An Israeli Film about Small-Town Life in the Negev Comes to the American Stage

Set in the fictional town of Bet Hatikvah, the Israeli film The Band’s Visit (2007) tells the story of how this small, dull community is shaken up by the accidental visit of an Egyptian police orchestra. David Yazbeck and Itamar Moses have transformed the movie into an English-language musical. Ben Brantley writes in his appreciative review:

The Band’s Visit uses a well-worn formula that hasn’t stopped being recycled since Oedipus stumbled into Thebes. That’s the good old story of a stranger—or in this case strangers, an entire Egyptian police band —arriving in a sleepy town and shaking it to its foundations.

Think of The Rainmaker, Shane, or even The Music Man, in which that stranger’s kiss (or gunshot or con act) winds up transforming lives forever. The Band’s Visit flirts with the clichés of such a scenario, and then triumphantly fails to consummate them. Just when you think it’s going to deliver big on an anticipated clincher, it pulls back, and that withdrawal feels far more satisfying than the expected obvious climax.

Consider, for example, the possible political implications of the plot. . . . Uninvited Arabs in Israel? Surely, we can anticipate a fraught cultural collision and a subsequent feel-good reconciliation, proving that even perceived adversaries have more in common than they thought. But nationalistic tensions are touched upon only glancingly.

Instead, the Bet Hatikvans are delighted, in their low-key way, by the mere novelty of these traveling musicians, led by their dignity-conscious conductor Tewfiq, who wear robin’s-egg-blue uniforms that make the townspeople think of Michael Jackson.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Arts & Culture, Broadway, Film, Israeli culture, Musical theater


Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria