A Musical Tragedy in Three Acts
(Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick)
The action takes place
in Gush Katif, a small Jewish farming community in the southern
part of the Gaza Strip. All the scenes take place in May, 2005 in,
and immediately outside of, the Milchiger home. It is a small, simple
home, but neatly maintained.
TEVYE MILCHIGER, a farmer, and head of the household, about
45 years old.
ZAHAVI MILCHIGER, his wife, about 43 years old.
ZIPPORA MILCHIGER, the eldest of their five daughters, 19
CHAVA MILCHIGER, the youngest of five daughters, 9 years
The opening scene takes
place in the kitchen. It is simply furnished, but neat and clean.
ZAHAVI is standing near a cardboard box on the kitchen table. She
is wearing a simple house robe and a kerchief. She is slowly picking
up items, examining them, and putting them into the box. TEVYE walks
in. He is wearing an orange T-shirt, soil-stained jeans, leather
sandals, and a knitted kipah. He washes his hands and approaches
TEVYE: Hows the packing going, Zahavi?
ZAHAVI: Its painfully slow and difficult. Im having
trouble selecting which items well keep and which will have
to go. We never had much money, so every item we ever bought was
always carefully chosen and cherished. Each of them has a memory
attached to it.
TEVYE: Well, youre going to have to part with many of them.
Were not going to have much room in the trailer park in Nitzanim,
so we can only take the bare essentials. Ive contacted a Gemilus
Chesed Charity in Jerusalem. They agreed to pick up the boxes and
assured me that each item will go to a poor family that probably
needs it much more than we do.
ZAHAVI: This little house has so many fond memories. Do you remember
when we moved here 20 years ago before Zippora was born? Our parents
didnt have any money to help us buy a home so we took advantage
of the government subsidies to move here. It was the only place
we could afford. We worked so hard to build it up and we raised
all of our children here.
TEVYE: Sure I remember. I recall that when we started our bug-free,
organic broccoli business, we sat right here in the kitchen packaging
the broccoli by hand in plastic boxes. Today, they are vacuum-packed
by big machines and shipped out all over the world.
ZAHAVI: Tevye, will there be room in the trailer park for my sister
to come with her children for Shabbat? You know that since she got
a divorce, she likes to come to us for Shabbat.
TEVYE: Therell barely be enough room for us. I dont
know where were going to put up your sister and her kids.
ZAHAVI: You mean my sister will never be able to come to visit
TEVYE: Right now thats not our biggest problem, we have more
important things to worry about.
ZAHAVI: Tevye, do you think there will be mikveh in this trailer
TEVYE: Im not sure. Anyway, most likely, the whole family
will be sleeping in one room. Under those conditions, why would
you need a mikveh?
ZAHAVI: Tevye, what are you saying? Are you saying that you dont
love me anymore?
TEVYE: Of course I love you. Why would you think otherwise?
ZAHAVI: Then why did you say that I dont have to go to mikveh
TEVYE: Im so confused that I dont know what Im
saying anymore. I didnt mean it, Im sorry if I upset
ZAHAVI: Hashem blessed us with five wonderful daughters but we
agreed that we would try to have another child so we could have
a little boy. I know that its been a long time since we had
Chavele, but its not my fault. Im still a young woman.
I can still have children. You dont have to give up on me.
(ZAHAVI starts to cry and runs out of the room. TEVYE runs after
TEVYE: Zahavi, come back here. I love you so much. I didnt
mean to hurt you. Please forgive me.
(ZAHAVI goes outside to see her daughters and sings the following
song to them)
SABBATH PRAYER (Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick)
May the Lord Protect and defend you.
May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be
In Israel a shining name.
May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers ways.
May G-d bless you and grant you long lives.
May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.
May G-d make you good mothers and wives.
May He send you husbands who will care for you.
May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.
Shortly after Act I.
TEVYE is sitting alone in the kitchen, studying the weekly Torah
portion. ZIPPORA, the eldest daughter, rushes in, excited and out
ZIPPORA: Abba, I have great news.
TEVYE: Im happy to hear that. It would be nice to hear some
good news for a change. Whats the news?
ZIPPORA: Mordechai called me from his army base. Hell be
discharged in three months. Hes in a special anti-terrorist
unit so they didnt want to release him, but now his discharge
has been officially confirmed.
TEVYE: That really is great news. Well be looking forward
to seeing him. Its been a long time.
ZIPPORA: Abba, can we get married now? You promised us that as
soon as Mordechai is released from the army, youll make a
wedding for us.
TEVYE: In three months is when the disengagement is scheduled to
begin. I dont know where well be. Also, we wont
have any money. Were losing the house and all the greenhouses.
I dont know what were going to live on.
ZIPPORA: But Abba, you promised us. Mordechai and I have been together
since we started high school. Weve been waiting so long to
TEVYE: If you waited so long, you can wait just a little longer.
Well make the wedding as soon as we can.
ZIPPORA: Will the Camzoils continue to live near us when
we move to Nitzanim.
TEVYE: No, they will be moving to Bat Yam. Mrs. Camzoil has a brother
there who is a widower. He said that the family can move in with
him. Theyll like it there. Its a big, comfortable house
near the beach. Mordechai can still come to visit you.
ZIPPORA: Theres no bus that goes from Bat Yam to Nitzanim.
How is he going to get to me? Bat Yam is near Tel Aviv. There are
so many beautiful girls in Tel Aviv and Mordechai looks so handsome
in his army uniform. Hes going to meet other girls and forget
all about me.
TEVYE: No hes not. He loves you and wants to be with you
ZIPPORA: Youre just saying that to please me. Im going
to Bat Yam to be with Mordechai. With or without your blessing.
With or without a chupah.
(She runs out crying
and sings the following song outside the house.)
FAR FROM THE HOME I LOVE (Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by
How can I hope to make you understand
Why I do what I do.
Why I must travel to a distant land,
Far from the home I love.
Once I was happily content to be
As I was, where I was,
Close to the people who are close to me,
Here in the home I love.
Oh, what a melancholy choice this is,
Wanting home, wanting him,
Closing my heart to every hope but his,
Leaving the home I love.
Shortly after Act II.
CHAVA, the youngest daughter, is sitting at the kitchen table having
a snack of milk and cookies. TEVYE approaches her.
TEVYE: Chavele, youre not involved in any romantic entanglements,
CHAVA: What does that mean, Abba?
TEVYE: Youre better off not knowing. You have a long time
yet to find out.
CHAVA: Abba, why is Zippora crying?
TEVYE: Because in three months the soldiers are coming to take
our home away from us.
CHAVA: Abba, did we do something bad that they are coming to take
away our home?
TEVYE: No, its just that the Sharon government has decided
to give our homes and greenhouses to the Arabs.
CHAVA: But the Arabs have their own homes, they live right near
TEVYE: Theyll be giving our homes to other Arabs that will
be coming in from Lebanon and Syria.
CHAVA: Why cant the Arabs build their own homes and greenhouses?
Why do they have to take ours?
TEVYE: Chavele, youre asking me difficult questions that
I cant answer. Why cant you ask me easy questions like
Why is the sky blue? or Where do babies come from?
CHAVA: Abba, those soldiers that will be taking away our house
- are they the same ones that are here to protect us - you know,
the ones that we invite for Shabbat meals, use our showers, and
we make them sandwiches to take back?
TEVYE: No, Chavele, those soldiers wont be involved. They
will be leaving and other soldiers will be taking their place.
CHAVA: You mean the good soldiers will be leaving and bad soldiers
will come to take their place?
TEVYE: Theyre not really bad soldiers, theyre just
following orders from the government.
CHAVA: Then why dont the good soldiers protect us from the
TEVYE: Because then there would be a civil war.
CHAVA: Whats a civil war, Abba
TEVYE: Thats when Jews are fighting with other Jews.
CHAVA: Why would they want to do that?
TEVYE: They dont. That why different soldiers are coming
CHAVA: Then why dont the Americans come to help us? Zippora
said that the Americans have a ship in the Mediterranean that is
so big that airplanes can land on it. Is that true, Abba? Is that
TEVYE: Yes, but only small planes and helicopters. The Americans
arent going to help us. They want us to leave our homes also.
CHAVA: I thought the Americans were our friends. You mean we dont
have any friends in the whole world?
TEVYE: The Jewish people will always have a friend. He never sleeps
and watches over the people of Israel all the time. Hell come
to help us, youll see.
CHAVA: When these soldiers come to our house, are they going to
TEVYE: No, Chavele dear. These soldiers arent Crusaders,
Cossacks, or Nazis. Theyre Jewish soldiers. They wouldnt
CHAVA: But Abba, you told me that when your Sabba and Savta were
living in Poland, bad soldiers came and put them into a railroad
car and took them to a very bad place. Then afterwards they said
that they were only following orders.
TEVYE: No, Chavele. These soldiers arent going to put you
in a railroad car. Youre going to ride in an Israeli army
truck with our blue and white flag on it. Dont you want to
ride in a big army truck?
CHAVA: No, Abba. I dont want to ride in an army truck. I
want to stay here. Abba, please dont let the soldiers take
me away. Im so scared. Please, Abba, let me stay here in my
want CHAVA to see him crying, so he goes outside to the tall tree,
looks up and sings)
Adapted from SUNRISE, SUNSET. (Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics
by Sheldon Harnick)
Is the little seed I planted?
Is this the tree that grew so tall?
Wasnt it yesterday
That it was small?
Swiftly flow the days.
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
(The curtain closes)
(c) 2005, I. Zwick, NYC