You can feel it happening – there's more than one Jewish stance on Israel.
NOW readers have known this for a long time. Our news section has consistently promoted peace in Israel and Palestine and published articles that contested the occupation of territories the Israelis moved in on in 1967.
But two events occurred last week show that, though Prime Minister Harper may have got with the ZIonist program, the so-called official Jewish stance on Israel – specifically that the country can do no wrong - is losing its stranglehold on Toronto's Jewish consciousness.
The first was Ralph Benmergui's excellent series on Israel and Palestine which aired on Vision TV. Benmergui, in five half-hour segments, asked a ton of questions about the situation in Israel. He talked with Palestinians, Israelis, Jews who can't call themselves Jews in Israel because they're not Jewish enough, Arabs living in Jerusalem, black Jews who experience discrimination, yes, and Jewish settlers living on the west bank.
The best thing about the series was that there wasn't a single moment of pure ideology, no propaganda, only compassion and deep questioning.
Then last week the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre was the venue for a panel on the upcoming production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, a play based on the writings of the young activist who travelled to Israel to volunteer in aid of displaced Palestinians and who was killed by Israeli bulldozers while protesting the dismantling of Palestinian homes. The circumstances of her death are deeply contested - some say she was murdered, others say the bulldozer driver couldn't see her.
The play itself works with Corrie's own words, which this particular evening, were read by Bethany Jillard, who' s starring in the upcoming production. The panel consisted of actors, thinkers and theatre professionals, who weighed in on the play and its place in the current debate.
My Name Is Rachel Corrie has had a controversial history. A planned production in New York was put on hold because producers got cold feet. CanStage here in Toronto turned it down. The feeling – and nobody's saying this out loud – is that a play that suggests that Israel does not represent only truth and justice would not get a sympathetic audience in a city like Toronto, home to the world's third largest Jewish population.
What I remember most about the evening at the JCC - aside from the heartfelt comments of director Kate Lushington, who talked about the art of thinking - was how many people in the audience expressed their appreciation to the JCC for giving them the opportunity to have a conversation.
There isn't enough of it. There seems to be only opinions set in stone. We need to talk more, to think more, to question all of our assumptions.
For more on Theatre Panik and My Name Is Rachel Corrie, go to theatrepanik.ca