I know, with the beautiful warm weather you would think summer is coming. But, tomorrow, April 17, is the 10-year anniversary of the release of the show, Game of Thrones
. Over 23 million Americans watched the show during its run. If you were a non-watcher of the show, I will save you five minutes and say read no further and wait for next week
Basically, nine noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros. Political and sexual intrigue is pervasive. Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros, asks his old friend, Lord Eddard Stark, to serve as Hand of the King, or highest official. Secretly warned that the previous Hand was assassinated, Eddard accepts in order to investigate further. Meanwhile, Queen Cersei Lannister's family may be hatching a plot to take power. Across the sea, the last members of the previous and deposed ruling family, the Targaryens, are also scheming to regain the throne. The friction between the houses Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, and Targaryen and with the remaining houses Greyjoy, Tully, Arryn, Tyrell, and Martell leads to full-scale war. All while an ancient evil awakens in the farthest north. Amidst the war and political confusion, a neglected military order of misfits, the Night's Watch, is all that stands between the realms of men and icy horrors beyond. Got it?
What you may or may not have realized is that there are Jewish themes and connections throughout the show’s run:
- Both writers for the show are Jewish. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss met while studying literature at Trinity College Dublin in 1995 — and, according to Weiss, bonded over the fact that they were “two American Jews in Dublin” with “no Irish roots of any kind.”
- Actress Laura Pradelska, who portrayed the mysterious shadowbinder Quaithe, has spoken openly about her family’s story of survival during the Holocaust. Pradelska recalled how her father’s mother, Klara Stern, discovered both her parents and seven-month-old son were murdered by the Nazis, before she was deported to Auschwitz and later forced onto a death march. Her maternal grandmother, Esther Schultz, also survived the Holocaust, having managed to secure forged Aryan papers because of her “beautiful blond, blue-eyed looks and the ability to speak Polish without a Yiddish accent.” She was able to smuggle food into the ghetto for her family and later, at much personal risk, saved the lives of her sister and her two young nieces.
- Several of the characters in the show resembled Jewish figures in the Torah. Daenerys Targaryen has a story similar to Moses. As a baby she was separated from her people. She spends most of the story wandering in the desert and freeing slaves. Missandei is Aaron, helping Daenerys get her message across, and Jorah is Moses’s sister Miriam, right down to the leprosy-like affliction.
- At the same time, Jon Snow can also be viewed as Moses. He is a warrior of noble character, a brave defender of the weak, and a leader of uncertain lineage, raised by a king – who, it turns out, is not his father after all. Both men exhibit righteousness, loyalty, leadership, a solitary nature, and an occasional stubborn or angry streak.
- Jon Snow also performs the mitzvah of “welcoming the stranger” (not “The Stranger,” one of the seven “new” gods worshipped in Westeros), but rather refugees and those in need of help. Snow does this mitzvah as lord commander of the Night’s Watch, tasked with guarding the 700-foot-high wall of ice that protects Westeros’s northern border. Knowing that the Wildlings who live on the “wrong” side of the wall will be killed and reanimated as an undead army by the supernatural White Walkers if he does not help them, Jon ignores the historical precedent of previous lord commanders to do what he knows is right. He lets the Wildlings past the wall and settles them in the North. Jon then gets (briefly) murdered by the Night’s Watch for this “betrayal” – a true act of self-sacrifice. I am confident when the original script was written it described Jon Snow as a mensch.
- Over eight seasons, the filming locations were incredible, including places with strong Jewish connections. Pentos, one of the free cities of Western Essos is in fact Ouarzazate, Morocco, which has an age-old Jewish cemetery and is the burial place of 2nd Century sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Morocco’s Essaouira, home to a once-thriving Jewish quarter dating from the 1700s, also doubles up for Astapor, known as the Red City. Meanwhile, the Long Bridge of Volantis was filmed at The Roman Bridge in Cordoba, Spain, birthplace of Maimonides. Elsewhere, Mdina, Malta was chosen as the location for the King’s Landing Gate. Jewish merchants once made up one third of Malta’s ancient capital and to this day, there is a street with Hebrew signs pointing to “The Old Jewish Silk Market.”
- If you are a student of Westerosi and Israeli history, you might have noticed some of the dialogue seems familiar:
- “We make peace with our enemies, not our friends,” by Tyrion Lannister sounds like Moshe Dayan saying, "If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
- And Cersei Lannister said, “People will whisper…let them. They are all so small I cannot even see them. I only see what matters.” Seems similar to David Ben-Gurion stating, “It doesn’t matter what the world says about Israel; it doesn’t matter what they say about us anywhere else.”
Now, I am sure many of you are more knowledgeable about the show and may have found other Jewish connections. Feel free to share. But what I love the most is either by design or serendipity shows like this have such great Jewish flavor.
I would be remiss if I did not mention National Volunteer Week
is April 18-24. THANK YOU
to those who inspire us through your service by lending your time, talent, and voice to making a difference in our local Jewish communal organizations and throughout the metro region.
Enjoy the sunshine and no worries that “winter is coming.” Shabbat shalom!