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      Voices from the Holy . . . and Not So Holy Land
    Pushing against the Western wall

    Steve Greenstein reaches across the wall that keeps Jews in the West from a deeper understanding of the Middle East conflict in the moving one-man show "Voices from the Holy . . . and Not So Holy Land."


    Meet Louis Weiss, every-Jew. Louis is a big, gregarious guy with a booming voice and a New York accent who left Babylon, Long Island, to sell cars in California. Made salesman of the year in '94. His wife is Catholic, and he proudly announces that his little boy had his Christening on the high holy days.

    Written and performed by: Steve Greenstein.
    Directed by: Corky Dominguez.
    Louis' mother is 70 years old but she has suddenly fallen in with a Brooklyn rabbi and become convinced that a line in the Bible has commanded her to leave Babylon and make a trip to Israel. Louis tries to reason with her that the Bible isn't referring to Babylon, Long Island. "Look, Ma," he pleads. "Do me a favor — go to Florida. It'll be better for you."

    This is how writer-performer Steve Greenstein sets the stage for his one-man tour of Israel — inviting us to observe the place and its people through the eyes of someone just ill-informed enough to learn something new from the people he meets in the holy land. Those people are about 10 characters that Greenstein performs with sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, sometimes horrifying perspectives on Israel's politics and the prospects for peace.

    One of the most appealing characters is a Palestinian restaurant owner who says he used to have many loyal Jewish customers before the current polarization — now Jews don't come to his neighborhood. He just wants to get along and do business. "If you say to me 'Arafat,' I don't get very happy," he explains, "but if you say to me 'hamburgers,' I do!"

    There are other Palestinian voices in the show — both an appealing one and an appallingly violent one. There is just one omission — a character who could show what legitimate causes there might be for Palestinians' sense of displacement from what was their own land.

    There are very interesting Jewish characters as well — from a skittish American tourist to a militant Orthodox hardliner who vows never to give back to the Palestinians what God has given to the Jews. And his case sounds in some ways reasonable. "The day I give back Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] to the Arabs is the day you give back San Diego to the Mexicans," he suggests to the American audience. At the same time, his unwillingness to bend is obviously one of the greates barriers to peace. He's waging war against two enemies — the Palestinians and the non-Orthodox Jews who are trying to give away his God-given land.

    The most poignant character is a 1973 war veteran who talks about the sacrifice that he and his buddies went through to preserve the modern Israeli way of life, and even the resentment he felt toward those who were living comfortably just miles from the hellish front. Yet, today he feels tired of war and ready for peace. But he sees today's soldiers on the street and knows that they're the ones who now resent his middle-aged, middle-class comfort. His story is a powerful illustration of the divided Israeli mind that craves both war and peace.

    Greenstein has created a collection of characters that add up to one thought-provoking, funny and sometimes tragic one-man show. It's a moving contribution to our understanding of love and hate across the Middle Eastern divide.

    JANUARY 30, 2001

    Reader comments on Voices from the Holy . . . and Not So Holy Land:

  • Greetings for Steve Greenstein.   from Eddie Manosalvas, May 20, 2002
  • Comedy Club Portland, Oregon   from Mary Fremont, Sep 12, 2003
  • Re: Comedy Club Portland, Oregon   from steve, Mar 24, 2010
  • for steven   from Lutgarde Dhondt, Jun 27, 2005
  • hi   from steve greenstein, May 2, 2007
  • greetings from the israeli educational t.v.   from Miriam, May 27, 2007
  • Re: for steven   from steve, Mar 24, 2010
  • Nice   from Steve Jones, Aug 1, 2007
  • hi   from steve, Mar 24, 2010

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