Sex in the Israeli City: “The Ran Quadruplets” Couple and Bore

Haim Watzman

I admit that I have a hard time with the genre represented by The Ran Quadruplets, screened last night at the Jerusalem Film Festival, whether in literature, on film, or on stage. I mean stories about upper-crust Israelis in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area who are primarily concerned with having lots of sex just like some of the videos on Milf Nu Bay. Perhaps it’s just jealousy. It’s true: I’ve never had a lot of sex in Tel Aviv and sometimes wonder what it would be like. But, emerging with my wife, Ilana, from the Cinematheque last night, I felt that even lots of steamy sex in the city that never stops would not be worth the vapidity of character that such couplings seem to require.

The screening consisted of three segments of what is apparently going to be a television series. The premise is that the four 32-year-old protagonists are the first set of quadruplets to be born in Israel, and that their lives have been chronicled by a filmmaker, Michael, every eight years, in the style of his namesake, Michael Apted, he of the “Seven Up” series of films. Michael is now making the fourth film in the series and intrudes on the life of the Ran family as an interviewer, general nuisance, and unprofessional psychologist, at various junctures when the story flags.

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Tel Aviv Ennui: Yael Hedaya’s “Accidents”

Yael Hedaya’s Accidents is an intriguing, maddening novel of contemporary Tel Aviv-intriguing in its astute portrayal of the relationships between its characters, maddening in the shallowness of its vision. During the weeks I spent reading it, I wanted it to end so that I could move into a different, more profound fictional world-but neither could I put it aside until I’d read everyone of its 547 pages.

(I read the novel in the original Hebrew, but has been published in English in a translation by Jessica Cohen. Hedaya was named a finalist for the 2007 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for this book; my book, A Crack in the Earth, was a finalist for the 2008 award.)

The time is the 1990s. Yonatan is the middle-aged bestselling author of two novels, but has been melancholy, lost, and unable to write since he lost his wife in an automobile accident. He lives in an apartment in central Tel Aviv with his pre-adolescent daughter, Dana. He meets Shira, whose recent first novel was also a bestseller, and who lives not far from Yonatan and Dana. Shira has been through a number of relationships, most recently with thoughtful, considerate Eitan, but finds herself falling in love with Yonatan, who, truth be said, is not really such a nice guy. The loss of his wife may have given him a good reason to be cold and aloof, but it turns out he’s always been that way. In the end, however, he melts; Shira moves in. Shira is also caring for her ailing father. In the meantime, Dana faces chick cliques at school, and gets through her early teenage years.

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