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The Jewish Cultural World: Best of 2018

Amazon eonline.com


Say it ain’t so, but here we go again: The end of one year and the beginning of another. And since I just finished watching the second season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” I thought to myself, why not say something abut this most ‘Jewishly,’ most successful of television shows. Even more so: Why don’t I give you a short, selective list of the best artistic, cultural outputs I read or watched this year.

A few words in advance, though: I chose six outstanding works to recommend to you from six different fields—most but not all—artistic fields. Some of them, may have been published, or screened first in an earlier year, but I read or watched it this year. And so, it would be a selective list, with the caveat that it was created by Jews, and was mostly about the Jewish world, even if not entirely. One last thing: I’m not going to give you links to the works I write about, or information where to buy or watch them. It’s very easy to find that out with a click or two online.

First on my list is the Book of the Year: ‘A Horse Walks into a Bar,’ by the Israeli author David Grossman, which last year had won the ‘International Man Booker Prize.’ Now, even though I used the word ‘best’ at the top, I don’t really like to use that word in regard to literary works. Though this short work of fiction with its unique title, is indeed unique. And entertaining and innovative as hell. It takes place in only one night, in only one bar in the Israeli city of Netanya, and centered on a down-on-his-luck ‘standup comic,’ who is so painfully bad, just as he’s sometimes brilliantly mesmerizing. Through his comic routine, his endless stream of words—with a special invited childhood friend present there—and his tormenting flashbacks, we not only learn so much about his sad life—he actually swears he’s going to kill himself at the end of the night—but about human nature, our own childhood, and a no-holds-barred observations on the political situation in Israel. Truly a small masterpiece.

Second on my list is the Film of the Year: ‘The Angel,” directed by Arial Vromen. This film is an Israeli-American production, a spy-thriller-drama, based on the book ‘The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel,’ written by Uri bar-Joseph. It tells the true story of Ashraf Marwan (played wonderfully by Marwan Kenzari), who was the son-in-law of Gamal Nasser, the Egyptian president during the Six-Day War, and later became an assistant to Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, as well as a double-agent, working for the Israeli Mossad. This being a thriller, and a limited space here besides, I won’t go into the plot in details. What was so fascinating, and portrayed so masterfully by the star actor, was how this young man—who if to believe the story, and I tend to believe it—had saved Israel from even worse disaster in the Yom Kippur War. And all because, with great personal costs, he really was, well—believe it or not—an idealist at heart, who desired peace for both nations.

Third on my list is the Documentary film of the Year: ‘Forever Pure,’ directed by the Israeli filmmaker Maya Zinstein, which had won an Emmy in the ‘Outstanding Politics’ documentary category. The film centers on the ‘Beitar Jerusalem’ Football Club; the most popular, ardent, and controversial soccer team in Israel, long associated with the rightwing Likud political party. It was the only club in the Israeli Premier League without an Arab/Muslim player at the time. Its core fans are zealots, fanatics, and core supporters of both PM Netanyahu and President Rivlin; whom they carried—literally so—to power on their shoulders. And so, when the Russian owner of the club hired two players of muslin origin from Chechnya, all hell broke loose. So much so that their season, the team, the owner all collapsed. But the fans, with their ‘pure’ hatred of all Arabs—their favorite chant is: “Death to the Arabs!”—had won the day. If one want to understand the raw emotions fermenting the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, making it unsolvable, you’d do no better than watch this excellent film.

Fourth on my list is the TV Show of the Year: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” created by Amy Sherman-Palladino. As I mentioned above, I just finished watching its second season. And even though the quality is somewhat inferior comparing to the first season, it’s still ‘marvelous.” And so very Jewish, taking place in Manhattan in the late 1950s, and centered on Miriam “Midge” Maisel—Rachel Brosnahan, beautiful and fantastic—and her transformation from an Upper West Side housewife to a standup comedian (yes, a standup comedian again.) It had swept, well deserved, all the Emmys last year in all the major categories. I say this, even if dramatically, story-wise, the second season is somewhat lacking, the sheer beauty of it, the life of these two Jewish families, the entertainment business back then, with sometimes laugh-out funny Jewish humor is so charming that it’s simply hard to take your eyes off it.

Fifth on my list is Song of the Year: “Don’t Lie to Me,” by Barbara Streisand. Now, while I was never a particular big fan of her singing, acting and directing; and while this song, on her new album, is not a song for the ages; there’s something about its raw emotions, its timeliness, even its naiveté that is so very moving. She sings “You can build towers of bronze and gold. You can make castles in the sky. You can use smoke and mirrors and old clichés … don’t lie to me.” In the chorus, she brings it home: “How do you sleep when the world keeps turning? All that we built has come undone / How do you sleep when the world is burning?” It gives you chills when she blurts: “don’t lie to me!” Obviously, the appeal is for President Trump. Who of course, will never stop lying.

Sixth on my list is the Op-Ed piece of the Year: “Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Anti-Semitism,” by Michelle Goldberg in the NY Times. I chose this piece, out of the many great articles and opinions I’ve read this year for the fact that it deals with the always important topic, acutely lately, of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and the chorus of lies it generates in the Jewish world and in Israel. And Michelle Goldberg deals with it with the precision of a brain surgeon, and with the bravery of a soldier going to a battle he believes in. Because the crowded forces on the Jewish right, marched on by AIPAC, are stuck against her. “Indeed, it’s increasingly absurd to treat the Israeli state as a stand-in for Jews writ large,” she writes, “given the way the current Israeli government has aligned itself with far-right European movements that have anti-Semitic roots.”
Amen to that, and to the many other artists, writers, journalists and bloggers, who stand—in America, in Israel, and the world at large—against the tyranny of criminal leader trying to become dictators.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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Air-Bnb & Hot-Air

middleeastmonitor.com


The decision by the global home-renting company Airbnb last week to terminate its operation in the Israeli occupied West Bank—i.e. to remove the listing of homes for rent from all Israeli settlements there—has naturally created quite a stir in Israel. Mainly, it brought about a lot of accusations of discrimination, anti-Semitism, anti-Israel, and anti-Zionism. It’s all the fault, and work of the hated BDS movement. The world is against us. In short: a lot of hot air.

Let’s analyze it then, the decision and its aftermath. As for Airbnb’s decision—which yours truly believes was the right decision—it stated that after quite a number of years, and many deliberations, the company has reached the conclusion that “… we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” Settlements, which the Geneva Convention, the International Community at large, and the United Nations in particular, consider illegal.

Put it in other words: Supporting settlers who are there illegally—many of them American Jews—making them profit and getting richer while being in all practicality criminals, according to International Law, is not in the best interest of the company. Furthermore, the company does not see it as a political action, but as a human rights issue; it does not punish Israel as a whole, where it will continue to operate as before.

Unless, of course, the Israeli government acts to forbid, or make life too difficult on the company to operate in Israel proper. Which is one of the sanctions proposed by this minister or that. Other threats, less severe, were mentioned too. I do believe, though, that it won’t come to be, since the only people to benefit from this operation, other than the company (San Francisco based), are the tourists coming to visit Israel, and the Israeli citizens letting them use their homes and apartments. (I myself stayed in Tel Aviv for two weeks in such a place two years ago.)

Now, as for the accusations thrown at Airbnb. This is of course not an act of anti-Semitism, nor it is an act of anti-Israel or anti-Zionism. Nothing of the sort, and the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. The company—unless the government interferes—will continue to operate, as it has done so far, in Israel proper. It has nothing against Israelis, but has a lot against occupying other people lands, seizing their property, building there illegally, and profiting from it illegally. More straightly put: by operating in illegal settlements, the company renders its operation there illegal too.

These accusations by Israeli officials are very common, especially the favorite one: It’s all the BDS movement‘s fault. And yet, it has nothing to do with the BDS movement, to which your truly is in opposition to. Again, the reason is simple—though for reasons that I will explain promptly—no one care to admit it. First and foremost: The BDS boycott is directed against the whole of Israel. It does not differentiate between the occupied territories, post the 1967 war, and Israel proper, prewar. As an example, when the BDS movement convinces an internationally known artist not to appear in Israel, most often it’s in Tel Aviv, or other places in Israel, never really in the West Bank.

Secondly, boycotting Israel is the method to achieve the three main goals of that movement: Ending the occupation, full equality to Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and granting all Palestinians refugees (some 7.5 million of them) the right of return to their homes in Israel. Which basically will end Israel as we know it, as the secure home of the Jewish people. (Hence my objection to it). Airbnb mentions nothing about that, or about supporting these BDS demands. Otherwise, why is it operating in Israel?

Now, you probably asking yourselves, why do those people raise the above-mentioned accusations? The reason is simple, if somewhat elusive: It fits their agenda. Instead of dealing seriously, truthfully with the real problems—the occupation, the settlements, the never-ending dispute with the Palestinians, the steady march of Israel toward being an intolerant society, Apartheid-like, with laws that will make it more of a totalitarian state than a democratic one—it’s easy to deflect the problem and hurl false accusations in return.

Let’s kick the can farther. Let’s accuse other people for our problems. Let’s delay the clear, preferred, obvious solution—the Two-State solution—until the messiah comes. The world hates us anyway. It’s all politics, stupid. Human rights are nonsense. Let’s go have a beer.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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