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‘Torn’ Between Ethiopia and Israel: Second Generation Takes the Stage

At Jaffa Theatre, two Ethiopian-Israeli actresses dramatize inner conflict of children of immigrants, who, unlike their parents, aren’t so quiet

By Yair Ashkenazi (Haaretz) |

In the spring of 2015, Tamar Asankao was among those who took to the streets in protest over discrimination by society and especially police against Ethiopian Israelis. She marched with the hundreds of protesters whom the police tried to disperse with teargas, water cannons and numerous arrests, and the sights and sounds of that experience stayed with her long afterwards.

“The Border Police on horseback galloping toward us, toward the protesters,” she recalls. “We’re shouting ‘No more violence’ and they just keep coming at us. We’re shouting from the depth of our souls that we’ve had it with our brothers being hurt for no reason. We marched, and we kept on marching, but deep down we knew this wasn’t the last fight.”

Asankao doesn’t recite these painful words in conversation. She recites them on stage in the play “Hatzuya” (“Torn”), which she wrote following the protests, feeling that there had to be more ways besides taking to the streets and protesting on social media to recruit people to support the fight of the Ethiopian community. “Torn,” which has been running since May at the Jaffa Theatre, does confront the audience with the social injustices that brought the protesters out. It holds up a mirror that reflects suspicion, condescension and racism, and presents what some of the audience is not even aware of at all, because it doesn’t want to be aware. “State religious schools won’t enroll children of Ethiopian descent!,” Asankao proclaims on stage. “Bus drivers won’t let black girls get on the bus! Police officers wander the neighborhood ghettoes and beat black teenagers – and no one says anything!”

However, “Torn,” as its name implies, is not just a theatrical indictment of Israeli society. It is a play that talks about the inner conflict experienced by many children of immigrants, who are torn between the desire to cling to their ethnic heritage and the values of their parents’ generation, and their eagerness to assimilate in Israeli society, to leave behind the things that brand them as outsiders, even to outwardly “whiten” themselves.