‘Why is God so judgmental?’

After a few hours of conversation, he was already Mikis. I was Ari. He asked about my son and my daughter, told me about his son and daughter. Entrusted the greatest family secrets to me. And when he tired of talking, he said now we’ll hear some music. And when he sat in the leather armchair, his feet on the footrest, Theodorakis enthusiastically conducted the stereo system by means of the remote control in his hand. When the powerful sounds flooded the room, when the hymnal music filled everything with profound, heart-shattering emotional pathos, the interviewee smiled excitedly. And he turned and stared with wet eyes at the Carmel-like landscape outside: dry pine trees, dusty cypress trees, the ancient rocky soil of Athens. «I don’t understand,» he said angrily. «I don’t understand why God has to be such a strict judge. Why is the Judeo-Christian religion so judgmental? And why does it try to implant fear in man? Why does it cause him to feel that he was born in sin? Is making love to Eve a sin? Love is the most beautiful thing there is. And if there is a God, he gave us our lives so that we would live them. Live them with our bodies. With our eyes, with our ears, with our sexual organs. And so we could celebrate this life, which is so short. And so we could say thank you for this life. Let’s thank God and dance with the women.» I look at him. He’s impressive. He’s full of life; he’s totally lucid. Although only two days ago, he left the hospital to which he is scheduled to return, he is gaining strength before my eyes. As though these conversations are doing him good. Are lifting some heavy burden from him. And when he lectures me on his thoughts about life, about love and about death, something in his presence emanates a profound human warmth. Emanates existential density. Maybe even greatness. But this charismatic man says the things he says about the Jews without any sense of how they sound. How they reverberate. And to the strains of the music that he plays for me, the entire matter becomes clear. All that lies there between Christian Europe and its Jews. This profound tragedy. This perverted intimacy. This 1,000-year saga of loving hate. Of hating love. Theodorakis cuts me off. He says that he misses the Israeli audience very much. That there’s no audience in the world like the Israeli audience. Once, after a performance in Caesarea, a senior army officer approached him and said, «If you tell us now to march into the sea, we’ll march into the sea after you.» And he asks about Yael Dayan. He really loved Yael Dayan. And he tells me about Moshe Dayan. How Moshe Dayan offered him help on the day of the colonels’ coup in Athens. He also speaks of Yigal Allon. About the heart-to-heart talks that he had with Allon on the shore of Lake Kinneret. And how it was Allon who sent him to Arafat. Sent him with a message of peace and determination to Arafat. Theodorakis plays the Palestinian anthem for me twice. Once in a vocal rendition, once in an orchestral rendition. And he bangs out the beat of the march on the floor with his walking stick. The beat of a justified struggle for liberation. And he tells me how Arafat pressured him for years to write an anthem for the Palestinians. And how, when he brought the tape with the anthem to Beirut, the members of the revolutionary council rose and cheered and cried. He composed the anthem based on a Greek partisan song. Based on a song of sacrifice sung by fighters against the Nazi regime.

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