Seventy-three years after Avraham Stern (Yair) was killed by British detectives, a new English-language play is bringing Stern’s ideas and poetry to the stage. “The Ghosts of Mizrachi Bet Street” by historian Zev Golan will premiere at the Jerusalem Theater on January 20.
“I’ve written a biography of Stern and several books about Lehi, the underground he founded to fight the British in Eretz Israel,” says Golan. “But I felt that only through a dramatic encounter on stage could the audience – and even I – get into Stern’s head and fathom the decisions he made, which ultimately led to his death.”
Early in 1942, Stern was hiding in a small apartment on Mizrachi Bet Street in Tel Aviv. Using Stern’s actual words, Golan puts him in conversation with his mother and wife, who naturally suffered because of his choices, and David Raziel, the Commander of Etzel (the Irgun), who during the 1930s had been Stern’s best friend. Raziel decided to support the British during World War II. Stern repudiated Raziel’s temporary alliance with the British and created the more radical Lehi to continue the struggle for independence. The British gunned Stern down on February 12, 1942. Raziel had died from a German bomb in Iraq, in 1941.
Playing Stern will be Steven Schub, whose many television and film credits in Hollywood include the sixth season of “24” and the film “The Chicago Eight.”
Golan says that after the January performances in Jerusalem, the Lehi Heritage Association, which is sponsoring the play, plans on taking it to other venues with English-speaking audiences.
During his life Stern wrote dozens of poems, heavily influenced by Russian and Polish poetry, especially Vladimir Mayakovsky’s, embodying a physical, almost sensual, love for the Jewish homeland and for martyrdom on its behalf. Researcher Moshe Hazani said the poems expressed the eroticism of death combined with de-eroticism of women. Stern’s song Anonymous Soldiers became the radical undergrounds’ anthem. In it Stern wrote of Jews who would not be drafted by other countries but would enlist instead in a volunteer army of their own, go underground and die fighting in the streets, only to be buried secretly at night.