Why Ben-Gurion cooked eggs for Ze'ev Jabotinsky

By Simon Round, May 3, 2012

It started with the surreal image of a legendary Zionist leader cooking an omelette for his greatest rival.

When celebrated Israeli writer AB Yehoshua heard about the culinary summit between David Ben-Gurion and revisionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky, he was inspired to write a play about the encounter. It receives its first English-language performance in London next week.

Mr Yehoshua, speaking from his home in Israel, explained: "When I discovered that Ben-Gurion had cooked an omelette for Jabotinsky during meetings the two had in 1934, this was the literary spark for me."

The play, Can Two Walk Together? has been donated to the New Israel Fund for an Independence Day celebration event, a rehearsed reading at the Royal Society of Medicine. The reading, by two National Theatre actors, Adrian Schiller as B-G and Michael Mears as Jabotinsky, will be the first performance of the play internationally, with a Hebrew premiere due to open in Tel Aviv on May 17.

UJIA's programme and planning director David Janner-Klausner translated the piece for the charity performance, directed by Richard Beecham.

Jews did not understand the cata-strophe in store

Mr Yehoshua said: "I was very happy about this because the discussions actually happened in London. It's half documented, half imagined. These were two of the greatest leaders the Zionist movement has ever had, coming together in secret. Neither of them told his comrades about the meeting. They were trying to reconcile their ideological differences and to make a peaceful agreement."

One of the subjects discussed by the two was the rise of Hitler in Germany. Mr Yehoshua said: "How much did they feel the threat which was to come? No one knew about the death camps, but Jabotinsky took a hard line. He wanted to force the British to open the gates to thousands of Jews, especially from Poland. I see myself as a Zionist and deplore the fact that during the 1920s and 1930s, Jews did not understand the catastrophe that was waiting for them, and did not travel to Eretz Israel."

The issue of aliyah is still a live one for Mr Yehoshua. "There is very little aliyah to Israel now. We need people. You cannot understand how much we need people demographically. Unfortunately the country is being led by a government which is leading us little by little to a bi-national state. This will be a disaster - the destruction of the Zionist dream."

But despite his strong beliefs he did not wish to argue with diaspora Jews. "They get angry with me. They say, we are Jews just like you. But I think to come to Israel is to upgrade your Jewishness. However, we are all brothers and our arguments are in the family."

Last updated: 3:26pm, October 16 2012