The Last War But One — “Necessary Stories” from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

Abba was fanning himself with the folded front section of Ma’ariv when the bell buzzed. Ema was making her way through the kitchen door with a transparent tumbler of tea and nana, held on a waxy serviette, stirring up settled sugar. Abba looked up at her. Ema reached the couch, placed the serviette on the glass top of the coffee table, gently settled her tumbler on the serviette, and seated herself, with dignity, on the settee. She picked up the weekend supplement and considered the table of contents. The doorbell, whose chime had long since deteriorated into a scratchy drone, sounded again, much longer.

photo by  Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Abba, whose gazed had tracked his wife along her journey from kitchen to sofa, stared at the straight-backed figure in the white satin housecoat he had bought her on their trip two years ago to Bonn. Ema turned a page. A drop of sweat crawled from the corner of his right eye to his cheek.

He turned his gaze to me, sitting on the cool patterned tiles with my Ditza.

“Is someone going to get the door?” he asked, directing his words into the high-ceilinged vacuum, the drop of sweat falling from his cheek and just missing the strap of his white singlet to hit a tuft of hairs on his bony shoulder.

Ema finished reading a sentence, smiled, and slowly, with poise, directed her eyes at her husband.

“Well, you certainly don’t expect the girl to do it,” she said acidly.

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The Scene at Cinema South II: Jewish-Arab Dialogue on Film

Haim Watzman

Can Jewish and Arab Israeli film students understand each other better if they watch a 50-year old French film about race relations in the Ivory Coast? Filipa César, a Portuguese artist, had the idea of showing a multi-cultural collection of film students in this country Jean Rouch’s Cinéma-vérité work The Human Pyramid and filming a subsequent discussion. The result is The Four Chambered Heart, screened at the Cinema South festival in Sderot.

Rouch’s film teeters on the fence between documentary and fiction. At the end of the 1950s, just before Côte d’Ivoire achieved independence, he took a group of black and white high school seniors in Abijan and asked them to improvise a story about race relations in their class. The film shows the students acting out the story, interspersed with voice-overs by the director and occasional interspliced scenes in which the teenagers are themselves and not their characters. The story follows the initiative of a new white girl, Nadine, who convinces the whites and blacks to socialize, and the disaster that follows as a result of her own inability to distinguish between displays of friendly affection and of romantic love.

One subtext of the film is that integration equals socialization—that if people belonging to two different racial, national, or cultural groups go to parties and have picnics together, harmonious relations will prevail. Another is that France is more advanced in the field of race relations than the Anglo-Saxon world—the students frequently refer to South African Apartheid and occasionally to segregation in the U.S. And, indeed, in 1959 the French were doing what was unthinkable in the U.S.—they had black and white kids in the same classrooms. On the other hand, as the film shows, the race barrier, while invisible, was still high, both inside and outside the classroom.

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No Happy Endings in Gaza

Haim Watzman I’ve got war refugees in my home today. I mean my daughter’s fellow second-year students from the animation program at Sapir College, located right next to Sderot. The campus is under fire and has shut its gates, so these budding cartoonists are unable to work on their projects or attend their classes. The … Read more

Arab Poetry for Jews: Sasson Somekh

Haim Watzman “If we had soldiers read the poetry their enemies write, we could prevent war,” declared Haim Gouri , an old poet and an old soldier, at Jerusalem’s literary café Tmol Shilshom last night. Sasson Somekh, whose new memoir was the subject of the evening, smiled. While he was polite enough not to contradict … Read more

An Arab Prime Minister for Israel?

Haim Watzman

In the wake of Barack Obama’s victory in the U.S., there have been a spate of op-eds and blog posts on whether an Arab could ever become prime minister of Israel. Some present it as a challenge to Zionism, at least as conventionally conceived, while others try to explain why such a thing could not, should not ever be. The latest installment is Daniel Gordis’s piece in The Jerusalem Post.

Gordis is correct in saying that an Arab majority in Israel would be the end of Israel as a Jewish state, and that an Arab majority in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, would reflect that loss of majority status. Zionism requires a Jewish majority–and not just a bare majority but a large one–for the state to be Jewish. This is the reasoning that means the two-state solution is the only way of preserving Israel as a Jewish state.

But while the election of an Arab to head Israel’s government, while improbable, is certainly not impossible,

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