Rehearsals 

vlogging, musings and full brains

Tom takes a break from rehearsal to fill us in on the end of week #1 and how full his brain is

Blythe chats about her interest in bringing East of Berlin to London and all the exciting things from our first rehearsal

When I was eighteen I went and lived on a Kibbutz in Israel for four months. It was an agricultural kibbutz in the Galilee, up near the Lebanese and Syrian borders. I met an twenty-year–old German on Kibbutz in Israel. He stuck out. Most of us were North American and British Jewish teenagers wanting to kill some time before the beginning of university or adult life. Learn a little Hebrew. Get drunk. The German boy was shy and blond and tall and looked and acted nothing like the rest of us - he was watchful and awkward and melancholic. After a few weeks of working in the fields with the German boy, he told me his grandfather had been an SS Officer and had committed various war crimes against Jews.  The German boy was in Israel because he felt badly about that.  Some days I would look up while I was weeding in one of the fields and see the German boy, and think how strange it was: this blond and blue eyed kid in a ripped shirt with Hebrew lettering on it who was here with us working the farm and doing a kind of penance for sins he didn’t commit. t thought a lot about a Michael Ondaatje quote: “history enters us.” History had entered and moved the German boy across continents. He was hanging out with Jewish kids in Israel, dating Jewish girls and boys, and after four months of Ulpan, his Hebrew was better than mine. I wondered what his grandfather would think. I wondered what our grandparents - in most cases survivors of the Holocaust - would think. 

 

The German boy and I worked together in one of the greenhouses for a few weeks, planting seedlings. Every hour we’d have to run out of the greenhouse because the sprinkler system would come on and drench the saplings in water mixed with some sort of growing chemical.   The German boy’s English wasn’t great, and one time he came into the greenhouse and yelled at me: “The showers! The showers! The chemical showers!” He meant the sprinkler system was about to come on. He was trying to warn me. But when he said that, we both blanched. It teetered on the edge of being hilarious. But it didn’t tip.

 

It was strange to see the German boy sunning himself beside the kibbutz swimming pool with Holocaust survivors. The boy would be slathering himself in suntan lotion and beside him, there would be an eighty year old woman with an Auschwitz number tattoed on her arm. 

 

And strangest of all was seeing the German boy date Jews and Israeli soldiers. He liked boys and girls, and girls and boys liked him. He was attractive and he must have been charming, too, because one week he’d be dating Ilana Himelfarb from Brooklyn, and the next week Leor Harary from Tel Aviv who was serving in the Parachute Corps and lugged a huge machine gun around with him everywhere.  There was a perverse sexual energy to it. I got the sense that sex with Jews was fun for him because it was breaking a taboo. It was a "fuck you" to his grandfather. But it also acted as a symbol of redemption. 

 

Something about the German boy burned itself into my mind and turned into a play more than ten years later. 

Straight from the playwright, Hannah lets us know the very beginnings behind East of Berlin