August 31, 2007

A quote

Grégoire Ponceludon de Malavoy in Ridicule by Patrice Leconte - after seeing his hopes of draining the swamps his peasants die in vanish after he is the victim of a cutting remark deemed "worthy of Voltaire":

[Speaking to the crowd laughing at him]
Children will die tomorrow...
because you ridicule me today.
You envy Voltaire's wit.
He would have wept.
He was ridiculously compassionate.
Whose turn is next?
Who gets lashed with wit so sharp
his whole family reels?
You, perhaps?
Unless you get the chance
to lash your neighbor first.

[Turning to the author of the cutting remark]
Take off your mask!
We all want to know who coined
''Marquis des Antipodes.''

[Back to the crowd]
I'm going back to my swamps...
where I belong.
I'll build my canals and dikes
I'll dig mud with my bare hands.

Quote extracted from the scripts and transcripts website Script-O-Rama.

A wonderful place

I warmly recommend the Israeli movie "A wonderful place" by Eyal Halfon (איזה מקום נפלא, by איל חלפון).

It is similar in it's structure to Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel, if you've heard about that movie: three seemingly independent stories turn out to be tied one to another. But as much as I hated Babel, I loved A wonderful place. And as much as Iñárritu used human suffering to carry political ideas and teach us compassion while being everything but compassionate, Eyal Halfon tells a story with humour and compassion without giving us any lessons. And note that A wonderful place appeared before Babel.

The stories: Young Russian women are smuggled through the Egyptian border into Israel to be exploited as prostitutes, their passports confiscated. The Thaï workers in a kibboutz of the Arava valley save every penny they earn but celebrating the King's birthday is a priority; meanwhile, their boss is having a miserable and lonely life. And an old man makes the lives of both his son and his male Filipino nurse miserable with his tantrums.

Among the inhumane situations that society generates, chance, kindness and compassion sometimes meet. The world is - sometimes - a wonderful place.

August 15, 2007

More end to the endless frustrations?

One of my earlier posts asked: "The end of the frustrations?"

I know that in life, when you are lucky enough to have a full stomach, you feel satisfied. When I fold my clean laundry I feel satisfaction. When I get a haircut, I feel satisfaction. But all these are just a joke that nature (God?) plays on us: hunger comes back quickly, the laundry gets dirty and the hair grows back. So what's the value of our satisfaction?

Do you remember this quote from the Coen brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There:
Ed: Frank.
Frank: Huh?
Ed: This hair.
Frank: Yeah.
Ed: You ever wonder about it?
Frank: Whuddya mean?
Ed: I don't know... How it keeps on coming. It just keeps growing.
Frank: Yeah-lucky for us, huh, pal?
Ed: No, I mean it's growing, it's part of us. And we cut it off. And we throw it away.
Frank: Come on, Eddie, you're gonna scare the kid.
Ed: ...I'm gonna take his hair and throw it out in the dirt.
Frank: What the...
Ed: I'm gonna mix it with common house dirt.
Frank: What the hell are you talking about?
Ed: I don't know. Skip it.
Anyway, I think it's time for me to go to sleep or dawn will catch me before I finish writing nonsense.

And the piece of information is buried here: I received an Israeli ID! Am I proud? No, but happy. With this my integration in Israel goes one step further. Note that I'm not yet a citizen and I don't even know if I'll choose to become one.

Hebron - Tel Aviv

Hebron. The complex situation in Hebron cannot be easily summarized. I refer you to the Wikipedia article and my previous post. The group Bnei Avraham which I already mentioned in that post is active in supporting the Palestinians whose rights are impeded upon by the colonization (i.e. the settlers as persons and the security measures of the Israeli police and army that their presence has directly or indirectly triggered).
Friday before I left for a vacation, Bnei Avraham organized several actions in Hebron, including a joint one with "Rabbis for Human Rights", two tours for the public with "Shovrim Shtika" and an action in support of the Gaabri family. I took part to the latter one.
Background: Qiryat Arba is the large settlement just outside Hebron; between it and the nearest Jewish settlement inside the city itself, Giv'at Haavot, is a stretch of land owned by the Gaabri family. Check the map where you see the settlements and the area between Kiryat Arba and Givat Haavot which is already "sterilized", i.e. closed to car traffic for Palestinians. The settlers, on top of the official security measures, are harassing the inhabitants, in particular the Gaabri family, to frighten them into abandoning their home. The obvious goal is to unite Givat Haavot with Qiryat Arba, in view of which they have already built illegally a tent-synagogue called Hazon David on Gaabri's stretch of land (the structure has been destroyed several times by the IDF and rebuilt every time before the next morning by the settlers)
Here is what Bnei Avraham was informed of and the trigger for Friday's action:

About two month ago settlers in Hebron invaded the land of Abdul Kharim el
Gaabri who lives right below 'Givat Haavot' in Hebron. The family asked the
settlers to leave but instead they opened fire. At the end the father and his
son were arrested and no action was taken to investigate the settlers or even
pick the cartriges of the gun fire. Both father and son were bailed out with [Bnei Avraham's]
help but have to stand in court in few months.

The action consisted in meeting the family to show our support, going on their land and clearing the field which is full of weed to prepare for planting (the family hasn't been able to cultivate the land for the last 12 years). Any plantations will most likely be uprooted overnight by the settlers so what's the point? Our main goal was to materialize a Supreme Court order which states explicitly that the Gaabri family has the right to cultivate the land. Indeed this right is not acknowleged as it should be: the police came asking everyone to leave, then, only after being shown and explained the Supreme Court decision, let us work (and even encouraged settlers to mind their own business when they wanted to challenge us), but refused to let us post a sign reading "Private Property" at the end.
I have no way of double-checking Bnei Avraham's information, I didn't read by myself the Supreme Court decision but it seems clear that serious injustice is happening, that the role of the police is really problematic to keep things as quiet as possible by arresting people who are weakest instead of protecting the rights of the weak and that is not acceptable.


Cinema. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud is the depiction of an individual destiny (that of Satrapi), from her childhood in Iran before the Revolution, to life under the Islamic regime, her first attempt at expatriation in Austria and finally her exile in France. The graphics of this animated movie and the score convey the story very efficiently and I was definitely moved.
Cartouches Gauloises by Mehdi Charef takes place in the months leading to the independence of Algeria. I am no judge as to how faithful to the events the movie is. The overall picture tries hard to be balanced, between the atrocities committed by the French army and how they abandoned the "Harkis" (the Algerians who had fought for them), the terrorist attacks of the fellaghas and how they took revenge on all those who had collaborated with the French - in the background the good will of many ordinary French and Algerians who lived together peacefully. But the mixture of violence and a cute nostalgic story leads to strange situations. A 10-year-old French girl escaped when the fellaghas stormed her family's house. When she returns and finds her parents dead, she packs a suitcase, looks unsuccessfully for her cat and goes: this is a little bit too much of a shortcut for me.

Exhibitions. At the "Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris", I recommend the exhibition on Aleksandr Rodchenko. This Soviet photographer who spent only three months of his life outside of Russia had a very interesting evolution. The exhibition is chronological and shows how he started with painting and quickly took on photography, collages and graphic design. During the 20s he made fascinating portraits, contributed to avant-garde art magazines and invented his style of building and city photography. But I could almost feel the political pressure grow on him and the 30s and 40s gradually castrated the artist he was. Only in his last years did a shadow of himself reappear, a fascination from his childhood for circus and theater lead him back to some shy experiments back in the aesthetic realm.

Weegee at the "Musée Maillol" is very interesting too. A specialist of dead bodies in New York City, Weegee also directed his camera to the architecture of the Big Apple, the sleeping children and homeless people, the rich and the poor, the whites and the blacks, the bagel delivery man before dawn and the crowd of beach goers at midday. Eventually, we get a fascinating image of the city, and a visual style which is now history.

Tourism. The village of Vézelay and the Abbaye de Fontenay are both highly recommended. Unexpected as it may be, a friend I was travelling encouraged me to take pictures so I'll try to post them soon!

August 05, 2007

Les visages pâles motorisés

D'après cette dépêche de l'Associated Press :
Ce samedi, à la mi-journée, les visages pâles motorisés ont établi un nouveau "record": 842km de bouchons.
Quel style ! Quelle inventivité ! Les "visages pâles motorisés", c'est vous, c'est nous !

Comme dirait Philippe Meyer: "Je vous souhaite le bonjour, nous vivons une époque moderne."

August 01, 2007

The end of frustrations?

Finding a home in Jerusalem. 961 meters from and to the Lev Smadar cinema: I am happy to announce that I signed for an apartment! I love the small house in pinkish stone, the neighborhood, Katamon, and nearby German Colony, the terrace and it's view, the quiet street with trees on my side of the apartment. I'll be sharing the apartment with a young Israeli, Liran. I think I learnt a lot in the process of looking for an apartment: how and where students live, how to judge , how people segregate according to . At least I like to see it that way. Fortunately, there are still many things I have to learn in my new life in Israel and the neighboring countries.

The Borderline. I can't say I really noticed anything special about the bar in itself but, as it's name suggests, it has a great particularity: it is located almost on the (former?) Green Line, north of the old city. Which means? That neither those who live East nor those who live West need wonder how they will get home. The public? Expats, Palestinians (technically residents of Jerusalem, I guess), left-wing Israelis (and your servant unless you want to put him in one aforementioned categories).

Abu Issa. My friend Cheyenne lives with two other expats in a house in Ras El-Amud, a district of East Jerusalem overlooking the Mount of Olives and the Old City. I was invited to join them and meet their landlord, Abu Issa, who was offering dinner. In the course of the conversation, the wealth and customs of the various peoples of the Middle East were compared. Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Jordanians, even Yemen and the Gulf States got into the conversation. The Israelis were not mentioned once. The 48 and 67 wars were indeed mentioned as such but the Israelis as a people with their customs, psyche, successes: not a mention. On the other side I could very well imagine a conversation between Israelis on the compared merits of the Israelis of German, Polish, Moroccan, Iraqi, French or Russian descent without a single mention of Palestinians. Israelis have to realize that they live in the Middle East. If a European or American visits Israel and feels at home something's wrong. Arabs also have to get acquainted with their relatively new neighbors. The food was delicious; I'd love to meet Abu Issa again and exchange with him.

A good man. I think it has to be written: some people are really gentlemen. Background: When you come to Israel and want to work, you need to become a citizen or get a work permit. If you are Jewish and can prove it, both can be arranged very quickly by applying to the Jewish Agency, which is what I did. If you are not, it's another story. Your employer should apply to the Ministry of Interior and the approval procedure takes about 12 weeks, if everything goes well. I know an employer who chose the long procedure, for a Jewish employee, because he didn't want the employee to be in the situation where he needs to prove that he's Jewish. A gentleman.