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Interfaith Programs

Hebrew Version of Shi'ite Passion Play Premieres in Jerusalem

While the nuclear weapons program of Iran and its repeated calls for the destruction of other countries push the tension in the Middle East to new heights, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem continues to foster studies aiming at the advancement of peace. The Shi'ite Passion play, "The Martyrdom of Imam Hussein," a central component of the Iranian-Shi'ite culture, was created at the Mount Scopus Campus in Jerusalem following an initiative by Dr. Eldad J. Pardo, a specialist on Iranian culture.

No "Ta'ziyeh," the Persian genre of passion plays, has ever before been produced in Israel, which made the May 29, 2006, performance a premiere in the full sense of the word. Dr. Pardo initiated this pioneering project in the framework of his research and teachings on Iranian culture and for the advancement of peace. The Iranian-Shi'ite play, "The Martyrdom of Imam Hussein," was translated into the Hebrew, the language of the Bible, by Dr. Pardo and the poet Shelley Elkayam, a research fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Hebrew University [and an Ambassador for Peace with the Universal Peace Federation].

The creators of the production combined, within the their theatrical interpretation of the Imam Hussein martyrdom, the central myth of the Shi'ite canon, clips from the Hebrew Bible, the quintessential Jewish canon including the Aqeda, the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Selling of Joseph as well as, outside the Bible, the Ten Martyrs of the Kingdom. The combination of a "Taziyeh" play and excerpts from the Bible are intertwined and illuminate each other throughout the classic play.

The story of the sacrifice of the first shahid (martyr), the Holy Imam Hussein bin Ali, in the plain of Karbala in the year 680 is heart-wrenching and touching as it teaches the love of God and of humans are major values in all cultures. The Holy Imam sacrificed himself for his beloved. "The shahada, the martyrdom, of the Imam Hussien," explains Dr. Pardo, "teaches us that the Shi'ah prefers spirituality and sacrifice over worldly give-and-take considerations. The Holy Imam went lovingly to his death in the battle of Karbala and suffered immeasurable torture for the sake of his beloved, be they Sunni or Shiite, Christian or Jews. Especially today, when Shi'ites are being mercilessly massacred in Iraq, we should learn from the endless love of the Imam and put the sanctity of life above and beyond any other consideration."

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