to David in the Quran, Solomon in the Hebrew Bible is not connected to Solomon in the Quran, and neither is Saul or Joshua son of Nun [of the Bible]. We have a great leader, Saul, [in the Quran] who defeated the nation of giants and killed Goliath. This is a great Muslim victory. The Muslims of the Children of Israel went out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, and unfortunately, many researchers deny the Exodus of those oppressed people who were liberated by a great leader, like Moses the Muslim, the believing leader, the great Muslim, who was succeeded by Saul, the leader of these Muslims in liberating Palestine. This was the first Palestinian liberation through armed struggle to liberate Palestine from the nation of giants led by Goliath. This is our logic and this is our culture.”
The Palestinians have a national obsession with delegitimizing not only Israel, but Jews and Judaism, in their effort to uproot Zionism, but you can’t help but laugh at this one. After all, they’ve tried being descended from Canannites and Jebusites in their efforts to ante-date Jewish claims. Back in his pre-Camp David days, Anwar Sadat wanted to avenge the killing of Palestinians like Goliath at the hands of shepherds like David. So it was only a matter of time before one of them decided that Louis Farrakhan had the right idea and that the Jews were actually Palestinians, or the Palestinians were actually Jews, or something. The Palestinian narrative has been so incoherent for so long, it’s surprising it took them until now to come out with this one. (I suppose this ancestral confusion was transplanted to my 2008 primary opponent, who was variously born in Jordan, Saudi, Jerusalem, and recently claimed in a interview to be a child of the Levant, which must have come as quite a shock to him.)
Ultimately, of course, none of this matters. If the Palestinians would leave the Israelis alone long enough to celebrate the Exodus peacefully, the Israelis would by and large be willing to leave the Palestinians alone to their genealogy. But as long as “this is their logic (sic) and this is their culture,” there’s not much hope for that, I’m afraid.
From the Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke, a report on Attempted Public Diplomacy by our Secretary of State the other day in Tunisia:
QUESTION: My name is Ivan. After the electoral campaign starts in the United States – it started some time ago – we noticed here in Tunisia that most of the candidates from the both sides run towards the Zionist lobbies to get their support in the States. And afterwards, once they are elected, they come to show their support for countries like Tunisia and Egypt for a common Tunisian or a common Arab citizen. How would you reassure and gain his trust again once given the fact that you are supporting his enemy as well at the same time?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say you will learn as your democracy develops that a lot of things are said in political campaigns that should not bear a lot of attention. There are comments made that certainly don’t reflect the United States, don’t reflect our foreign policy, don’t reflect who we are as a people. I mean, if you go to the United States, you see mosques everywhere, you see Muslim Americans everywhere. That’s the fact. So I would not pay attention to the rhetoric.
Secondly, I would say watch what President Obama says and does. He’s our President. He represents all of the United States, and he will be reelected President, so I think that that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values are and what our President believes. So I think it’s a fair question because I know that – I sometimes am a little surprised that people around the world pay more attention to what is said in our political campaigns than most Americans, say, are paying attention. So I think you have to shut out some of the rhetoric and just focus on what we’re doing and what we stand for, and particularly what our President represents.
The first problem, the one where she acts as a partisan advocate for the President, she’s already admitted was a mistake: “My enthusiasm for the President got a little out of hand.” I’ll say. I realize the days of politics stopping at the shoreline are long gone, and have been at least since Ted Kennedy tried to cut a deal with the Soviets to defeat Ronald Reagan in the Presidential elections, and Jimmy Carter circulated a letter begging UN Security Council members to vote against President George H.W. Bush’s efforts to liberate Kuwait. Nevertheless, I was operating under the quaint assumption that the Secretary of State represented the country, not her political party, when she traveled overseas.
The second problem is much more substantive. Tunisians might well understand a personal loyalty from the Secretary of State, they’re more likely to attach significance to foreign policy pronouncements. Her answer, roughly translated into English, is, “Don’t worry about what gets said in the campaign. There’s a lot of pandering to small, specific lobbies. We’re not really all that supportive of Israel.”
If she felt the need to be non-committal, there are about 100 ways she could have done that. But what about an answer that defends not only the interests of the United States, but the good sense of the American people, and the interests of our allies, as well? Something like:
Well, you have to understand that the American people as a whole, not just particular lobbies, feel a sympathy towards Israel, for its democracy, and its success in defending itself against enemies. Naturally, we hope that that era is coming to an end, and Israel and her neighbors can live in peace. but
Rather than defining your interests in opposition to Israel, perhaps you should look to them as a model in some ways. It, too, is a small country, whose primary resource is the creativity of its own diverse population. After all, your question implies an interest in our own democratic process for how we select leaders and how that affects policy, so it’s clear that Tunisians would like to develop a stable, lasting free system of their own. And I think the Arab Spring could learn a lot from a close neighbor who also wants close relations.
I realize it’s much more fun to engage in “Smart Diplomacy,” but how about mastering actual, basic diplomacy first. That starts with not accepting all the premises of a hostile question.
I just finished watching President Obama address AIPAC’s 2011 Policy Conference, and I can’t say I was comforted.
The crowd was enthusiastic, as one might expect for a sitting US President who didn’t openly pull the rug out from under Israel. Obama mouthed all the right key phrases about not delegitimizing Israel, supporting its security, never questioning its existence or right to do so, and holding the Palestinians accountable. No President will ever say anything different.
But the speech was very much the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: beautiful from a distance, but lacking all structural integrity.
Even as he was saying, “We will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their words,” everything else he said indicated that he won’t.
Obama said that the world is impatient with a peace process, or lack thereof, that produces no results, which is why the Palestinians are pursuing their statehood ambitions through the UN. In order to forestall this, the Israelis must recognize the need for progress in negotiations.
This formulation completely ignores the fact that this is part of the Palestinians strategy, the whole Menendez-brothers-but-we’re-orphans Act, allowing them to avoid responsibility for their role in the talks’ failures. It presumes that the Palestinians had any interest in coming to an agreement under the current framework, and makes Israel to blame for Palestinian intransigence.
Moreover, by listing the regions of the world (Latin America, really?) that are frustrated with the lack of an agreement, he highlights his administration’s utter incompetence in defending Israel diplomatically, which is what a large part of his speech claimed that he had done.
Obama said that the PLO-Hamas agreement posed a “huge obstacle,” and that Israel couldn’t be expected to negotiate with people who want to destroy it, therefore, he will continue to press Hamas to fulfill the basic requirements.
Israel is expected to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, without negotiating with Hamas? Or Hamas is to fundamentally transform itself from the equivalent of the Nazi Party into Social Democrats? One proposition betrays the conditions the President just set, the other ignores the reality to which he is supposedly so attached.
He focused again on his line concerning the 1967 borders, repeating “mutually agreed swaps,” and adding in that the Palestinians “must” recognize facts on the ground.
And if they don’t? The basic premise of everything is that there must be an agreement. After a speech that does little but reward Palestinian intransigence, why should the Palestinians do anything other than dig in their heels? If the Israelis open with an aggressive map, they’ll be quickly “reined in” by the rest of the world, that has no right to set terms, but every right to, well, set terms. And if they open with a reasonably map, it will be treated as a good basis for the beginning of negotiations.
He was silent on Jerusalem and the “Right of Return.”
But security and the Jewish character of Israel, two things Obama claims to want, are tied up inextricably with those two issues. For a President who opened the speech by congratulating himself he was remarkably silent on the two issues on which are the most zero-sum of all.
After months of having the Arab world ignore a President who repeatedly insists that they “must” do this and that they “must not” do that, the standing ovation he got in DC was probably dwarfed by the one he got in Ramallah and Gaza.
Political apologists for President Obama didn’t waste much time in claiming that his Thursday speech didn’t really say anything new about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Too bad that none of the principal actors in the region are behaving that way.
We all know about the…tepid…joint appearance by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama Friday. It came after a scheduled 30 minute meeting went for over two hours, leaving lunch and aides steaming outside the room.
Then, today, the Palestinians:
Following Obama’s Middle East speech on Thursday, in which he said that a future Palestinian State should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting of the PA leadership to discuss the new developments. Erekat said that the meeting could take place on Tuesday or Wednesday after Abbas, who is currently in Jordan meeting with King Abdullah, completes consultations with Arab leaders and the Arab League.
PLO Executive Committee member Hana Amira was quoted by Israel Radio on Sunday as saying that the Palestinians would cancel plans to go to the UN with a unilateral declaration of statehood in September if Israel would agree to negotiations based on the 1967 lines and freeze all building in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem for a period of three months.
Right. The Palestinians decided to call an emergency meeting over “nothing new.” Evidently, the simultaneous translation into Democrat missed a few things.
Note also the timing and the demand. The three month building halt in Jerusalem – remember, that’s something the Palestinians had never called for before Obama did – is timed to end in September, when the UN vote could happen, anyway. The Palestinians can seize the opportunity to look amenable, continue to both obstruct and purse the UN option, and still call for a vote in September. If you argue that, well, that’s nothing new, you’re right. Except that that diplomatic angle relies on the rest of the world believing differently.
The Palestinians may be about to find out what Israelis and Jews should have discovered in 2008 – there’s an expiration date on everything Barack Obama says, everything – and on the Middle East, it can be as little as 24 hours. In the meantime, Netanyahu is already saying that the tiff was exaggerated, and Obama is already hedging and filling, at least a little, in his interview with the BBC, and I strongly suspect there will be more of the same in about 15 minutes (unless the President is late to his own speech again) to AIPAC.
Either the President really thought he was being pro-Israel, and had to have it explained to him why he wasn’t, or else he knew exactly what he was saying, and was surprised by the political blowback, especially among Jewish Democrat donors and fundraisers, who can probably still bring in more early money than Ramallah phone banks. In either case, it’s a continuation of the amateur hour that characterizes this administration’s foreign policy, 3AM or not.
There have been and will be a lot of pixels spilled over Obama’s Middle East Address yesterday at the State Department. Still, in all the discussion of whether or not the speech marked a change in US policy towards Israel (it did), I think it amounts to Obama going in and kicking over a sand castle because it’s not perfect yet, and because it was largely built by someone he doesn’t particularly like – Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yossi Klein Halevi – a lefty, but a pragmatic one – wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal about Netanyahu’s achievement in consolidating a political consensus in Israel on how to deal with the Palestinians:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a remarkable speech to the Knesset on Monday outlining future Israeli concessions to a Palestinian state. In doing so, he essentially ended the ideological debate within mainstream Israeli politics over the so-called two-state solution.
Mr. Netanyahu’s historic achievement has been to position his Likud Party within the centrist majority that seeks to end the occupation of the Palestinians but is wary of the security consequences. There is no longer any major Israeli party that rejects a West Bank withdrawal on ideological grounds. Instead, the debate is now focused where most Israelis want it to be: on how to ensure that a Palestinian state won’t pose an existential threat to their country.
So today is Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. And 2011 is also the 50th anniversary of what is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Zionist Broadway musical, “Milk and Honey.”
As a kid, we had a copy of the LP in the house, and I’m pretty sure I ruined the record by playing it so much. I do know that the skip in “That Was Yesterday,” the up-beat First Act-ender was why I learned to put a penny on the tonearm. Later, in college, when I found another copy of the LP, I listened to the song again for the first time in what must have been 5 years, and found the absence of the skip jarring. Not jarring enough to try to reproduce it, but enough that even now it still doesn’t sound right without it.
DRG re-released the cast album a few years ago, and if you don’t mind actually hearing the actors move left-to-right on the stage through the magic of stereo, it’s still a great score. So much so that Musicals Tonight is reviving it this fall, starting almost exactly on the 50th anniversary of the show’s debut.
The story is that Gerard Oestreicher sent piano-player Herman and Don Appell on a field trip to Israel to help with the creative juices. For the record, it was also Oestreicher’s first show. Herman came back with a head full of ideas and a desire to avoid turning the show into Hagana-Doodle-Dandy. The result is phenomenal.
It was Jerry Herman’s first musical, but it ran over a year, 543 performances, and at least part of the reason you’ve never heard of it is that it was technically part of thre 1962 Tony Season, which means it was up against a couple of solid performers: “Camelot” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” (When Herman got the Kennedy Center Honors last fall, the awards production barely quoted M&H, spending what sounded like 75% of the time on “La Cage Aux Folles,” a warning about the fickleness of politics and entertainment.)
He had help. Albert Marre, who had done “Kismet” and would do “Man of La Mancha,” staged it. Donald Saddler who had “Call Me Madam” and “Wonderful Town” under his belt, choreographed it. But still, the words and music were by a guy with a Dolly and a Mame in his future.
Now, it’s one thing to do a show called, “Oklahoma,” and expect that your audience knows something about state fairs, horses, and surreys. But in 1961, even for New York Jews, Israel was an exotic place, something Jews had but not really someplace that too many of them identified with very closely. The audience would see Israelis through the eyes of Americans, in this case, a tour group of Jewish widows looking for husbands in what they hoped would be a target-rich environment. (“Our purpose here in Israel is to form a marriage between the two cultures: male and female.”)
I’ve never actually seen the play staged, so I can’t say much about the book, but the lyrics and music are Herman at his best, even as they’re Herman at his first. The opening song, “Shalom,” ends with this gem:
It means a million lovely things
Like “peace be yours,” “welcome home.”
And even when you say goodbye
If your voice has “I don’t want to go,” in it
Say goodbye with a little hello in it,
And say goodbye with Shalom.
That’s not a simple rhyme structure, but the ear follows it easily, and of course, there’s a little dramatic foreshadowing there, as well.
The title song captures all of the raw, naked audacity of trying to build a country where pretty much every force of man and nature is arrayed against you, and your major resources are the internal ones. The fact that the place was a desert surrounded by enemies wasn’t lost on Herman during his trip, and he enlisted an Israeli comedian to interrupt the title piece with a reminder that paradise it wasn’t:
The honey’s kind of bitter
And the milk’s a little sour.
Do you know the pebble
Is the state’s official flower?
Given what Jews had pretty recently come from in Europe, it’s enough to get you thinking of leeks and onions. Herman immediately redeems it with this ending:
What if the earth is dry and barren?
What if the morning sun is mean to us?
For this is a state of mind we live in,
We want it green and so it’s green to us.
For when you have wanted for plans for tomorrow
Somehow even today looks fine.
What if it’s rock and dust and sand
This lovely land is mine.
“If you will it, it is no dream,” indeed. But even here Herman’s touch is evident. Eddit Fisher liked it so much he released it as a single, but without the Sabra counterpoint, it’s just another in a string of milquetoast vocals that non-rock pop by anyone not named Sinatra was producing back then.
So yeah, the musical is Zionist after a fashion, but this is Broadway, so the real plot driver is love and the search for it. Herman was practially a kid when he wrote this, under 30. But the lead love interest is between an older couple (for the time), he 58, she 37. When I was 28, there’s no way on God’s dry and barren earth I could have understood what it was like to be single at almost 60. Herman has the characters witness a young couple’s wedding and gives us this:
Let’s not waste a moment, let’s not lose a day
There’s a short forever, not too far away
We don’t need to hear the clock remind us
That there’s more than half of life behind us.
Nowadays, 37 qualifies as barely post-adolescent, but back in the day, even widows of that age were facing a lifetime of wanting rather than having. It was 1961, somewhere between the first and second seasons of “Mad Men,” remember. The 60s hadn’t happened yet and nobody knew they were just around the corner. These two meet 10 years from then, and it won’t be that short forever keeping him young.
The show also featured that star of Yiddish screen and stage, Molly Picon, leading the tour, and her two numbers are the comic relief, as you’d expect. “Chin Up,” comes when the women discover that all the kibbutznik men are married. (The barely-audible little whimper of disappointment is a great touch that audiences probably wouldn’t have heard.) And her “Hymn to Hymie” is a soliloquym, a paean to married domesticity, asking herself for permission to remarry.
Given the turnabout in the culture of the last 50 years, I’m not sure either song could actually get staged these days without howls of protest from the professional feminist class. If they did get staged, they’d probably do some gender-bending role-reversal that would be hailed as a breakthrough of some kind, which the composer of “La Cage Aux Folles” would probably think was a little overstated.
Herman’s sheer versatility keeps you from getting bored. “Shalom” is a waltz. “Let’s Not Waste A Moment” is a duet/ballad. “Chin Up” is a march. “Hymn to Hymie” is a tango, for cryin’ out loud. “The Wedding” is part cantorial, part dance.