Seven Jewish Children : A Play for Gaza is a controversial six-page, 10-minute play by British playwright Caryl Churchill, written in response to the 2008-2009 Israel military strike on Gaza, performed in New Zealand on Waiheke Island in March 2010.
Video clips were combined with live stage performance.
A panel debate was held after the performance.
The play was first performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre on 6 February 2009.
Churchill, a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, has said that anyone wishing to produce it may do so gratis, so long as they hold a collection for the people of Gaza at the end.
Seven Jewish Children consists of seven scenes spread over roughly seventy years, in which Jewish adults discuss what, or whether, their children should be told about certain events in recent Jewish history that the play alludes to only indirectly : The Holocaust, Jewish immigration to Palestine, the creation of Israel, the flight or expulsion of Palestinian Arabs, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the dispute over water, the First Intifada, the death of Rachel Corrie, the building of the West Bank barrier, the death of Muhammad al-Durrah, Palestinian suicide attacks, Hamas rocket attacks, and the 2008 bombing of Gaza.
The play takes the form of a litany, repeating the phrases “Tell her”, “Don’t tell her” to reflect an ostensible tension within Israel and the Jewish community over how to describe events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
“Tell her for miles and miles all round they have lands of their own/Tell her again this is our promised land/Don’t tell her they said it was a land without people/Don’t tell her I wouldn’t have come if I’d known/Tell her maybe we can share/Don’t tell her that.”
Churchill has been particularly criticized for an angry monologue within the play purportedly representing a hardline Israeli view: “tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her/Don’t tell her that.”
Reaction to the play has been mixed.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has criticized it as “horrifically anti-Israel,” and “beyond the boundaries of reasonable political discourse,” and Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic Monthly called the play a blood libel, “the mainstreaming of the worst anti-Jewish stereotypes,”, while playright Tony Kushner and academic Alisa Solomon, both Jewish-American critics of Israeli policy, argue in The Nation that the play is dense, beautiful and elusive, and that “[a]ny play about the crisis in the Middle East that doesn’t arouse anger and distress has missed the point.”
Donations of $970 NZ dollars went to Medical Aid for Palestinians.