The Transformation of the Celebrated, Centuries-Old Oberammergau Passion Play

In 1930 and 1934, Adolf Hitler journeyed to Oberammergau, Germany, home to the country’s—if not the world’s—best-known passion play, which has been performed at least once every decade since 1634 and is often viewed in person by half a million pilgrims. These performances, traditionally held on or shortly before Easter, dramatize the final days of the Christian messiah. As Noam Marans and Peter Pettit note, Hitler appreciated the play: “Never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed,” he said.

This week, following delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, Oberammergau will once again begin to host performances of the play, though in a new form that seeks to mitigate its anti-Semitic elements.

Passion plays originated in the Middle Ages in Christian Europe as a way to celebrate and teach the story of the last days of Jesus’ life, and from the beginning embodied the anti-Judaism derived from the depiction of the Jewish religious authorities in the Holy Week Gospel readings. Passion plays regularly triggered anti-Jewish violence by repeatedly affirming in the minds of Christians and others who viewed passion plays the powerful spectacle that Jews are devilish, manipulative, legalistic, and bloodthirsty Christ-killers.

With the post-Holocaust transformation of Christian attitudes toward Jews and Judaism, Passion plays began to change for the better. Jewish caricatures were increasingly challenged on both historical and theological grounds, and the shows have de-emphasized the role of Jewish figures and the idea that blame for Jesus’ death lay on the Jews as a people.

But change came very slowly to Oberammergau, Germany [which] resumed its play after the Holocaust as if nothing had happened. It remained unaffected by the evolution of Christian attitudes regarding Jews, which was enshrined in the Catholic Church’s 1965 teaching Nostra Aetate.

Read more at Religion News Service

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Jewish-Christian relations, Theater

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security