David Zellnik
A Jewish Masterpiece, p.2

HERZL: We canít become Tolstoy peasants! Donít they all die there of... typhoid?

JACOB: Some.

JULIE: Jacob tells me youíre a writer? What were you writing?

HERZL: My journal. "A Chronicle of My Sufferings" I call it. And when it is published the world will see Jacob was the only true friend to me. The audience will never forgive you for leaving me now. Alone. Nearing poverty.

JACOB: Any day you want to you could get work at the New Free Press.

HERZL: Journalism?

JACOB: Steady work.

HERZL: And give up the theatre? Besides newspapers are censored, live performances not. I need freedom to express myself, and ( Jacob laughs) - donít laugh, I believe "Refugee From Romance" has a lot to say.

JACOB: Theatre can be more than what you write. It can be Ibsen. It can change the world.

HERZL: I must confess the world looks rather the same to me after an Ibsen play as before. That is ( softening) Fine, I will write more serious work. You and I both know I have a masterpiece in me but if no one agrees to do my work how is the world to see? Now I have some outlines Iíd like you to read and respond to -

Jacob stands, suddenly furious

JACOB: Have you been listening to a word I said? I am leaving!

HERZL: Jacob Ė calm down!

JACOB: Have you even read Duhringís book?

HERZL: Of course I have, everyone has.

JACOB: He is terrifying.

HERZL: You canít pay attention to every hate-filled fool writing racist garbage!

JACOB: Well-crafted garbage though, wouldnít you agree?!

HERZL: All right, fine, I never read it Ė

JACOB: You must! Millions of people reading it, roaming the streets at night, yelling at anyone they think is Jewish, spitting on peopleĖ

HERZL: Did someone spit on you?

JACOB: I know you hate being a Jew!

HERZL: Jacob - I am entirely too narcissistic to hate any part of myself. Now sit down. Letís talk about this.

Jacob remains standing. Very tense.

JACOB: You will see, we Jews can be different! We can be men.

He storms off. Herzl and Julie look at each other, unsure what just happened.

JULIE: I suppose I should follow him. Dreary man.

HERZL: How long have you and he...?

JULIE: He never mentioned me?

HERZL: ( Guileless) He always preferred talking about.... me. He loves my work.

JULIE: I saw a play you and Hofmann co-wrote. "Thieves of Loves" It was very... naughty.

HERZL: I wrote the naughty parts.

JULIE: Iíd like to read your new one. I suppose Iím a refugee from romance now. ( She gets up, collects her things) Put me in your journal. And keep writing your plays. I do expect a masterpiece from you.


SCENE 11: 1953, Prime Ministerís office, Israel

Lieutenant Scheinerman in a military uniform. Prime Minister Ben-Gurionís office.

BEN-GURION: Scheinerman! Enter. Scheinerman enters, sits in front of Ben-Gurion. Scheinerman is more filled out in this scene Ė his muscular frame slightly padded with fat. His attitude is very sloppy, almost insubordinate.

SCHEINERMAN: You called, Prime Minister?

BEN-GURION: Stand up when you address me.

SCHEINERMAN: ( Standing lazily) Yes, Prime Minister?

BEN-GURION: Please be seated. (Scheinerman sits) You were recommended to me, Scheinerman. Your commanders from the War of Independence think youíre something special. Why is that? ( Scheinerman shrugs) They say you have a temper but that youíre brave. And that you love this country. A Jewish mother and her 2 children were killed last night in Yehud. Some Arabs crossed the border into Israel and threw a grenade into her house. The press hasnít reported it yet, but they will and there will be an outcry. We need to respond, forcefully. We need to go over the border and arrest these men, find them and the men who helped them. We know many of their identities.

SCHEINERMAN: Youíre the general.

BEN-GURION: I want you to lead this mission.

SCHEINERMAN: Iíll think about it.

Scheinerman gets up, goes to leave.

BEN-GURION: Scheinerman!

SCHEINERMAN: Iím fucking starving- you have any food?

Ben-Gurion takes a bowl of nuts out of his desk drawer. Scheinerman starts eating them by the fistful.

BEN-GURION: Youíre making a poor impression Ė

SCHEINERMAN: The Arabs donít accept us, why should they? We know God gave us this land but they donít believe in our God, so what is that to them? The Arabs have been waiting five years to come back to their homes Ė we waited two thousand. How can we convince them to do less? Weíll never convince them. We canít impress them with our laws either. Until an Arab fears you, you are nothing. A mouse. A colonist. Good nuts. Now Ė (taking a map out of his pocket) We should go here. Clear out the houses of the suspected men and blow them up-

BEN-GURION: Against international-

SCHEINERMAN: ( Ignoring him) Weíll show them we can play their game. But Iíll need to train men to do this. Weíve never fought offensively against terror, only defensively after each attack.

BEN-GURION: How many soldiers would you need?

SCHEINERMAN: In this country of 900,000 Jews there are maybe 7 or 8 men. Iíll need all of them under my command. I will need to start a new unit.

Ben-Gurion ponders this.

BEN-GURION: Where were you born?

SCHEINERMAN: I was born here.

BEN-GURION: Ahhh a real sabra.

SCHEINERMAN: Where were you born, Ben-Gurion?

BEN-GURION: (Humble, dreamily) I came from the sea, Scheinerman. Carried off a Romanian tanker on the back of an Arab before I could protest. Carried on another manís back before I could set my feet on the sands of eretz yisroel.

SCHEINERMAN: A fucking poet.

BEN-GURION: (Back to business) The days of the Underground are over. We are a state now. But you can have a division of your own. You can pursue your plan as youíve devised it. But you cannot deviate from it or go any deeper into the West Bank. Dismissed. [Ö]

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Image: Students at Bezalel Art School, "Come and See the Land of Israel" (1920)

December 2004

Straight Eye for the Consumer Guy
Dan Friedman

I'll Say Goodbye and Let you Go
Abigail Pickus

Three Jewish Books on Sadness
Jay Michaelson

Rachel Barenblat

The Other Jews: Secularism, Kabbalah and Radical Poetics
Hila Ratzabi

A Jewish Masterpiece
David Zellnik

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From previous issues:

Art at War
Bara Sapir

This Land was Your Land: A Review of Philip Roth
James Russell

The Aesthetics of Power
Michael Shurkin