Israel arguably has two indigenous peoples, and as Shakespeare wrote, “aye, there’s the rub.” This is the dilemma another bard, Stephanie Liss, explores in “On Holy Ground,” two one act plays that premiered November 18 at the The Met Theatre in Los Angeles. The first, “Daughter of My People,” stars Salome Jens as Henrietta Szold, a rabbi’s daughter born in 1860 Baltimore. Sitting onstage in a chair with Julie Simpson’s sparsely decorated set suggesting Jerusalem, Jens convincingly unfolds Szold’s saga. Frustrated in romance, Szold sublimates her love when she sails to the Holy Land. There, the Zionist is appalled by Jewish conditions in Ottoman-ruled Palestine. “The land of milk and honey was in everyone’s hands but the Jews,” she laments.
Szold resolves to help her downtrodden people. Upon returning to New York she meets with other women and they found Hadassah, an organization that provides social services in Palestine for Jews as well as Arabs. Horrified after visiting “Hitler’s Berlin,” the aging activist helps organize Youth Aliyah, rescuing 30,000 Jewish children from the Nazis’ clutches. Although Szold died childless, Act One could very well be entitled “Mother of My People.”