S.Y. Agnon returns to the stage in English at Jerusalem festival
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S.Y. Agnon returns to the stage in English at Jerusalem festival

This Passover, the Khan Theatre Company hosts a festival dedicated to Israel’s only literary Nobel laureate, with multiple shows and a lecture tailor made for the Anglo community

  • A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)
    A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)
  • A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)
    A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)
  • Israeli author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon.  (Courtesy Agnon House/JTA)
    Israeli author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon. (Courtesy Agnon House/JTA)
  • A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)
    A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)
  • A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)
    A scene from 'Tehila' by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)

Two plays based on the work of S.Y. Agnon, Israel’s only literary Nobel laureate, will be performed at the Khan Theatre in Jerusalem over Passover for English speakers.

The award-winning Khan Theatre Company will perform “Tehila” and “In the Prime of Her Life” with English subtitles between April 3-7 at the Khan, located opposite Jerusalem’s First Station in the German Colony.

There is also a lecture in English with film clips on April 3 by Jeffrey Saks, director of the research department at Agnon House and editor of a new translation of Agnon’s complete works published by Toby Press.

Times of Israel readers can get special discount tickets to the plays and lecture by subscribing to our priority booking list. Send an email with the word “subscribe” to: events@timesofisrael.com

A scene from ‘Tehila’ by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)

“Tehila” tells the story of a writer searching for meaning who meets an old, pious woman during his walks through the Old City of Jerusalem. Their conversations lead the writer to wonder whether their encounters are coincidental or whether they are directed by a mysterious, hidden hand.

“In the Prime of Her Life” follows 13-year-old Tirza as she discovers an ill-fated love affair conducted by her late mother. The revelation rattles Tirza’s world and sends her on a life-changing journey to meet her mother’s lover.

A scene from ‘Tehila’ by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)

Agnon, who won the Nobel Prize in 1966, is a towering figure in modern Hebrew literature whose work is now being rediscovered thanks to the new translation. He first arrived in Jaffa in 1908, returned to Germany for 12 years, and came again to Palestine in 1924 after a fire in his Berlin home destroyed his manuscripts and rare book collection. He settled in Talpiot in the house that is now the Agnon museum. He died in 1970.

His works, Saks told The Times of Israel’s Jessica Steinberg, deal with the conflict between traditional Jewish life and language and the modern world. They constitute a distillation of millennia of Jewish writing — from the Bible through the rabbinic codes to Hasidic storytelling — recast in the mold of modern literature, said Saks.

A scene from ‘Tehila’ by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)

“Agnon wrote in Hebrew but thought in Yiddish, and you have to read between the lines,” Saks said. “He exposes our sense of Jewish culture, he takes it and distills it and pours it into the mold of modern literature with brutal honesty.”

Agnon’s tales are still taught in Israeli schools, but teachers often miss his messages, said Saks, because “he’s subversive. He’s always integrating ambiguity into his tales.”

Shir Goldberg, who is directing both plays from adaptations by Shahar Pinkas, is the artistic manager of Khan, responsible for the Agnon Festival and the Khan’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

A scene from ‘Tehila’ by S.Y. Agnon, put on by the Khan Theatre Company. (Yael Ilan)

“Agnon is the master of the word and a sage of the Hebrew language,” said Goldberg. “Agnon is like the beating heart of our language and culture. During the festival at the Khan on Passover we hope to showcase his work in all its variety.”

Elisheva Mazia, executive director of the Khan, said the new outreach in English follows “a huge response” to a play performed recently at the venue with subtitles and will be expanded in the future.

“We are delighted to bring these wonderful works to the many English speakers in Jerusalem,” she said. “We plan to continue to expand the translation to other shows very soon.”

Khan Theatre S.Y. Agnon Festival

2 David Remez St., Jerusalem (Opposite the First Station)
April 3-7
Play tickets NIS 220 (NIS 85 Times of Israel Offer)
Lecture ticket NIS 100 (NIS 45 Times of Israel Offer)

To take advantage of this special offer, join our priority booking list. Send an email with the word “subscribe” to: events@timesofisrael.com

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