If the essence of being Israeli were placed on a CD and sent into outer space in the hope that it might interest alien communities, it should include the exclusive interview Yaron Bracha gave Tuesday to Erez Rotem on Channel 2's 8 P.M. nightly news program. Bracha is suspected of having driven under the influence of drugs at high speed and run a red light, thus causing an accident that killed six people, including his twin brother.
How do you escape such a humanly and morally complex situation in the most Israeli manner possible? You sit, mourning and murmuring things like, "What sin have I committed? What crime have I perpetrated against anybody?" (an exact quote from Bracha's own mouth). And you also add: "I feel as if my life were over; I just don't want to keep on living," and "I'm grieving." You must sob when you make these statements and use an absolutely sincere tone of voice. Authenticity and sincerity are key words here. To ensure that viewers will believe you are being sincere, you must look straight into the camera so they can see you are unshaven and suffering, and that your sad eyes are clouded with boundless sorrow.
Then you shift to a defensive posture. Now viewers begin to sense the guiding hand of a seasoned lawyer, who apparently advised Bracha: "Don't confess to anything! What are you, a sucker? Just say you don't remember anything - that you weren't driving." This crafty line of defense starts off with a sentence that reflects self-pity: "I really don't need all these personal attacks from everyone." Next you pull out a photo of your dead twin brother, and say: "We were inseparable for 30 years." But, in the same breath, you blame him for the accident. At least, you hint that he is to blame. You intimate that it was not you, but your dead brother who perhaps wrote an SMS message from your cellular phone before the accident about being high on drugs. And you add that the whole thing is shrouded in fog in your head. Actually, you argue that it might indeed have been your brother, not you, who drove the vehicle that caused the accident.
Then the camera angle widens to include a lawyer sitting on the sidelines. He reinforces this hypothesis with the statement that what appears to be a case of 100-percent guilt might be far from the truth - and may even be totally different from what really happened.
The essence of being Israeli thus is the post-modern theory that there is no single truth in any situation and that everything depends on your ability to persuade others - by any means available - that you are not guilty. That you were not high, that you were not traveling at a ridiculous speed, that you did not cross the intersection when the light was red, that you did not crash into the other vehicle and that you did not kill six people. Somebody else did all that. You swear God is your witness with a stack of Bibles.
If we take a good look around, we can see that the entire country is Yaron Bracha: from President Moshe Katsav, who raped no one; to Yoram Marciano, Labor's Knesset whip, who did not act improperly in a bar; to Israel's ambassador to El Salvador, who was not found in his embassy's courtyard, half-naked, in S&M garb; to the president's brother, Lior Katsav, who molested no woman; to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who bears no responsibility for the blunders of Israel's second Lebanon war. In the case of all these people, someone else is to blame.
Perhaps the accused are simply victims of malicious persecution, who have been wrongly blamed for various misdeeds and had no choice but to hire a good lawyer who can advise them to act in the most Israeli manner possible - namely, to wear a skullcap, kiss the mezuzah next to the door, deny everything and then, after waiting a moment or two, scream that the whole world is against them.
The DiCaprio debacle
How does Israel appear in the eyes of film star Leonardo DiCaprio, who is visiting here, accompanied by his Israeli girlfriend, model Bar Refaeli? First, he probably sees Israel as an incredibly stressed-out country - as another biblical Sodom, where, when the angel came to visit Lot, the residents surrounded his home, demanding, "bring them out unto us, that we may know them."
In any event, Channel 10's 8 P.M newscast created that impression on Tuesday. DiCaprio and Refaeli had visited the Western Wall Tunnel. When the couple emerged, photographers surrounded their vehicle and a fistfight broke out between them and the bodyguards protecting the two celebrities, who covered their faces with hoods (like two suspects captured by the Shin Bet) before they were pushed into their vehicle.
Presumably, hordes of fans and paparazzi pounce on DiCaprio wherever he goes. Nonetheless, there was something unique about the violence at the Western Wall Tunnel's exit. The uniqueness stems from the fact that the fistfight broke out a stone's throw from the spot where, less than a month ago, brawls that quickly sparked international repercussions broke out over Israel's construction work at the Mugrabi ramp. If we turn the clock back a little more, we might recall how much violence and death was generated by the opening, during Benjamin Netanyahu's premiership, of the same tunnel that DiCaprio visited. In other words, the spot where the nonchalant couple - DiCaprio and his lovely girlfriend - stood is soaked with blood that was shed because of quarrels that are just as silly as the fistfight between the bodyguards and paparazzi beside the stars' car.
The route through the Western Wall Tunnel is intended to display how the "original," Herodian, Jerusalem must have looked before being overrun by foreigners - namely, the Christians and Muslims. During the tour, when visitors reach a certain spot, the guide dramatically announces that this is the closest place to the Holy of Holies, the center of the universe, and that anyone who wants to offer a prayer is invited to do so. The dissemination of this bit of religious nonsense contains a degree of nationalist violence because it calls, albeit only through allusion, for the delegitimization of Islam's Dome of the Rock. Thus, the answer to the question, "How does Israel appear in DiCaprio's eyes?" must be, in my opinion, that this is a country where stressed-out people never die; they simply dig their heels in deeper.
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