So they’ve finally got Israel Horovitz! He’s been accused of sexual harassment by nine women and subsequently fired from his position at the Gloucester Stage Company, which he founded. To be honest, I didn’t think Horovitz was doing much these days, but that’s due more to my out-of-the-loop-ness than reality. He was a big deal back when I was in college (1980-85), where we mounted memorable productions of Line and The Indian Wants the Bronx. I’ve always preferred Lanford Wilson (we produced a lot of his plays, too, back then), but Horovitz was right up there.
Now he, too, joins Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Garrison Keillor, and [INSERT NAME OF LEFT-WING DEFENDER OF WOMEN HERE]. I really care not a fig for any of these guys (although I’m glad they got Keillor because he always was the type you wouldn’t want to meet late at night in a dark alley), but I did hold a special place in my heart for Horovitz for one very brave thing he did in 2009: he socked it to Caryl Churchill.
I’m referring to Churchill’s 10-minute play, “Seven Jewish Children,” which many, including me, consider to be anti-Semitic. The play consists of a continuous monologue, addressed to Jewish children over the course of 70 years, and traces the Jewish experience from the Holocaust to the founding of Israel to the modern day. What triggered the play was the 2008-9 Israeli strike on Gaza and the 2003 death of Rachel Corrie, an American pro-Palestinian activist who thought she somehow could win a wrestling match with a bulldozer. Churchill offers the play to anyone gratis, but demands a collection be taken for the people of Gaza. You know Gaza: it’s the place the Israelis left in 2005 so that peace would reign in the land (until the Arabs started bombing Israel from “liberated” Gaza, that is).
Although met with typical appreciation from the Israeli-hating left, some were brave enough to condemn the play and to recognize its blatant hostility to the existentially-threatened Israel. What is even more interesting, I think, is the response by playwrights. “Seven Jewish Children” spawned a number of plays seeking to counter Churchill’s hateful portrayal: “Seven Palestinian Children” (Deb Margolin), "The Eighth Child" (Robbie Gringras). “Seven Other Children” (Richard Stirling), and “What Strong Fences Make” (the now-disgraced Israel Horovitz). Countering Churchill’s fundraising for the Palestinians, Horovitz also offered his play gratis provided a collection is taken up for ONE Family Fund, a charity that assists children wounded in attacks on Israel.
In addition to the play, which I covered in some depth a few years ago on my podcast, “Stage Right” (apparently I am not too original in the name department), Horovitz wrote a stirring piece for the Jerusalem Post, which featured this paragraph:
I am well aware that I am an American, living thousands of miles away from the profound moral dilemma that Israelis must face each and every day of their lives. But, I am very much a Jew, and, as a writer who spends nearly as much time in Paris and London, as I do in NYC, I am angered by the rise in anti-Semitism. It is possible to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic, as it is possible to criticize Palestine without being anti-Arab. Those who criticize Jews in the name of criticizing Israel, as Ms. Churchill seems to have done in her play, step over an unacceptable boundary and must be taken to task.
Oy, was I thrilled by Horovitz’ chutzpah! And I am still thrilled by it and will continue to value his contribution to the battle against hate and anti-Semitism, even though he turned out to be a sexual predator and, quite frankly, an idiot. But for one brief shining moment, I held Israel Horovitz in the highest esteem.