The term Mizrahi Jews, or Mizrahim, refers to Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent who make up nearly half of Israel’s Jewish population. Over the years, Mizrahi Jews were excluded from Israel’s social and cultural centres of power in all spheres of life, including the Israeli theatre. The history of the Western base of Israeli theatre has grown from three different directions: the dominant Eastern European-Russian tradition, the German theatre tradition and the influence of American Broadway. The article focuses on ‘Freicha’ as Mizrahi female stereotype that interrupts in/of Westernized Israeli theatre. The poetry performance by Hannah Vazana Greenwald, who creates a Mizrahi-feminist alternative on the Israeli stage, called ‘Freicha is a Beautiful Name’, is a protest against stereotypical representation. Instead of moving away from the stereotype, as do the traditional approaches of Mizrahi theatre, this poetry performance actually reinforces the stereotype, in an ironic, parodic, audacious and antagonistic style to the point where the stereotype becomes completely subverted and emptied of its negative content. It becomes a source of protest for Mizrahi women. Instead of seeking distance from the negative imaging that is threatening them, the performers on the stage adopt it as their own and transform it into a source of empowerment. The re-appropriation of the freicha stereotype turns her into a critical figure who gives the audience a new perspective on the Mizrahi identity that undermines the hegemonic discourse; she has become the stranger entering the stage as described by Benjamin with regard to Brecht’s epic theatre creating a possibility for recalibration. This re-appropriation creates a utopian performative moment that temporarily anticipates, in the theatrical event, the transformation of the freicha to a positive and empowering image in the social reality.
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