At the onset of the twentieth century, as the Jews started to make their way back to Israel and established the New Yishuv outside the city walls, the approach towards Jewish identity experienced an accelerated transformation. One of the aspects of this new approach was the perception of physical change in the Jewish male body.
The archetype of the figure of the Jewish-Haredi-male from one hundred years ago was typically described as a limp, soft, and hunched over body. The man was usually bent over a book, his physical stature of only minor significance within the context of his identity.
In contrast, the figure of the Jewish male as the symbol of the new Israeli was presented as a well-developed body, of a tall, straight and muscular stature. This is a body that plowed the earth, hiked the length and breadth of the country, fought as a soldier, took part in sports activities, and even participated in modern dance.
“Heroes” poses questions about identity as conveyed by the physical stature of the Jewish Israeli Zionist: Is the strength of the Zionist male rooted in an M-16 or F-16? Or is his strength found in the ancient text of the Five Books of Moses, in his prayers and studies? In other words: Does the modern Jewish male adorn himself with a tallit and tefillin? With an army uniform? With a football jersey?
The members of the ensemble currently live and create within the Israeli Zionist reality that incorporates all of those contrasting elements and capacities, and even though these components often clash and do not live side by side in peace, they are all part of a single – yet multilayered - reality, one that both instigates and appeases, provokes and supports, and mainly reveals the birth pains and identity struggles of an Israeli society with multiple voices.
Amidst the cacophony of voices, the Israeli-Jewish-religious male finds himself in an identity crisis. Where does he belong and what physical code should he adopt? Should he celebrate his flexibility, his physical strength, his speed and power, or the pleasures of the body? Should he accept the integration of spirit and flesh? Are his weapons his ornaments? Or should he distinguish his head as the center of his physical existence and redirect the physical discussion to a metaphor of spirit and soul?
Is there a third way to resolve this Israeli fusion?
The members of the Ka’et Ensemble grew into those questions. They are all yeshiva students who drank from the well of modern Zionist values but are also men who were raised on a set of values and images from the ancient Hassidic Jewish world. All served in the army and learned to be strong men, flexible and fast, but they also know how to close their eyes and ask for softness and gentleness. They know how pray through song and sometimes, also through tears and supplication.
This is the platform upon which “Heroes” was created. The work does not offer solutions but asks to draw attention to and clarify the questions.