The winner of the Eurovision contest 2015, Mans Zelmerlow from Sweden, was interviewed minutes after his winning. Instead of talking about his coping and wining all he has on mind was to look directly to the camera and to mention the bully in his class, when he was young, who was beating him all the time, and to say: "look where I am today!"
I'm sure that most of you are wondering what happened to your classmates since you finished school. Where have they moved? Did they get marry? Do they have children? Are they still beating other people even though they grow up?
Usually in each class you find "the other" which the bullies in his class or school always find a reason to heart him, to beat him, and sometimes to kill him. As a global society which has no longer borders you may find "the others" everywhere. Sometimes you distinguish between them by their language, color or religion. Unfortunately yet most of the people don't except "the other" as probably that Swedish bully didn't except his classmate, the singer Mans Zelmerlow.
Two weeks ago I went to the Israeli national theatre Habimah in Tel Aviv to see the play Our Class. The play is based on a Polish play which was written by Tadeusz Slobodzianek who based his play on a true story which took place in the village of Jedwabne in Eastern Poland, on the 10 of July, 1941, when the Polish Catholic neighbors broke into the homes of the Jews they grew up with since kindergarten, forced them into the local barn and set on fire 1,600 Jews. The play Our Class presents ten Poles classmates, five Catholics and five Jews, before and during the second world war, and tells the story of those who remained after the war. Childhood, love, hopes, murder and compassion are all mixed together within this dramatic and powerful play which enlightens the Holocaust with strong colors which each spectator can't ignore. After watching the play I couldn't avoid asking my self questions and I had sad thoughts about Humanity and it's intolerance of non-acceptance "the other" even in times with no wars or crisis.
Even though that the play presents a local story in a way, it reflects the non-acceptance of the global society of "the other" who has to face most of his life racism, prejudices and violence. The play had many successful runs at many theaters all over the world and it embeds enormous impression on the spectators. Now, the Israeli national theatre Habimah, together with the Cameri theater, is going to travel for a road show and present the Israeli version of the play (which already runs in Israel for a year) in Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. During the year which the play ran in Israel, thousands of pupils saw it and after the show they met the actors who shared with them the difficulties to play their roles. The pupils themselves told what they have being thinking while watching the play and what they felt when they realized that it could have being their class.
Even though the play deals with a local Polish story it presents also very relevant issues to the Balkan countries as well. The director of the Balkan department in the Israeli foreign ministry has invited many of his colleagues, members of the diplomatic corpus in Israel to watch the play and many showed their interest to bring the play to their own countries. After watching the play with some of the Balkan countries ambassadors and hearing their reactions I agree that it is indeed a very important play with an added value because it deals with issues beyond the theatrical side that many of us do not deal on a regularly basis.
The play is quiet long but the actors are succeeding to touch the audience and to deliver the messages. They play and sing and put you like you are actually there in Poland, like you are one in our class. Some of you might find it hard to believe how a Human being took the role of Satan and how far prejudice and hating "the others" can lead people to carry out crimes against other people and against humanity. The journey will start on July the 18 with the first performance at the Ohrid summer festival Aand than continue to the summer festival of Bitola, the city that used to be the main Jewish city of Macedonia before the war. It will than go to Skopje where it will presented at the national theatre. During visiting the city the actors will meet their colleagues from Macedonia that have played the Macedonian version as well and will plant a tree together. In Skopje the actors and special guests will visit the Holocaust Museum, the only one in the Balkans that was built with the money coming from a special fund of Jewish property of no hairs. The Macedonian path on this issue should be a good lead for others in dealing with this complicated issue.
Then the journey will continue to Albania, a state with majority of Muslims, multicultural and moderate and where's all their Jews where saved by the state during the second war world. In fact it's the only state which the number of Jews was bigger after the war then before. Lately I was acquainted to the Albanian minister of agriculture, Mr. Panariti, whose family saved Jews during the Holocaust. At the end of the play in Tirana, the capital city of Albania, a certificate for "The Righteous Among The Nations" (- given to those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust -) will be delivered in a special ceremony to the family of the Albanian Minister. The family's name is already engraved on a stone in a garden in Jerusalem next to other names of families from all over Europe who dared and risked themselves in order to save Jews.
The next station, before the last one, will be in Podgorica the capital of Montenegro. The event will take place on Saturday evening of "Tisha B'Av" (- in Hebrew -) which is the annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago. Even then there were those who tried to eliminate the Jewish people and its culture. During their visit, the Israeli actors will pay a visit to Yan Karski's tree to share their respect for him. The tree was planted lately in Montenegro as a memorial for Yan Karski who tried to stop the Nazi machine and its horrors and went to meet Winston Churchill, the British prime minister at that time, in order to update him about the Nazis acts.
The journey will end at Belgrade the capital of Serbia. It will be an opportunity to remember the difficult fate of the Jews who lived in the past in those six countries which were united under the Yugoslavian flag. In Jerusalem, in "Yad Vashem", the Israeli official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, not far from where I live, a tree for the memorial of the victims in Yugoslavia was planted by the people of the "Keren Kayemeth Leisrael". Every year survivals of those countries and ambassadors are gathering to commune with the victims.
Getting back to the bully from the beginning, I never look for a payback but I hope that this article will find its way to reach him and that he learned his lesson.