As hundreds of missiles bombarded Israel this week from the Gaza strip, residents of the Holy Land’s southern communities again faced terrorism, chaos and the fear of destruction and death. Israelis and those who love the land and its people, joined forces, praying and opening their homes to traumatized families.
In light of what is happening in Israel, producers of an original historical fiction musical, Sharon Katz and Avital Macales, presented a unique offer to those suffering in the south, free tickets to “HIDDEN – The Secret Jews of Spain” as a way to take a break from the incessant missiles.
“Reaching out to our sisters in need is nothing new for us,” explained Katz to Breaking Israel News. “Where others hurt, we unite to heal and strengthen as much as possible.”
HIDDEN is a charity production of the Women’s Performance Community of Jerusalem and OU Israel. For the past 17 years, Katz has been producing women’s theater through four different performance companies that she founded.
Katz was driven to create shows which “give a hug to women who needed it.” She founded “Raise Your Spirits Theater” in 2001 during the second Intifada when terrorism was rampant in the many parts of Israel.
Her original Bible-based musical productions, which include shows based on the stories of Noah, Ruth, Esther and Joseph, were performed in Gush Katif during the very tense times before the expulsion in the summer of 2005 and during the Second Gulf War in the city of Raanana. So dedicated was the cast that they had to bring their gas masks along for fear of a chemical weapons attacks by Saddam Hussein during their performance!
Additionally, Katz’s productions have hosted women affected by bombings in northern Israel, missiles in the south, the Carmel Forest Fire, battered women in shelters and more. Not only do the productions bring joy and strength to the audience, they also give a hopeful and helpful outlet to the cast.
“Many of our performers and crew have written thank you notes expressing how their participation in our shows have healed their traumas and brought joy in their otherwise challenging lives,” shared Katz.
Katz, along with Avital Macales, wrote and composed HIDDEN based on the Feldheim classic, The Family Aguilar by Rabbi Marcus Lehmann. The duo dedicated the past two years to researching, writing and rehearsing the show, which continues to be performed every Sunday and Thursday through November.
They even traveled to Spain, with associate producer Bati Katz, to further their research, meeting many bnei anusim (descendants of forced converts). The story follows a courageous converso family in its struggle to keep its Jewish faith in the shadow of the Spanish Inquisition. It tells the story of the Spanish monarchy, which sought to destroy the Jewish people who would not convert to Christianity.
“We created a fictional Aguilar family, who were forced to live as Christians in public while maintaining a secret life as Jews,” explained Macales to Breaking Israel News. “The Spanish Inquisition might seem like an unlikely topic for musical theater. But, we felt that there needed to be a musical about the secret Jews of Spain, a historically mysterious subject.”
In light of the continuous terrorism in Israel, Katz points out that history proves that those who seek to extinguish the Jewish flame do not succeed. “Unfortunately, the story repeats itself throughout the centuries,” said Katz. “Only the enemies change. Haman in ancient Persia, Ferdinand and Isabella from Spain, the Cossacks, Hitler, Hussein, and today, Hamas and Hezbollah. They tried and continue to try to destroy the Jewish people. But, the nation of Israel lives on!”
When the rocket barrage forced those from the south to seek a night of respite with their children, HIDDEN was ready to host them. “It’s not just a night out,” Katz said. “Sometimes women just need a good cry without feeling guilty, and this show, about the Spanish Inquisition, would surely give them the opportunity to let their tears flow in the darkness as well as provide optimism for the future.”
Several performances of HIDDEN have already been held to rave reviews. The show is being acclaimed for its magnificent music, beautiful innovative dances, glorious costumes and sets, its inspiring story and spine-tingling action.
Katz noted that, through their intense research, a probing question continued to pop up: Why didn’t the Jews leave Spain as their lives were in jeopardy every day?
“We concluded that they were living in a gorgeous area and maintained their hope that good times would return to their lives, just like the Jews in the south,” she said.
It is estimated that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in Spain during the Inquisition and the century before. Despite the fact that Ferdinand and Isabella were certain that they had done away with the “Jewish problem,” today, there are approximately 100 million people who claim to be descended from the Anousim (the forced converts to Christianity) of Spain.
Clearly, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella failed royally in exterminating the Jewish people. From expelling their hard-working middle class, not only did they cause the collapse of Spain’s economy but they also failed to destroy Judaism. Ironically, today, one out of every 20 people in Spain has some Jewish blood.
“Where are King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella today? And where are we?,” asked Macales. “Our message to our audience and to Jews or descendants of Jews around the world is, ‘Don’t forget who you are!’ Don’t let anyone take your past, your essence or your heritage away from you. Though life right now is frightening, especially on Israel’s southern border, the emunah (belief) and determination of the Jewish people will win out over our enemies.”
Tickets to the remaining HIDDEN – The Secret Jews of Spain shows are available online.
Though all show participants are volunteers, donations are needed to cover expenses and are tax deductible. To donate to the show, please visit: https://ouisrael.org/donate-hidden-musical/