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Leon's No Newsletter 230 Drama in Shderot

Some news about my exciting daily doings.

At the beginning of July, nearly 2 weeks since I’d written my last no newsletter (229) I was guiding a charming family with twin 6 year olds, Sammy and Eden. Up hill and down dale they kept up with me, visiting a kabalistic artist and beer maker in Safed, the caves of Rosh Hanikra, Richard the Lion Heart's castle in Acre, family in Nahallal, Dan nature reserve, Banias waterfall, boating on the Kinneret and lots more and in between I saw the movies of Sapir College students at the 14th annual Shederot film festival

As an alcoholic dreams of his next swig, I dream of my next film festival. One can spend a whole week watching great movies just as one can spend a whole bottle drinking great swigs. Sad to say my time only allows me one day of movies (it’s the same with whisky), so I must make a choice. Usually this is easy with the internet; I find 5 or 6 movies that I want to see on my movie day and reserve a seat at each one, then I’m off, happy in the knowledge of the name of the movie and that I have a seat.

Shderot was different; for the life of me, even surfing until I was almost drowning in internet, I could not find a program or a schedule, all the website told me is that this was the 14th annual film festival and it started on the 7th June and ended on the 11th June and that the first movie began at 9:30 am, so riding the 437 to Ashkelon, then a sherut to Shderon, I wondered what I would see and if I would have a place to sit.

I managed to see 4 films and eat a great lunch of Morrocan goulash at my favorite Shderot restaurant, before my time was up, then grumblingly I scampered through the Negev dust to catch my bus on the 1st stage of my 3 stage, 3 hour bus ride back to Jerusalem.

Being in the hottest war zone in Israel, I would expect a student at Sapir College, in Shderot (3km from Gaza) to produce a movie about the war here or living in the shadow of war, but none of my 4 films was about war, quite the opposite; they were about mundane, typical peace time social problems, found in any society, not necessarily in a society on the front lines: old age, the generation gap and the fate of an illegitimate child.

There was one movie which could be called a war movie, In the Fog, produced in Germany, which I saw only partly during a half hour break from my other movies. It was a slow moving story, very well done, about the execution of a simple man, wrongfully suspected of treason. There were some unforgettable scenes, like the executioner, before we, the audience knew that he was to be the executioner and so sympathized with him as he carried his companion through swamp, an effort of great self sacrifice. Probably introduced to show that he was actually a decent sort, but still had to carry out the execution.

I returned to Jerusalem, however feeling that I had been well and truly entertained, firstly because the quality of all the movies was superb but secondly and just as important, the cost was minimal, about IS100 including travel and food (entrance to the movies was free).

I confess that I spend a lot of time, almost daily, seeking entertainment, but my resources are limited so I have to make a careful selection, and this I enjoy almost as much as the show. I find the search itself entertaining; I scour the newspapers and the internet for events that cost little or nothing, that I think I will find entertaining.

One might not consider a film about a young girl, sent by the court to help the old people in an old aged home, entertaining, but it really was. The Window – A film by Rivkatal Faine

It’s a documentary, which one might think is boring, but its definitely not because its full of tension, of the natures of two people from two different world colliding; a highly cultured, dignified, but disgruntled old lady, on the one hand and a rough, young girl with a criminal background on the other, sent to help her. That cultured, old lady had never met a girl like her new helper, so she’s continually being shocked by her behavior. She’s shocked, for example when the young girl takes a book out of her library without asking.

Basically, one could say that behavior that the girl considers natural, the old lady considers criminal. The movie brings people from different worlds together. With the result that their reactions to each other are misinterpreted, harsh, ludicrous and shocking and so there’s lots of amusement and sadness, but eventually relief when old and young arrive at unexpected realizations and self-knowledge, with the happy result that they love each other and really love helping one another. I have only one word for this movie: Brilliant. I was entertained and I have been enriched in the process.

Another movie, on the theme of old age and the young is Epilogue – A film by Zvi Lanzman, Sam Spiegel Film and Television School. It’s about an old man looking for a woman who will show him some warmth, discreetly. Naturally he finds a young woman, whose occupation is to provide such a service.

The success of the movie, in my opinion, is that the woman doesn’t appear to be doing something immoral. The film succeeds in elevating her status in society as a person carrying out an important social function, not anything immoral. The movie left me thinking about the need for such an occupation in our society and how to provide it without attaching the usual immoral overtones.

Like the Window it’s also suitable for students of social work but here again the tensions, hesitations and the reaching out of the aged for warmth touches the heart and entertains.

Third House – A film by Yair Friedman, Beit Berl College is about an old person hallucinating of having a loving family. We shouldn’t be surprised to find someone like this in an institution for the old; as one grows older one is left more and more alone. It’s almost natural for an old person in an institution to create a fictitious situation that he’s waiting for someone, a loved one to fetch him and bring him to some imagined paradise that has become real in his mind. The reality is that people are constantly leaving the institution in the form of dead bodies. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this to be a real situation of going on a journey.

The last movie I saw, Littl Bar Yoti, Producer: Shani Rassad, Racheli Sella | Production Company: Sapir College is ostensibly about a young girl’s (Hila), efforts to persuade her father to acknowledge that he is her father and his determination not to acknowledge his fatherhood.

The father, Reuben bar Yotam was an Israeli actor who became famous in the 1950’s, a time of great idealism of the creation of the perfect Jewish society. A film was made about an ideal father, called Salomonico (Reuben bar Yotam). This was obviously a series of propaganda movies to illustrate fatherhood and the importance of being a good father. The project was such a success that Salomonico was idolized, he was the ideal father. Reuben bar Yotam, obviously identified himself so strongly with the character he played that he saw himself as the ideal father. But this proved to be a fiction, when he fathered an illegitimate child, Hila, and he refused to acknowledge his fatherhood. (obviously, because this would ruin the fictitious image he had of himself). He even leaves Israel and continues his acting career in Holywood.

The tragedy, in my opinion is that the father loses the opportunity to become, in truth a good father, by acknowledging Hila as his daughter, and holds on to the fictitious image instead.

We are entertained from every direction; Hila’s situation as the deserted daughter pulls on our heart strings, Bar Yoti’s callous disregard of Hila arouses disgust and the excerpts of his movies show the fiction of his life. The whole movie is immensely gripping and entertaining.

Later, in July, almost exactly a year after the famous battle known as Protective Edge, I had another opportunity to visit Shderot with a tour group from Holland. Their main purpose was to meet soldiers serving on the Gaza border and to distribute candy and other gifts among them.

Going on a tour is always a dramatic event, but going on a tour to a town in a war zone, beats any drama, the average tourist can hope for, because he’s not visiting a site where the dramatic action, that makes the site interesting, took place thousands of years ago, but its taking place right now.

I imagined myself in the temple of Dagon, in Gaza, 3000 years ago as all the Philistines were crushed to death by the stones of the temple falling on top of them as Samson pushed down the pillars that supported the temple, while I was safe miraculously.

This is only possible in Israel, because our defenses are so good that you are 100% safe as you watch in safety, like ring side seat spectators in Dagon’s temple, as the enemy, the Hamas of Gaza, fires its rockets.

No rockets were being fired on the day we visited. (It reminded me of visiting the game reserve and not seeing any lions but only giraffe and buffalo).At least my tourists got some good pictures with Israeli soldiers and tanks and dished out some candies to the joy of the soldiers.

I conclude my list of exciting activities with the great performance last week at the YMCA Jerusalem, by a solo violinist, Marianna Vasileva of all 24 capriccios of Paganini. This was not only beautiful and memorable but a tremendous feat for a violinist.

Wishing you a great no newsday

Yours truly

Leon Gork

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