Study Guide

Salt of the Earth

The Story | Characters | Artists | Art Forms | Enrichment Activities

SALT OF THE EARTH, based on the influential Israeli novel "The Road to Ein Harod" by Amos Kenan, tells the story of a rebel novelist fleeing from a right winged military coup in his country to the last free Zionist kibbutz,[more] Ein Harod, rumoured to be the last bastion of resistance. His journey is literal, as he travels through his country's unforgiving landscapes and existential, as he deals with his own past as a war veteran and with the collective memory of the land and nation that never rests from fighting. Through his point of view, the play depicts the sober continuum- the tragic cycle of war.

Except, this show is not about war. And it’s not about politics. It’s about narrative. Using PuppetCinema’s signature blend of puppetry, live theater and film, this story uses one thousand pounds of salt, paper, charcoal drawings, object theater, bunraku-style and shadow puppetry to explore the way memory, history, fact and fantasy blend together to create the stories we tell ourselves, the ones that help us understand our personal and collective conflicts.

Kenan’s novella is our template, where we draw characters and similar action from. Our artistic departures are very much in the spirit of the book, meandering through memory and history, diverging and converging in a fluid though not always linear state. The audience follows our hero on stage and screen as he searches for the Utopic Ein Harod, a place before the story started to go wrong, a place that may or may not exist.[/more]

About ‘The Road to Ein Harod’ and Amos Kenan (1927 - 2009)

Born in Tel Aviv in 1927, Kenan fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Soon after, he became a peace activist and wrote satirical articles about organized religion and the newly created state of Israel.[more]

He was best known for the 1984 novel The Road to Ein Harod, which described a dystopian Israel in which a military dictatorship had seized control and pursued the protagonists -- an Arab and a Jew -- as they tried to reach the last bastion of democratic values at Ein Harod, a kibbutz in northern Israel. The book was heavily criticized for its apocalyptic view of Israel's future, but Kenan insisted that it reflected the country's realities. "If you think this is science fiction," Kenan told the Associated Press in 1984, "you're mad. It's virtually a documentary."

In the 1940’s, Kenan was one of a number of artists and intellectuals who sought to create an Israeli identity without Judaism by rejecting Jewish history and harking back to the biblical Canaanites, whose name the artists adopted for their group. A sculptor in Paris for several years, he returned to Tel Aviv in the 1960s and worked as a satirist and journalist. "Amos Kenan was one of the creators of Hebrew culture -- Hebrew, not Jewish," said Avnery, who met Kenan when the two were soldiers in the 1948 war for Israel's independence. Kenan saw Israelis as an entirely new creation separate from the Jewish Diaspora, Avnery said, and believed they had more in common with Palestinian Arabs.

Along with Avnery, he helped pen a 1957 manifesto calling for the creation of a Palestinian state in federation with Israel at a time when few Israelis acknowledged the Palestinians' existence as a national group. An infamously argumentative and hard-drinking personality, Kenan was also one of the key figures in the creation of a new, more vernacular Hebrew that replaced the stodgier, biblically tinged language that had been used in Hebrew literature before Israel's creation.

"Rarely has the hatred of violence been expressed with such ferocity, but this strange paradox has earned Kenan the gratitude of all for whom peace with the Arabs is not a vain word... The writing, all cascades, ascents, reversals, takes on biblical accents, and the clipped voice of the narrator often merges with that of the prophet in this canticle of shimmering landscapes, light, colors."

—Le Monde, on ‘The Road to Ein Harod’[/more]