Reading Hebron

Hebron is the largest city on the West Bank and site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, an important holy
site for both Jews and Muslims. In this area a small number of (around four hundred) Ultra Zionist
settlers made homes here, in an area in which a hundred thousand Palestinian people live. The
settlers, it is said, are following the ‘deity’ or prophesy laid down by the scriptures.

On 25th February 1994, at the age of 38, Baruch Goldstein, a Brooklyn born Jew, shot dead 29
Palestinians and injured at least 125 more whilst they were at Ramadan prayers in the Tomb of the

Reading Hebron
is set in the direct aftermath of this massacre. It tells the story of Jewish born
Nathan Abramowitz; as he searches for answers. Israeli newspapers lacked detailed information on
the massacre so Nathan turns to American academic and philosopher; Noam Chomsky, New York
Times Editor and columnist, A.B. Rosenthal (whose right-wing opinions were heavily skewed towards
Israel) and Yeshayahu Leibowitz (an Israeli scientist and philosopher who denounced Israel’s policies
and called for Israeli soldiers to refuse orders).

This information rich, yet moving play, raises vital questions about the morality of the state of Israel.
Yet, at times, it is so heavy with details it leans more towards lecture territory than a dramatic work of
art. Nevertheless, this is a story of such strong political value that details cannot be afforded to be
glossed over. For example, use is made of a particularly harrowing statement by a young Palestinian
boy, “I was beaten, told to lie on my back; a urine soaked hood was placed on my head…I was then
tied to a stool, my testicles repeatedly beaten…I was sentenced for thirty months all for throwing
rocks. I was thirteen”

Nathan, (played movingly by David Antrobus, an Oxford graduate) is a frenetic, despairing, panicky
character, which compliments and accentuates the overwhelming sense of urgency and despair of
the play.

In writing from the perspective of a Jewish Israeli Sherman makes incisive statements
about the underlying meaning of the much bandied about term, anti-semetism. “Judaism has
turned to nationalism, and nationalism to idolatry and self-deception.” Sherman doesn’t shy
away from asking incendiary questions, “For two thousand years we have been persecuted, and now
it’s time to return the favour?”

Reading Hebron Sherman makes use of a diverse number of balanced sources to shed light upon the
state of Israel’s mentality towards Palestinians, as well as the daily humiliation and suffering of the
Palestinian people at the hands of the Israelis.

In essence, Reading Hebron sides neither with the Israelis or Palestinians, but with justice and

Reading Hebron is on at The Orange Tree Theatre, Kingston, until 5th March.

Fortuna Burke