seven jewish children


Seven Jewish Children, a play for Gaza

Seven Jewish Children, a play for Gaza

Yesterday morning, I listened to a ten-minute radio play that reminded me why I admire theatre. It shocked me. It made me think. It made me remember. It left me emotionally tingling.


Written by Caryl Churchill, a Brit who went to school in Montreal, it is an outpouring of feelings as thoughts from children to each other, from parents to children, and so on. The BBC won’t run the 10-minute work called “Seven Jewish Children: a play for Gaza” because it said the play wasn’t impartial. Of course, good art – good theatre – isn’t supposed to partial.

“Seven Jewish Children” played in Montreal the other day. CBC Radio ran the play after interviews with people pro and con.

Jewish groups condemn it as anti-semitic, although they don’t call Caryl Churchill an anti-semite. They call the play a blood libel, a piece of anti-semitic propaganda, and not a play or theatrical art.

Defenders of the play call Churchill’s play an indictment against the invasion of Gaza by the State of Israel late last year, and “typifies what the stage does best: address the world as it is right now.”

Here’s a page with plenty of debate and comment for and against.

Make up your own mind. The play is available here to be read (PDF); or viewed online.



Filed under art

7 responses to “seven jewish children

  1. Sorry, but the play is anti-Semitism masked by anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is used by anti-Semites when in polite company such as on the stage. That anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are the same was recognized as such by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in the mid-1960s.
    Pro-Palestinian supporters had a right to protest Israel’s incursion into Gaza. But their true colors soon came out when they shouted “Jews to the ovens” as they did in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

  2. shmohawk

    I’m wondering, given what you write, how might I criticize the Government of Israel for its actions or decisions, should I wish to do so?

    This is a serious question. I routinely criticize the Canadian Government, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, and South Africa’s ANC government.

  3. You can certainly criticize Israeli policies; I have no argument there.
    Unfortunately, most criticism is directed not at Israel’s policies but at the creation of the modern State of Israel. No other country that I can think of has to withstand a concerted effort to deligitimate its creation.
    I believe Churchill’s play is part of that effort and is, therefor, anti-Semitic.

  4. shmohawk

    Thanks. I asked because there seemed very little wiggle room for criticism in your previous comment.

    As for Churchill and the play, I think the author reacted to the sounds and images of violence coming through the media with raw emotion. I approach the play as someone interested and supportive of Indigenous theatre in Canada, and as a technique to approach sensitive and controversial subjects such as racism, internalized violence, stereotypes, and a lot more. I find the reaction to the play instructive.

    Thanks for your help.

  5. Never mind Stephen Flatow. So far as I can tell, he simply can’t handle any criticism of Israel. Given how Churchill bends over backwards to give expression to a variety of viewpoints in her play, one cannot help but find Flatow’s arguments rather comic.

  6. Expatriate, Churchill did bend over backwards to express viewpoints but it was to equate Israeli policies with that of the Nazis and to imply that Israeli parents practice racial discrimination and segregation. I don’t believe you think them true for these are tactics employed by Hamas, Hezbollah, et al, when they seek to undermine Israel’s right to exist.

  7. shmohawk

    Stephen, and Expatriate:

    I’ve listened to the play. I’ve read the script. I think that as a piece of theatre, Seven Jewish Children is an amazingly dense piece of drama that covers a lot of ground jammed into ten minutes of emotional dialogue. It’s very effective in evoking a lot of images and memories from last winter in Gaza. It has not changed my mind about those events. My impressions were formed by reading news accounts, catching bits of TV reports, but mostly by listening to radio reports and interviews from Gaza and Israel. The play, however, challenged some of my preconceptions, and reinforced others, avoiding facts and going for emotions instead. My opinions after experiencing the play, though, are mine and mine alone. I have no wish to share them here.

    I confess my lack of knowledge about the issues. So I regard the play as another piece of information that I welcome if it helps me better understand. I think it does. If I did not find it compelling enough to hold my attention, as a work of art, I would not have spent as much time as I did reading, and re-reading the script.

    The script (and the play) didn’t deal with tactics or policies, rights or wrongs, good or bad guys. It spoke to tragedy, human frailty and fear on all sides. It made me think. It made me shudder. It took me someplace I really did not want to go but felt compelled to do so. I believe that is exactly what writers and artists should do. They should reach into people’s hidden recesses, to get them to see things from different perspectives if only for a moment, to ask impossible questions and demand implausible answers. Because it’s been my experience that politicians and people with weapons don’t.

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