About the Grant

$35,000 support 3Weeks (MAP 2012), a new opera by Yoav Gal.

About the Project

Confined within the walls of a besieged citadel, surrounded by starvation and despair, a rabbi conceives of a monumental shift in consciousness and an alternative destiny for his people. Through a tapestry of extraordinary episodes all drawn from original Talmudic texts, the hybrid foreign-language opera 3WEEKS reconstructs the events of the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the controversial act of Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai, who bargained with Roman power and gave up the glories and extravagance of old Jerusalem in return for a Beit Midrash.

The nucleus of the work is a meeting between the rabbi—who, despairing of hope, has himself smuggled out of the besieged Jerusalem in a coffin—and the Roman military commander, and soon-to-be emperor, Vespasian. The conversation between the two forms a tragic and comic scene, which concludes with the rabbi’s appeals to the general to spare “Yavneh and its sages.” With these words, Ben Zakai surrenderes Jerusalem—with its world-renowned temple, its priesthood and its pageantry—and in return asks for the protection of a modest center of learning.
It is a moment of great historical significance, which set the Jewish nation on a new trajectory, from then on existing as landless people. It also posited a national survival—one predicated on devotion to the written word, laws, regulations, daily prayers,and rituals. Profoundly mournful debates and re-evaluations of this bargain are found in later Talmudic texts, and these too form a part of this opera. 
Building upon the success of last year’s production of the opera MOSHEH at HERE Arts Center, 3WEEKS is a new effort in a similar vein from a creator whose aim is the revival of the operatic form as a twenty-first century medium.


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