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It takes two women to portray refusenik Ida Nudel in new play

Jan 5, 2023

“You can stop my body but you can’t stop my soul.”

Those are perhaps the most striking words out of director Tzedi Tzarfati’s latest musical production called Ida, portraying the life of famed refusenik Ida Nudel.

Currently being staged at the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv, the show began in September and plans to keep going for as long as people will turn out. The dramatic retelling of Nudel’s story has captivated audiences while teaching them about the hardship of making Aliya from the Soviet Union during the 1970s.

Nudel, a single female accountant, took an interest in the Jewish cause at the age of 41 while living in Moscow. After being denied a visa to Israel, Nudel started to foster an underground network of Soviet Jews who wanted out. She organized protests and campaigns calling out the government for unfair and antisemitic treatment and even corresponded with Jewish prisoners who were sent to prison in Siberian for simply expressing an interest in immigrating to Israel. After being fired from her job and forced to stand trial for organizing illegal underground meetings, Nudel was sent to Siberia for four years. Though she was given the opportunity to be released early if she would make a public apology, Nudel refused and finished her sentence in –40°C weather.

Her tenacity could be felt all over the stage, as 43-year-old actress Riki Blich effortlessly reproduced Nudel’s tough-as-nails character during her years in the Soviet Union. Israeli legend Gila Almagor played an older Nudel, the version of her character as Israel viewed her after she finally made it to Israel.