Both sides

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  March 12, 2008

Although Tirosh is an Israeli, her story has an American edge. Attending Circle in the Square theater school, engaged in a love affair with a fellow student, and swanning about Union Square Park at the height of summer, she is drawn back to “Israeli chaos” by her military obligation. Yanked out of a sky-blue summer frock and into uniform, this self-described “Israeli Sandra Bullock” is nonetheless buoyed by a “sense of excitement” that transcends being addressed as army property. Playing herself and others against a soundscape of radio announcements and Israeli music, Tirosh takes us through boot camp and her training to be a counselor and advocate for immigrant cadets, primarily Russians and Ethiopians, and on to her postings and promotions. She conjures the natural beauty of the Galilee Mountains and a Nowhere Land that’s like an old-movie set, its air conditioning consisting of a unit painted on a wall. But mostly this is a coming-of-age story in which boys are turned into “links in the chain of warriors who have walked this land” and Tirosh is transformed from a carefree individual yearning for her fellow into part of something larger and stronger than the sum of its parts. It is also a journey from optimism — “This is what life in the ’60s must have been like,” the breathless young soldier opines in the midst of a peace rally that turns to balloon-festooned nightmare when Rabin is killed — to shock and then rage as the character loses touch with “my peace-seeking self” and learns to love being a commander toting an M-16. Tirosh’s story is individual, but it’s vividly, often wryly told. And it candidly acknowledges that there are no Palestinians in its limited frame.

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