Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paul Simon in Israel

I had to get away from all this horrid male energy. It was like every male in my family thought they were right ranging from my 4 year old grandson who was screaming in the elevator and we're like "Why are you screaming?".  He tells us, "I'm not screening!!!" surprised at our accusation, to hubby who was sitting comfortably in his chair on Friday night, while we were all sweating profusely. The air conditioner was on at its lowest setting and blowing warm air out.  We're all telling him it's not working and he's sitting there looking like the man from the Mr. Clean bottle, with his hands across his chest, telling us that it's fine, it's working and there's nothing wrong with it.  It's just that we're on the top floor and that's why it's spewing warm air.  I didn't buy that ruse and told him I'll get a professional to look at it myself.  He is totally insulted at the audacity of thinking that he might be wrong and leaves the table.


No better place to flee to, than a concert from an American superstar in Tel Aviv.  I'm about to go to see Paul Simon concert in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park.  The hot sauna weather in Tel Aviv doesn't bother me anymore.  My friend from New York tells me she met him once in the 70s and he was rude.  I listened to his latest album and I felt that he was more spiritual these days.  I tell my friend that many were obnoxious when they were younger, especially in the 70s, but that he must have mellowed out with age.  Surely he can't be like the men in my family.

I get on the bus to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem and get to the train station in Tel Aviv - the quickest way to the stadium.  I'm wiping gum off my ass that someone left on the bus seat and I hadn't noticed when I first sat down, as I'm running to catch a train the ticket woman says is leaving in two minutes.    I sought refuge in the beautiful Ayalon Mall right next to the stadium.  I never knew this mall existed and I discovered  it was an air-conditioned haven for most of the concert goers who did not want to sit out in the heat an hour before the concert started.

My friend, with whom I bought the tickets, had just landed from a trip to the US, 2 1/2 hours before the concert began and had one of her kids drive her to the stadium straight from the airport.  Half hour before the show, we ventured bravely out into the Tel Aviv humidity and went to our spots.  We found that though we bought the cheapest seats, we weren't too far from the stage because the stage was situated in the middle of the stadium rather than the far end.  We splurged for expensive beers.   Though the heat is unbearable no one is allowed into the stadium with water.  Strange and horrible rule, but the cold beer did the trick.

"Do you want to hear the setlist?"  I asked my friend.

"You have the setlist?  No, I don't want to hear it.  It's like knowing what you're gonna have before you give birth."

Once Paul came on with his band - I think he won the audience over immediately.  The band was terrific and he was in tip top shape.  I was surprised that he doesn't sound any older than he did 40 years ago, the way other singers do.  Even Paul McCartney can't reach those high notes any longer.  Paul Simon launched into Slip Sliding Away in the middle of the set.

"This is sorta like Hatikva, isn't it?"  my friend noted.  I nodded.  Sort of.  An iconic song it was, but once he came back for his encore and began with a beautiful solo of Sounds of Silence, I said to my friend - "Now THAT's Hatikva!!"  If the crowd was polite and laid back until now, they were really getting into his renditions of that and Here Comes the Sun, which he sang as if it were his own song. When he sang You Can Call Me Al, it seemed as if everyone in the stadium got up to sing and dance.  The Boxer was the last song and he sang it as a prayer for peace in our region addressing us with a Shalom Aleichem and Salaam Aleikum.  He seemed grateful for the show of appreciation from the audience and I must say, it was one of the most enjoyable concerts I've ever gone to.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In the Tent of Sarah and Hagar

I know where I'm most comfortable and that is being a nowhere woman.  I don't feel comfortable in anti-Arab right wing political groups and I don't feel comfortable in anti-occupation left wing groups.  I don't feel comfortable in anything that smacks of "anti".  I'm anti anti. So whenever an opportunity arises for an event that brings people together without the anger and the politics, I'm usually there.

Yesterday I travelled with the Jerusalem Peacemakers to Fareidis, an Arab village across from the picturesque Jewish town of Zichron Yaakov.  I saw on the Facebook event  that only 5 people responded and thought - well, won't this be an intimate gathering.  I left work 1/2 hour early and there were about 5 or 6 people on the bus.  I'm like - okay, let's go then.  But after 10 minutes the bus filled up with Orthodox and secular Jews, Arabs from Hebron and Beit Ummar - some who brought their families, and Christian sponsors with their families.  People I didn't think knew about this event, knew about this event and I was so happy to see them.  On the way, I spoke with Taleb, my "brother" from Idna, near Hebron.  He was so excited about the past weekend he spent with 25 Israeli and 25 Palestinian teachers, all wanting to take the "hate" and the non-recognition of the other, out of their curriculums.  That put me in a good mood, despite stopping at the "express" coffee shop at the rest stop where they robbed me of my hard earned money by charging me a fortune for a small bottle of water and a tiny square of nash.

We went up the mountain to Ibtisam's home where the view was spectacular and the air heavy with light humidity, us mountain people living in Jerusalem and Hebron are not used to any humidity.  There were dozens more people who met us there so our numbers swelled to about 80 people. The speeches made by Rabbis, Imams, Sheikhs and Pastors were uplifting and they blessed the newly coronated Tent of Sarah and Hagar, where I heard that since the Jewish temples were destroyed by baseless hatred, here we will have baseless love.  We will love just for the sake of loving.  And that the there is an illusion in our country that we are not one family, when in fact, the Children of Abraham - Arabs and Jews in particular - are indeed one family.  And laughing together, talking together, eating together, sweating together and making new friends -  I definitely felt it that night.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Film Festival

The summer heat is on and I am back at the annual Jerusalem Film Festival.  It's not Cannes, but for Israel it's the closest thing.  I'm sitting at the Cinemateque having a bulgarit cheese sandwich with pesto and basil at the kiosk inside and am watching cameramen and photographers chase people I don't recognize.  I don't care that I don't recognize local celebs.  I'm more interested in watching the elegantly dressed people.  It's a fashion show here and a joy for a people-watcher like myself. 

I didn't buy as many tickets as I did last year.  I'm on a tighter budget this year.  I took my son to the opening film Super 8, at the beautiful open-air Sultan's Pool, getting us free tickets by asking people at the gate if they had any extra tickets.  Usually many complimentary tickets are given out to groups, like the police force, and not everyone goes.  My son was highly embarrassed watching me grovel for tickets and moved several meters away from me as I did my thing.  He gave me a dirty look from where he was sitting and called me on my cell.

"I'm leaving soon.  You are embarrassing me!"

"Stick around son.  I've been doing this for years.  It takes me about 1/2 an hour, but I always get tickets."

He hung up on me and sure enough, a few minutes later, I got us two free tickets.

I phoned him back.

"Happy?  The guy doesn't even know us, so what is there to be embarrassed about?" I told my boy, as he didn't want to go in at the same time as our benefactor.

I appeased him by buying him stir fried noodles at the food stands inside.  There was free popcorn too.  As last year, they cut down on the pre-screening entertainment - no bands, no singers, no fireworks, just speeches for an hour.  I warned my son about this.  I had to, or he wouldn't wait for the movie to begin.   I enjoyed the Spielberg-produced movie about youngsters filming a train crash and the action/suspense resulting from it and I think my son did so too, although he would have preferred to watch Scream 10 on the giant screen.

Saturday I hitched into Jerusalem for my traditional day at the film festival and saw Sing Your Song about the life of Harry Belafonte.  The woman sitting next to me apologized to me in case she happens to sing along to his tunes off-key.

Now Harry B. has got to be the handsomest 84 year old man I have ever seen in my life!  Not only that, but I never knew what a wonderful civil rights activist he was until now and what a guy.  The early documentary  footage was excellent. How scandalous it was with him holding hands with white women in the 50s and 60s.

I remember when living in Toronto that we had invited his niece who was a "Belfont" who was an Orthodox Jew (I guess his brother converted to Judaism) to our home for Shabbat lunch or dinner which ended when she and her friend called my husband an "asshole" and walked out of our home. So I was curious to know more about Harry.  After the film an older woman remarked to a guy selling subscriptions to the financial paper, theMarker, what a wonderful movie it was.  As if he gave a fuck.  He just wants to sell his papers.  I did find the film inspiring and I told her so.  She looks at me, a stranger talking to her, as if I'm the crazy one..

Then I saw a film - If Not Us, Who? - an interesting German film about the early life of the German terrorists from the Baader-Meinhoff gang, focusing on Baader in the latter part of the film.

The third film Archipelago, was a tiring, boring British film.  One of my friends enjoyed it, the others, including me, thought it was torture to sit through.  "You don't understand the British" my friend who liked the film told me...."they're like this."  Not my British friends.  They're more the Monty Python or rocker types.

I saw Blagues a Part - a French filmmaker wanders throughout Palestine looking for Palestinian humor.  Also an enjoyable documentary.  

The last film I saw was The Way Back.  I thought it was excellent, beautifully filmed -  about escaped prisoners from Siberia making their way through Siberia, to Mongolia, through the Gobi desert, to China, to Tibet towards India.  A must-see for history/travel buffs.