Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 12, Tel Aviv

Friday evening, March 12

Sunset: I walk south along the beach front and hear the drumming. Ta ta-ta-ta-ta ta ta ta ta. A mass of people—old, young – children bouncing on their father's knees, four hands beating out the rhythm together, young women in the center of the circle flanked by the crowd on one side and drummers on the other, women waving scarves, beads of light, fire, dancing to the beat. Everyone claps, moves to the rhythm. This is Woodstock Green Sunday afternoon to the power of 10, but it is Tel Aviv at the beach Friday night at sunset.

Earlier Friday afternoon on a hill behind the houses at Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, crowds of people –young and old – gather and begin their drumming – Ta ta-ta-ta-ta ta ta ta. A mass of blue-clad police surround them, ready to encroach, send them away, take the protestors to jail. Israelis and internationals gather here weekly to protest the illegal settler confiscation of homes. Rabbi Arik Ascherman is among them.

Friday afternoon, in Tel Aviv, I follow the map Marcey has drawn for me so I can find my way from Ezra Ha Soffer to Hakovshim up through the Shuk, left to Allenby, cross to Shenken, then over Rothschild Boulevard to Carlebach and the Cinematheque. She says to leave an hour for the walk. I understand why as I thread my way through the packs of people who flock from stall to stall in the marketplace alive with the pungency of fish, herbs, falafel, ripe melons, strawberries, radishes the size of your hand, dark long eggplant, giant bulbs of fennel; and garments, shoes, toys, necklaces —stall after stall, one on top of the other; vendors calling out their wares, one voice louder than the other. A far cry from Price Chopper in the states. Here in the shuk, I am part of the gesticulation of hands, the concaphony of voices, the throng of people with their hand-carts, the rawness of fresh fruits and vegetables -- breathing, container-less. A caloused hand -- not a hand in plastic, not a sterile swipe across a computerized counter nor a polite voice in monotone repeating "Have a nice day."

I feel heady and get lost making my way to the Cinematique. This afternoon at 1, there will be a screening of Simon Bitton's film "Rachel." The film-maker will be present, as will Cindy and Craig Corrie who will speak with the audience after the film.

Standing in front of the Cinemateque, I see a vigil of Women in Black and recognize Israeli women I met at the international gathering of WIB in 2005 in Jerusalem. Now, 5 years afterwards, we remember each other. We've got more wrinkles and grey hair, but we're the same. These Israeli women are strong—they haven't given up standing against the Occupation. They've been standing in vigils throughout Israel since 1988.

The theatre is filled with people I recognize from Israeli's peace movement – among them, Uri Avnery (founder of Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc and frequent commentator to the newspaper, Haaretz), Adam Keller (a founder of Gush Shalom, supporter of Yesh Gval, refuser of reserve military duty in the Occupied Territories, author of "The Other Israel" a bi-monthly newsletter of the struggle for Israeli-Palestinian peace) and Rami Elhanan (co-founder of Parents Circle-Family Forum) who tells me-- with a note of disparagement-- that here in the theatre, I'll see all of Tel Aviv's progressives.

The lights dim, the theatre darkens, the film lights up the darkness. It is an explosive film, an intimate recounting in Hebrew and English of Rachel's story, Marcey sits by my side and translates from the Hebrew for me. Here, five years afterwards, are the young internationals who stood with Rachel in 2003 in Gaza, telling her story, reading her diary; here is an interview with a religious Israeli who served in the military; here, an interview with a soldier who drove a caterpillar to demolish homes; here, the professors at Evergreen State College in Olympia Oregon where Rachel was studying; here, a video-clip of Rachel dancing with kids in Rafah, waving a scarf in the air to their music, their rhythms; here is the doctor whose home Rachel was defending…..

There is silence after the film before the audience breaks into applause. As Cindy and Craig Corrie come to the podium, there is a standing ovation for them. Rachel's parents are here in the country at a court proceedings in Haifa against the Israeli government. They have brought their civil action to challenge the military's account of their daughter's death. "We are here to speak for the lives of all young people—all of them—not matter who they are."



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