"Historical Trauma": Representations of Combat Soldiers as Occupiers in the Israeli Theater
Faculty of the Arts Tel Aviv University Kfar Saba, Israel
Kaja Silverman has used the term "historical trauma" (Male subjectivity at the margins, 1992) in her analysis of post World War II Hollywood cinema made in the 1940s. These films characterized combat soldiers as men who lost faith in their society's "dominant fiction".
Certain plays which were written in Israel since the "Six Day War" (1967) represented harsh psychological conflicts and moral dilemmas of soldiers as occupiers. Israeli soldiers who had to spend their military service in the occupied territories came back with evidence of a severe identity split, between the Jewish, liberal and humanistic education they received throughout childhood and the reality of oppression of civil Palestinian population in the "West Bank".
The Israeli theatre has been one of the first artistic mediums to notice the wrong doings of the occupation and the ideological and moral difficulties it had inflicted upon Israeli society.
In my lecture I plan to describe some of the male characters which appear in three Israeli plays: Comrads tell stories about Jesus by Amos Keinan, 1972, The Governor of Jericho by Joseph Mundy, 1975, and Ephraim goes back to the army by Itzhak Laor, 1984. These plays focus on issues of injured masculinity they represent bitter disappointment from the image of the heroic soldier established by the Zionist ethos. The "historical trauma" was expressed in plays that smashed norms and common beliefs and severely opposed the establishment.
Trough these plays I will illustrate changes in societal acceptance of the Israeli combat soldier as a leading image of hegemonic masculinity. I will describe dilemmas that have occurred since the beginning of the occupation and become more and more actual as years go by. I will show the implications of subversive and critical artistic texts on socio-political issues in Israel. I will also, try to touch upon the impact of the continuous state of war on men who are both soldiers and theatre creators.