Black Box / Cry, the beloved country
Can it be that I am the only one who feels there is something amiss with the television programs on Independence Day? A small example: one of the 12 people who lit the torches on Mount Herzl on the eve of Independence Day is a physician from the settlement of Neveh Dekalim who declared, in a live broadcast under the starry night (Channel One, Tuesday, 7:50 P.M.) that he holds human life, all human life, precious.
Let's consider this for a moment: Isn't there an abysmal contradiction between this and the flagrant inhumanity of the place where the good doctor has chosen to live? Can a person who chose to live in a settlement in the Gaza Strip, one of those places where safeguarding the residents' security costs the lives of soldiers and the lives of Palestinians - on some occasions of infants and their mothers - and entails closures and restrictions for those who are still alive; can such a person claim, without batting an eyelash, in the face of the burning torches, that he holds human life supreme, and expect us to believe him?
Or when the mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupoliansky, took the stage at the entertainment gala broadcast from David's Tower in the Old City (Channel One, Tuesday, 9:15 P.M.) to wish his city's residents a happy holiday and smiled cordially and broadly and flagrantly aimed his greeting at "am Yisrael" ("the people of Israel"). In other words, he did not include in his greeting the foreign worker on the scaffolding who is building his city, or the Filipino caregiver who is helping the aged person in the wheelchair in the Rehavia neighborhood, or, of course, the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have resided in his city since long before he was born but who were not part of his greetings because they don't belong to "the people of Israel."
And third, is it possible that Tzipi Shavit, an entertainer, didn't feel that there was something wrong, really and truly wrong, about the fact that she dressed up like a soldier in heat with an Eastern European accent and spread her legs and her lips, in a program called "The IDF's Parade of Entertainment" on Channel Two (Tuesday, 9:30 P.M.), and took this pose vis-�-vis her supposed two male idols, the chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, and the defense minister, Shaul Mofaz? She also kissed them and sat on their laps, ha, ha, ha.
Let's put it this way: The idea that an army man is sexy by virtue of the fact that he is an army man is fascist and racist. There were moments in the past when soldiers had an aura of charm, when the admirer was Marlene Dietrich and those she admired were fighting against the Nazis. But Tzipi Shavit is not Marlene Dietrich and Shaul Mofaz is not General Montgomery, even if there is a fierce desire that he be him.
And, last, Yehoram Gaon sang the song "Shalom Wonderful Land" at David's Tower and then invited to the stage, in full Spanish rife with trilling R's, a large family of new immigrants from Chile. Is it possible that I am the only one who wants to disclose to them, and especially to the delightful great-grandmother who waved a small flag, that this land is not going to be wonderful anymore?
A just woman
"I will not complain!" asserted Shoshana Smadar, a small woman with a large soul (the camera focused for a moment on her feet, which dangled from an office chair without reaching the floor). Shoshana Smadar is the widow of Haim Smadar, a security guard who bodily blocked a female suicide bomber who blew herself up at the entrance to the supermarket inJerusalem's Kiryat Yovel neighborhood a year ago.
Smadar was the first of three women who were interviewed by Yaron London and Motti Kirschenbaum on Channel 10 on the eve of Memorial Day (Monday, 8:30 P.M.). The only request of this hard-bitten woman - the mother of two deaf children, with another exceptional girl clinging to her neck - is that during emergencies the media should remember the deaf and make it possible for them to know what's going on with the use of sign language. The subhuman conditions in which she lives and the indifference of the authorities to her plight could only be understood by indirection from what the interviewees said. Smadar was happy about having "reached the media," believing, naively, in the magic power of television to get things done.
What Shoshana Smadar didn't know is that by declaring "I won't complain" she inadvertently invoked one of the principles of Christian humility, which was formulated long ago in the Latin words meaning "love, that you may be ignored." Shoshana Smadar, sacred mother: Have no fear, they will continue to ignore you. They are simply ensuring that you remain a totally just woman.
Prances and pratfalls
For a moment, during the opening ceremony of Independence Day at Mount Herzl (Channel One, Tuesday, 7:50 P.M.), the camera lingered for a while on a small group of military attaches, who were sitting, expressionless, in the audience. I wondered what they thought, for example, about the amateur show of prancing and pratfalls that severed the dignified ceremony in the middle as though to demonstrate the joy of spontaneous dance that courses through the blood of this nation. Did they feel as I did, that Israeli folk dancing, judging by the choreography on Mount Herzl, is losing its character from year to year and becoming a sort of dumbstruck constraint? A performance of this kind - which, by the way, was the work of Roi Kabiri and Motti Vaknin - could have been staged in Ceausescu's Romania or, by the same token, by the Mosul dance troupe in honor of the visit to the city by the local American governor, or at the festivities marking the ascension to the throne of the Sultan of Brunei. The dancers' costumes were general enough to suit any of those occasions, and so were the dance steps.
And I'm ready to swear that this troupe won second prize at the dance festival of Bosnia-Herzegovina or in Lapland. It didn't win? Well, it will, if until then the dancers don't sprain their ankles as they trip in sequence after a daring somersault in the air in the midst of a dance that resembled a hora, but also a Circassian debka, or possibly the dancing of dervishes, the difference being that the dancing of those groups is marked by cogent symbolism and spiritual content.
It's not really right, is it, to say that the great majority of the programs on Memorial Day were boring? Nevertheless, that's all they can be, above all because of the high concentration of these programs. They are also boring because they all have one message, which boils down, more or less, to "Strength is needed to go on living and being optimistic," as one bereaved mother put it in one of the many films that were broadcast, in each of which powerful statements were made. But television, like public prayer, has its formula, and the formula wins the day and triumphs over personal statements.
In fact, those who don't think that "strength is needed, etc." simply don't appear on television. Those who don't have the will to be optimistic don't need a television crew laying its cables in their living room or a makeup person to make them up and a director to guide them about how to state that "strength is needed, etc."
Amazingly, even films that contained fierce criticism of the army, such as the film about the Druze family whose wounded son, Madhat Yusuf, was left to die in Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, and whose brothers returned their reservist cards to the chief of staff at the time, Shaul Mofaz, in protest - even there the criticism was ultimately swallowed up by the general invocation of the "formula."
If overcrowding is the great distorter of attempts to commiserate with the fallen, the French channel TV5 made a very generous gesture by broadcasting, in its midnight news, a report about Dominique Hess, the Jewish-French waitress who was killed in the suicide bombing attack at Mike's Place, a Tel Aviv pub, on April 30.
The beautiful young woman was buried the same day in Paris, as the announcer noted. Shortly before her death she was interviewed by a Czech television crew in the pub. Dominique replied to the reporter's question about her attachment to Israel with the greatest simplicity: "This is not my country, this country belongs to those who were born in it."
That thought, though, is too original. To argue that Israeliness should be determined by territory and not by genetics is too subversive an idea to get through the public Zionist verbiage about Memorial Day.
Third generation in Ra'anana
There is something utterly ridiculous about the stereotype of "seventh generation in Jerusalem" or "tenth generation in the country," the type of seniority that people such as Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin arrogate to themselves. On the eve of Independence Day, he reiterated it again as he lit his torch, and with unbridled pride. He wasn't the only one of the torch lighters who invoked this quasi-aristocratic seniority. What is it that makes the boast about this form of lineage ridiculous? It's the fact that the boasters usually have nothing to be proud of. When the facts are clarified, it generally turns out that what sets Rivlin, say, apart (he is cited here as an example only) is that there are seven generations of beggars behind him, or sack makers, or peddlers, in Galicia or Istanbul.
In contrast, my son can say with certainty that he is "third generation in Ra'anana," and if he is ever lucky enough to be chosen to light a torch on Independence Day, he will be able to say that his father, who was only second generation in the country, used to write a weekly television column in his dotage, in which he derided - with unconcealed envy - those who have greater seniority in the country than he does.
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