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Godforsaken Palestine

A Play in One Act with Two Scenes

by Alfred de Grazia

Copyright © 2001 by Alfred de Grazia

The play is set on the fourteenth floor rear of the Toy and Games Center Building on Broadway near Union Square in Manhattan, New York City. There Sam Cole (né Cohen) and Abe Robbins (né Rubinsky), partners for fifty years in Robbins and Cole Toys, are closing their business to retire and are sorting out the last few items in an almost empty large room. There is a long work table obliquely and front to the left of stage. On it stand a dozen toys. And an old fax machine. But they are agitated and perplexed as the play opens. They have received an offer for their Moon-baby from Barker's Corporation that they almost can't refuse.

Sam: Now look, please, Abe. No more talk, no more argument. We quit, we don't want to go back - one thing leads to another. It's only a fax, it's not a contract, and for peanuts. It'll take months to know anything.

You wanna follow it up, you go ahead, but you're on your own. I'm off to Tel Aviv.

Abe: O.K. You quit, I quit, though you're stupid to go to Israel when you could be going to Miami. You've got relatives there, friends, we both got friends there. Where do you think you can find such friends -Harold, Russell, Lew, Lennie, just think of them, aren't you gonna miss seeing them, maybe never again -we're not getting any younger, you know. Horse races, pinocle, sure it's hot sometimes but nothing like Israel. And you can sleep at night without nightmares about Arabs.

What about this? Are you sure you don't want this? (holding up a Trojan Horse and spilling out Greek soldiers).

What about this jumping clock, you wannit? It made us a fortune in 1964.

Sam: No listen, Abe, I got enough to carry. I am entering a new phase of life. No more toys. I'm not even telling people I was in the toy business. Life is serious over there.

Abe: Horseshit. People are the same everywhere..

Sam: If they are the same everywhere how come your friends are all Jews.

Abe: Not all of them. Jim Sampson ain't, Joe Solo ain't. Anyhow there are so many jews around here that one mixes with them naturally. And that's the way Miami is and that's why I like Miami too.

Sam: Well, there you are- it's not as if there're no Jews in Israel.

Abe: Yeah, well I'll tell you something Sam, they're not our kind of people.

Sam: Of course they are.

Abe: Not so much as here. We're American Jews. We're Jewish Americans. We're different. Look Abe, practically everything has happened to us the same, but it happened over a hundred years ago and ever since we've been changing. Our music, our speech, our ways of doing business, our garments, our children -god bless them -- even our politics, why we know Jews who are Republicans!

I think Jews should stop acting like Jews.

Sam: They try, but the only sure way is to buy all your clothes at L.L.Bean, but then there's an automatic brake - up to a certain point, and whoosh, your 're a Jew again, for better or worse. At least in Israel, you can't be anything but a Jew, so there is no use trying, or worrying, or trying to be what you aren't.

Abe: Wait till your granddaughter comes home with an Ethiopian, then you'll see who is a Jew and who is not a Jew. At least in America, she comes up with a Bulgarian like you or a Rumanian like me, or even a Polak, or even a Frenchified Algerian, somebody who's been here a while, they're all Americans, you know what they're thinking, and eating -even if they swear they ain't Jewish, you can be comfortable with them. You know what school they went to.

Sam: Look, Abe, you can't persuade me. For me the Jew is the Torah, Moses, the Law, the old stories, the pogroms, the genius, the people who are just as mean to others as the others are mean to them. You get in trouble with a Russian in Israel, you treat him like a Jew. You cheat him, you kick him the ass, you don't have to feel bad or scared, he gets whatever he deserves.

Abe: And what about the other people there, the Christians, the Arabs, you kick them in the ass too. There are more Arabs in Palestine than gentiles in New York. and if you think you can't get used to the way some of them act here, just think of how the Palestinians act over there. And it can't get but worse.

Sam: I can get used to anything.

Abe: I just can't understand you, Sam. This has been going on for twenty years now, you packing up to go to Israel. Do you really know what the people are like over there? You went to a couple of conventions, you went to see Levin when he got out of Russia. You can't read Hebrew worth shit. You don't observe the Sabbath. You're a lousy kind of Jew, Sam, and after a while over there you'll just be worse. Give me a year and we won't be talking to each other, us, like brothers. Why if it wasn't for the Arabs holding them togther by sheer desperation, they'd be divided into a dozen tribes out to murder each other. The Jews have been self-destruct since Adam, and they'd blow up in your face the moment the Palestinians quit.

Sam: Hey, remember 1966, the best toy of the year, remember? I lied to you. I have it in my suitcase, the little darling.

Abe: I remember every toy we ever made. How many are still here, on the table, maybe 10% of them. Here's a favorite of mine. He slects up one off the table. I wonder where that Russell Emporium pick-up guy is, he shoulda been here an hour ago. We gotta get out of here. (Have models of toys on their table, which made the most money, which toy was their favorite and most clever. Electronic age has caught up with them and they are old. Their toys are big and blowsy or noisy and flashing lights from time to time from clumsy batteries or wired plug-ins.)

Sam: Ain't it funny, Abe, some of these toys sold for a buck apiece and now t hey've become antiques and they'll be in Russell's store selling for a hundred.

(There's a knock on the door and a worker comes in with a hand-wagon)

Speak of the devil. Where you bin, my friend? Was expecting you an hour ago.

Worker: What's the hurry, what's the rush?

Call for me, you get a lush.

The toys are placed in the hand cart.

Abe: Yeah, well, take care of those works of art, Mister, they're not toys any more they're antiques. (He slips the man a ten dollar bill. As the man finishes and leaves, Abe puts his arm around Sam and sobs. The worker looks at him queerly on his way out.

Sam plays tough: Yeah, I know, Abe, but save the tears for Israel.

Sam acts jocular: "Did you know, Abe, that in Greece you can't be put in jail if you're over 70 years old. And there's no capital punishment. You can murder your partner.

Abe, recovering, smiles: You shoulda told me that when I turned Seventy.

Scene 3.

The fax machine starts to operate. They hover over it, curious. Sam rips out the paper. He turns pale and says, They really want it, look for yourself, fifteen thousand on the finished model and 10% royalty!

They argue fiercely:

Sam: We can't begin again.

Abe: We could do it.

Sam: No we couldn't, it's not only one thing, it's a hundred things to do and still a risk, for a few bucks.

Abe: Let's just sell it to my nephew for the advance and he can take the royalty, I'm sure he'll do it and we'll be finished with it.

Sam: No. (Agitated) I'll stick, and we'll do it together. Cohen and Rabinsky ride again!

Whereupon Sam staggers, clutches his chest and slumps to his knees in a heart attack. He dies on the spot. Abe can't revive him. He straightens his body out. He pumps his ribs. He tries blowing air into his mouth He sticks his head out in the hall and yells for help. Help! Call a Doctor! Several people come in, but only to assure him that Abe is dead. More people come in and gather around, speaking in low tones.

Abe looks, stares, walks about frenziedly making up his mind, he elbows in to pick up the phone book on the desk above Sam's body.

A person says: Did you call 911.? It's 911 you call.

The audience imagines he is calling emergency aid.

Oh, what's the matter with this line, what's going on?'' .

Hello, El Al? Is this El Al? Listen, my name is Abe Robbins. Put me on a plane for Israel for Thursday.

Pause. The people are looking strangely at each other.

Whaddaya mean no tickets? (Pause)

So there's a big party from the Toy show closing, returning.

Well listen, I am canceling for a friend, yeah, Sam Cole, yeah, he can't make it, so put me in his seat. (Pause)

OK. Look. Don't give me a hard time. I'm his partner - I should know - Abe Robbins, that's it....(Pause)

OK, alright, just hold on now, don't go away and I'll get you his ticket number. "Sam -- he pretends to call -- Sam, let me have your ticket so I can give her the number."

He is meanwhile stretching across to Sam's body and searching the pockets for the ticket. He has it.

"Thanks, Sam." Now, get it, here's the ticket number that he's canceling. 1997500-23-ABB-Z190-4A77-509. Got it? (Pause) No, No -- he repeats the full number - 509, yes, 509.

No, don't give me anything.

Don't tell me how great it is in Israel, how I will enjoy myself.

I know all that. I don't want to enjoy myself.

Just give me a ticket . (Pause)

No, nobody, I don't belong to anybody's party.

I'll be alone,.. I'll be all alone.

He breaks into sobs and hangs up. People look at each other helplessly, and begin to exit. One woman says to another as they leave, You know, they were just getting ready to retire! What a Shame! I didn't know that both of them were moving to Israel.

More sobs.


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