By now, the complaints of those protesting the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of “The Death of Klinghoffer” are well known.
The production — depicting the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish-American passenger in a wheelchair — is allegedly anti-Semitic, exploitative, hostile to Israel and sympathetic to terrorists.
But that didn’t stop some New Yorkers from enjoying a night at the opera. Hundreds poured into the Met, braving jeers, and angry chants from protesters, who gathered at ticket entrances to heckle.
One such heckler was Robert Grunstein, who greeted opera goers with the admonition, “Shame on you.”
“I just want to arouse some level of shame, to let people know they are seeing an anti-Semitic opera, in New York, where 9/11 happened,” he told JTA.
Many in the mostly middle-aged crowd appeared undisturbed, ignoring Grunstein and other protesters. A few volleyed shouts back, returning the “shame on you” sentiment, and adding other, more colorful ones.
Others said they felt unfairly judged by people who hadn’t seen the show.
One well-dressed elderly gentleman danced past the group of hecklers, singing a spirited version of “Am Yisrael Chai.” Another elderly man in a retro New York Mets jacket attempted, unsuccessfully, to engage protesters in civil discourse. He threw up his hands in frustration, finally shouting, “I’m Jewish! What you are doing is an embarrassment.”
Like this man — and presumably the dancing one — many more shared that they, too, were Jewish. More than once, protesters accused these people of being “self-hating Jews.”
A middle-aged, Russian-accented Jewish man who identified himself as Boris said he did not consider himself self-hating. He noted that there was a chance, however, that he might find the show distasteful. “I understand the issues, I just want to see it with my own eyes before making a decision,” he explained.
“It’s a work of art intended to open up a dialogue,” said another silver-haired man.
One of the younger men in the crowd countered the claim that the show glorified violence by telling protesters that their own behavior was in fact violent. And a woman who said she works in the show but wasn’t allowed to speak with the media told protesters that the show was “very gentle, beautiful.”
“There is no way you can watch it and think it is pro-PLO,” she added.