Rachel Golda Bernstein

The One My Soul Loves

Theater is back…sort of.

The play, The One My Soul Loves (את שאהבה נפשי), written by Itai Segal and directed by Moshe Kaptan, is a play relevant to our current times in many ways. It is about an important cultural and Israeli experience. Brought to us by Habima together with the Tel Aviv Municipality’s “Future of the Theater” project.

With only a ten-member cast, the performance is powerful, raw, and very emotional. Bring your tissues.

The play has the option for English and Hebrew subtitles side by side. The audience rating is 16 and older.

The story starts around the real terror attack, on August 1st, 2009, in which an unknown person with a gun, entered the LGBTQ+ event at Bar-Noar in Tel Aviv and began shooting. Nir Katz and Liz Troubishi died and at least fifteen others were injured. To this day, the attacker(s) have not been caught.

Though the story starts from real events it deviates into an original family drama about a young Dati-Leumi (Modern-Orthodox) man who was injured as a result of having been at the club that night. His family asks uncomfortable questions that our protagonist Yonhatan (Amit Rahab) is not ready to reveal. Despite recovering physically from the trauma, the play is about his struggle to recover his soul.

They do not show the actual attack on stage, yet it sets the mood of the play.

The play progresses into an intense drama about a family dealing with discovering their son has been lying not only to them but to himself.

Viewers might recognize Amit Rahva from Netflix’s mini-series Unorthodox.

Upon his forced coming, out his mother (Orly Zilbrashtz) remains cold and unaccepting in the face of refusing to let him throw away his life. One would expect the mother to be the open-armed and accepting one, but the play introduces a more unexpected dynamic via the father’s (Yigal Sdeh) acceptance while the mother is the character of refusal.

His mother convinces her son to undergo conversion therapy, which is still legal in Israel. He attends a session with a therapist who is played by Uri Hochman.

The conversion therapy scene is grueling and raw. It includes a semi-graphic sex scene in the form of shadows from stage lights. There are warnings of child abuse, and sexual abuse in this scene as well.

When he returns from a single session, Yonhatan says, “I lived but I feel dead.”

He confronts his parents and his girlfriend which forces him to confront himself. His friends and family had been so focused on what he had been doing in a gay club that they neglected to ask him how he was handling having lived through such a nightmare. They press him to be thankful to God that he is alive, ignoring the fact that he is not living. Yonhatan suffered from sleepless nights with no one to understand what he was going through. No matter what he did, he couldn’t leave that night of the attack behind.

The show is painfully relatable to anyone forced out of the closet in addition to anyone who has found rejection and pain upon their exit. The true story is really to give awareness to those previously unaware of the struggles faced in communities that might seem invisible. Possibly a direct commentary on the future of LGBTQ+ in Modern orthodox communities.

The acting was amazing and believable as was the progression of events.

Despite the very heavy atmosphere, surprisingly several laughs lit the mood. Such as jokes around waiting rooms in Israeli hospitals. I don’t think I need to elaborate.

Towards the end, a red alert blew through the crowd. The actors calmly walked out, as did everyone in the audience. We made our way to the stairwell for safety. When everyone had resumed their seats, the director came on stage and said, “That’s something that can only happen in Israel.” The actors continued as if they were never interrupted.

As the cast took their bows, Daniel Litman who played Adam, Yonhatan’s boyfriend, confessed something. He explained that his partner in the role could not perform due to being injured on October 7th. According to Ynet, Yadin Gellman fought in Kibbutz Bari and saved many families. After being injured and operated on, he is now in stable condition.

The play is 90 minutes with no intermission, not counting any rockets.

About the Author
Rachel was born in Brooklyn, New York. She immigrated to Israel in 2014. When not reading or writing, Rachel enjoys viewing plays and concerts with her husband and cooing at their son, and pet snake.