Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Remember that time I had to make a documentary?

It's crunch time here. It's less than three weeks until our exhibition. The exhibition is a showing where people from all around Jerusalem, some local Jewish organizations and even a few members of the press come to see our work. Everyone in the arts program here will be showing their work. The program and exhibition is mostly catered towards exhibit artists (painters, sculptors, etc). The show will consist of a standard art and photography exhibit, followed by a screening of my film in the theatre just next to the exhibition hall. For me, screening work in front of a large group is always somewhat nerve-wracking. Thinking about this event, however, creates even more pressure as the only filmmaker, the only film, and the only piece of media being seen at the event.

The show is also taking place a month before the end of the program. This allows people to have their pieces up and open to the public for almost a month. For me, this just means an earlier screening date. I want to take advantage of my time here. As much as I want the best quality product for my screening in a few weeks, I need to be practical. I can edit anywhere. My time here will be the only time that I have to shoot these subjects and events in Israel.

Below you will see many things. The first couple of blurbs I produced as a rough draft of what will probably be included in the artist statement program being handed out at the exhibition. Below that, is a project statement and a "list" of the variety of footage I've shot. I'd love for some feedback. I've been working on an "in progress" outline that is the way I currently see my editing unfolding. I'm sure a lot will change - but continuing to work on this outline - like reworking a thesis - has been proving very helpful to me - especially with this large scale of a project. Any any any feedback is absolutely appreciated. You can look below to the footage I have, how I've decided to place it in the outline, and let me know how you think it's coming along.


From Left to Right, Israeli to Arab, and Religious to Secular, Israel is a multi-faceted society filled with a multiplicity of people with a deep rooted passion for their country, their land, and their future. This documentary explores a small part of this myriad of characters and poses the question for a land in constant conflict: What is really standing in the way of peace?


This is a project that is constantly evolving - and is still growing and changing today. When I arrived in Israel, I wanted to work on a piece that addressed some of the political issues I felt were pertinent in the short 5 months I have spent here. I choose to particularly address this issue of what very different individuals want for Israel. I found myself trying to believe every person I spoke to, every side of the story, and in the end, being unable to fully believe in any side at all. It is from this great confusion that inspired this documentary.

I wanted the film to send a message that said - "These people speak for themselves - what they want and why." Through this project, I continue to be in awe in the ways in which people can want he exact same things, and yet complete opposite things for their country, all at the same time. The piece you are viewing today is a work in progress. My final month in Israel will consist of working with the characters you see today to create a more solid finality on how their views and challenges make up this extremely multifarious and heterogeneous Israeli Society.

Project Overview:
The many faces and views of Israel. Short stories intertwined with political and religious issues that face Israel today through tours, peace talk groups, and protests.
  • ** I want to portray people who believe in so intently on their vision, and really show how easy it is to get so wrapped up in ones own ideas, and show the impossibility of seeing the other side. I will exploring the idea of Zionism, leftist "anti-zionism" in Jewish Israelis, and even what Palestinians and Israeli Arabs see for "their Israel." ***

Interview Subjects:

1. Ofer Neiman: Leftist, Sheikh Jarah Protester, working for Yesh Gvul (non profit org that aids people in the army that refuse to serve). Considers himself to be a "zionist" but does not fit into mainstream forms of Zionism.

2. Amitai Fraiman - more right wing religious jew, in school studying government. Joined a arab israeli peace talk group.

3. Ahmad Sub Laban: Lives in E. Jerusalem. Wall split apart his home and town. How the wall affected his life. Works for Ir Amim, and working for people in E. Jerusalem affected by the wall.

4. Erez - Co Founder of Im Tirtzu, a right wing pro zionism group that calls themselves the second zionist revolution (and also calls them centrist, when most people believe them to be more right winged). They are aimed mostly at young people, to help strengthen what they call the foundation of Zionism. Erez used to be much more right wing, but now he calls himself and the organization much more center.

Non Interview Footage:

1. Leftist Manifesto Meeting: A meeting of 20 and 30 somethings getting together to discuss the "New National Left" (I believe it is called). Two representatives were there, leading the discussion on what this new party means, and giving the people there an opportunity to voice thier opinion.

2. Sheikh Jarrah Protest Footage (including Ofer). Sheikh Jarrah is a huge point of contention in Israel. Around 200 gather every Friday to protest Jewish Israelis settling in this current Palestinian town.

3. Israeli and Arab Peace talk discussion group meetings (Including Amitai)

4. Har Hertzl on Yom HaZikaron (hundreds of thousands gather for the sounding of the siren in Israel for the mourning of derad soldiers. A clip of this can be seen on my blog)

5. Tour of East Jerusalem with Ir Amim, as the issues between east and west jerusalem are discussed. I see this as the footage that frames that different interviews/short pieces on others.

6. Audio only of a tour in Sderot. Tour is very right wing, and aims to educate people on what it is to live in a town that continues to be the aim of many Quassam rockets. (Closest Jewish town to Gaza).

  1. Ir Amim Tour
    1. Jerusalem as the center of the conflict
    2. Topic of the Conflict difficult, but interesting
    3. Jerusalem Montage - shots of a variety of different aspects of Jerusalem and East Jerusalem that show the different people and places I am showing in the documentary. Will work as the opening or title sequence.
  2. Amitai Fraiman
    1. Intro
    2. Joining the peace group (ICCI)
      1. Why you did it
      2. Struggles during your time there
      3. Left wing agenda
      4. Mtg Footage intertwined
    3. Amitai ideas about Israel, what he wants, possibilities for "peace"
    4. Amitai explaination of Sheikh Jarrah (to go into next segment)
  3. Ofer Neiman and Shekh Jarrah
    1. Protest footage with music
    2. Ofer intro and SJ explanation over footage into his interview
    3. Importance of Sheikh Jarrah to his work
    4. Where Ofer is politically
      1. Zionism vs. anti-zionist - not within mainstream forms of zionism
    5. Future of Israel to Ofer
  4. Im Tirtztu
    1. Erez - to be shot this week
  5. Leftist Manifesto
Notes: Where to fit in Ahmad interview? Depends on how Im Tirtzu interview goes....Still a possible religious element....perhaps an ultra religious or haredi aspect to the film?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

No Turkey for Israel this Thanksgiving

I've been awful in the past few weeks and even month? I should say at updating this. I think that as things began to happen, and as my ideas evolved and changed, it felt as though it was too much to put into one blog. I'll try to see what I can do to summarize the latest happenings.

I've just come back from a week vacation from my 5 month vacation in Israel. We booked our plans awhile ago. A Cruise through the Mediterranean. For those who don't yet know the breaking international news: Sometime in the night between May 30th and June 1st, a flotilla (as they referred to it) filled with Humanitarian aid left for Israel. Normally, Israel checks the ships for weapons and "approved" supplies and food. This particular boat headed for Israel had made themselves clear that they were coming to protest Israel's barrier around Gaza. Instead of heading through the normal Ashdod port, they came straight to Gaza, with clear intentions to break the blockade. Israel knew this, the flotilla (it is commonly called) knew this, and as far as I can tell, everyone just sort of let it happen. The flotilla heading for Israel was given multiple warnings by the IDF and still would not stop. As the IDF approached the boat, they were attacked by the members on the boat (International non profits - from the US, Switzerland, Turkey, etc) - but of course the soldiers were armed with weapons, and the members on the flotilla were armed with objects (knives being the most fatal). The IDF attacked when attacked, killing 9 (including one American) and injuring maybe up to 50?

On May 31st, the day(ish) this occurred, my friends and I were in transit on a cruise, to Turkey, Greece, and Cypress. On our first day bound for Turkey, we awoke to the message that our boat had turned around, and that we were heading straight for Greece. This of course got to us very last minute since all of the messages were in Hebrew, and our only fluent speaking travel friend happened to be bed ridden with sea sickness and food poisoning. So there we were, on a cruise full of crazy Israelis, with only Israeli news all in Hebrew (which we at this point did not fully understand) in the middle of the Mediterranean, not sure if we would make it to Greece, and completely cut off from both mainstream news we could understand. From our end, it seemed that Israel ONLY defended itself and that it waited for the ship to arrive before taking any action. It was hard to comprehend why there were riots and protests all over the world, calling this an Israeli Massacre. What could have possibly happened that might have caused this? For me, being much more to the left, my thoughts were that the soldiers reacted appropriately, but the bigger picture still was ignored. They knew the ship was coming, and didn't care to stop it peacefully - it seemed to me that if danger was going to come - then they were ready for it.

The bigger issue is the blockade around Gaza. That is why they protested, and that is what they are against. Are they stupid for going barely armed against the Israeli army? Yes of course. Is Gaza an entirely bigger issue? Yes. As it turns out, the rest of the world, even America, is entirely against Israel on this issue. While that is difficult to see even your allies go against you, it's not unexpected. A lot of my even most liberal of friends here cannot seem to fathom why this would be - and they are behind Israel 100 percent on this issue. I think Israel acted justly in the moment and that the rest of the world is unfairly representing what happened. But what people fail to see is that Israel having a blockade around part of Gaza is obviously a problem. It's a problem for the middle east, and now it's a problem, apparently, for the rest of the world. You can agree or disagree, but the public obviously has a problem with it. And that problem isn't going to go away by ignoring that fact, and just brushing it off and saying, "well, the world will always be against Israel. We have to stick together." I continue to argue with my friends here, and as I do so - the more I find that on this issue, I am alone. Maybe that makes me crazy - but I maintain that if there is a reason that the media is against Israel, all over the world, even within allies like the USA, there must be a reason for it. But I want to back it up: to my previous idea I left everyone with.


Looking back at the idea I last posted, there is nothing, theoretically, wrong with the idea. The only problem is that Noam Shalit doesn't ACTUALLY have anything to do with the organization that works to bring home his son. Sure, sometimes on Shabbat he will join them in thanks for their work, but other than that he is typically a pretty quiet homebody kind of dad and husband. It happens a lot. I received wrong information. And what's more - when I went to the tent that was set up to recruit supporters in bringing Gilad Shalit home, I could not have met a pair of more apathetic volunteers. My conversation sort of summed up below:

"If I sign this petition here, what does it do?"
"At the end of every month we give it to Bibi (nick name for Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minster) but it doesn't usually do anything. It's pretty much a routine at this point. I put in my two hours a month, and I'm done."

So at this point what seemed like a stroke of genius turned out not exactly as I pictured. In my head, time was ticking. I only have so much time here. What does it mean that I keep on running into these little issues? I wanted to think bigger picture, still. This doesn't change what I wanted. Short stories. Israelis. No problem. But in my mind, there was still this need to give these short stories a theme of some sort. I was frustrated and concerned and over thinking everything. I wanted more to be happening and it wasn't. I decided to turn my room into a giant notepad. I went out and bought gigantic post it notes to put all over the wall - where I can note on everything in my mind. What ideas I have so far, why the process is difficult here, etc etc etc. It turned out that this was the most therapeutic thing I could have possibly done. I was able to sketch out my issues. Visually see my thoughts, and continue to look at them, and come up with a plan. I wrote down every idea I ever had around Israel that inspired and impassioned me. It hit me. The Wall. In almost every short piece that engaged me, I realized that I was compelled by the idea of boundaries, of walls. It's what I see in Israel, it's almost all I can see. Secular and religious, Arabs and Jews, Ethiopians and middle eastern/Ashkenazi Jews, etc. This eventually brought me to my interest in the Wall Barrier in Israel. Very well known - it was set up to separate East and West Jerusalem as a way to keep terrorism out. For Israel, this has actually worked. Terrorism has gone down. But the wall hasn't entirely been constructed. It also is placed in sometimes very strange areas, diving towns and families - so you find yourself at times a Palestinian, completely NOT a citizen of Israel, having to do everything on the other side of the wall (groceries, shopping, medical needs, visiting family and friends). And this type of thing is very common. It's another way that the Israeli government has found a way to divide itself from the rest of the Middle East. Another way it, in my mind, is creating hostility towards Palestinians, giving them yet another reason to be angry. Has it worked for Israel thus far? Sure, definitely, maybe even completely. Is this a permanent and peaceful solution? In my mind - not at all. I wanted to use the wall as a way to inspire my short pieces. Many of them will be on various people's stories - how as an Israeli it has changed them, and if they think of what the other side goes through. How Palestinians have been affected by the wall. And outside of direct short pieces that come into contact with the wall, are stories of people in Israel that have created walls themselves.

But of course even this is ambitious and could be somewhat vague. I know the advice I have gotten and the advice I will get is to focus. Focus focus focus. Choose one topic and stick with it. As much as I yearn for advice, in this specific situation, I am not yet ready to take it. I am here to work on my documentary work - but also for so much more. I am here to learn, to engage in the politics, and every single day I am doing exactly that. If sometimes this distracts me from focusing on my documentary work, I'm kind of okay with that. If I stuck with the idea of ONLY examining the battle between religious and secular Jews, there's an entire world of politics I'm cutting myself off from. Maybe this mindset will slightly deter my final product - but seizing every story that interests me, as of now, is so much more important to my growth as a critical political filmmaker. I'm not sure if I'm cut out for what being a political filmmaker entails, but I need this time to find that out.

In my political battle with each of my peers on a daily basis, I am constantly fighting. And as I do so, I sometimes isolate myself. Some of the time, I don't even know if I really believe what I am saying. But I've realized now that much of my arguing or changing comes from a need to remain individual. For instance, my struggle in the beginning of my time here to continue my Judaism. In America, this is part of me, it inspires me, and I want so much to connect with Judaism. Here, when everyone is Jewish, I have a much harder time motivating myself to do so. Politically, I still find myself arguing with Americans on the side of pro-Israel. But here in Israel I become more and more critical of Israel, thus causing me to be more and more leftist. Maybe I simply like playing the devil's advocate. But I also think that many of my choices come from finding a way to remain individual, and not lose myself in the norm. Maybe that is what I have been doing with the flotilla that went to Gaza. I'm not sure that when arguing with people I actually feel a certain way - but I know that I want to give someone every opportunity to challenge what they think - before they become extreme in their views. They may be right in what they think - but they need to at least recognize why there is opposition, and why someone against them feels the way that they do.

In the end, it is very probable that my short pieces will fall more along this line - people's passion towards their idea or side, and regardless of how hard they try, their inability to see the other side.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ideas coming together...

This entry will be short. It's not another 1000 word essay on my FEELINGS. I've had a recent bout of inspiration - and even in the vaguest sense, I see a future for what I want to make.

I've had a general idea of my style, and what kind of stuff I like to create, but when it comes to getting starting, its actually proving much more difficult than I thought. There is so much I'm interested in, some much I want to explore from a film making perspective, but finding the right person to illustrate the thoughts and feelings I have, and being able to connect and contact people, especially with the language barrier has been more difficult than I thought. To create inspiration, my good friend Marian on the program here suggested I start getting in touch with people I know, both religious and not, and asking them if I can just tape their dinner conversations. It's so simple but its so genius. Finding people that are politically minded here is incredibly easy. Attending and taping dinner conversations is a great way to hear from the source how many different people feel about various issues, as well as a great way to meet people outside of my immediate "Israeli Circle."

I thought about this more. While I don't think that these dinners in of themselves are enough for a documentary on this trip (although a documentary of just political discussions in different families is something I've thought about doing for awhile) I didn't want to end there. I've known that my work here will advance and be brought to its best potential if I work on various shorts. I've also known that as I veer further and further to the left as a Jew in Israel, my work will more than likely reflect my personal criticism of domestic Israeli policy. I want to find various people who represent an aspect of Israeli society, (and not just Jewish Israeli society) in a way that people who think they know, or do not know Israeli at all, can watch, be entertained, and learn a great deal from. I want to show, through many different perspectives what Israel is, to the many that live here. My goal is to create 5-7 short pieces that ideally do exactly this. To introduce, frame and segue these different pieces I hope to insert different short conversations or statement that people make at this dinner or get together's I tape and attend.

I hope that I've already found my first piece. In a class last week going over Israeli current events, we of course watched the latest Gilad Shalit animation appealing to the Israeli government and residents of Israel by Hamas. For those who do not know, Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier that was taken captive I believe at this point just about 4 years ago. He is very publicized all over the world, and Hamas continues to release videos showing that he is alive, etc. Hamas is demanding EXTREME things for his release, (such as the release of 1000 terrorist prisoners, etc). His father, Noam Shalit continues to fight for his sons release. He sits at the prime ministers house EVERY SINGLE DAY. He demands that needs be met in order to bring his son home.

It's a difficult issue, a political one that I don't necessarily want to get into in a 7 minute piece. I do think Gilad's Father, Noam is something I can get at. He represents to me a lot of Israelis and Israeli society. Someone who is so passionate and only acts out of immense love for his family and loved ones. He is so incredibly passionate, that he is unable in any way to see that in his extreme passion he is unable to see that if they did bring Gilad home, 1000 extremely volatile terrorists would be back with Hamas, plotting to kill more, and doing more damage to Israel. Gilad is a very very sad story - but is it worth it?

I think that many people in Israel, jews and arabs, act from a good and pure place. they want what they think is best for those they love - but they are unable to see the repercussions of their actions, and sometimes what they are even REALLY fighting for. I will visit Noam tomorrow, and shoot a piece on his fight, what he does, and the progress he makes on a day to day basis. The rest I guess I will see when I visit him.

So there is my first idea. We'll see what is even possible, and what progresses from here. Wish me luck! :)

Oh, and for kicks I've attached some photos I shot in photo class. I don't want to leave you without some sort of visual representation for the week.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm Jewish I'm not Israeli

The Jewish calendar is a constant holiday. In Israel, when you mix that with the Israeli holidays - the country is constantly mourning something, observing something, taking part in something or abstaining from something. And all of these things have meaning. Being a student on a program in Israel, there is a push to feel like an Israeli. As a Jew, people don't welcome you to Israel, they welcome you to your home. On Birthright, its so easy to buy into all of this. When your playing house in Israel for 5 months, I personally have had a lot more time to think about this, and find out if I really do feel at home here.

On Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day, the tone is solemn. A siren throughout Israel, calling for a moment of silence through the country, rings at 10:00am. We left class at 9:50am, and found the closest intersection as we waited for the siren. 10 am - the loud ringing begins, and for one full moment, all of the people and cars stop. Cars halt in the middle of the road, people get up out of their vehicles and stand in memory of everyone who died and lost anyone in the Holocaust. At 10:01 - life proceeds as normal. This was a holiday that I had been a part of for years - it was not foreign to me. But still, in the Israeli framework, I struggled to fully accept the Holiday, and celebrate (for lack of a better word) it as they do in Israel. I have a constant fear that I will become 100 percent Zionist and unable to see any other side. Shamefully, I have to admit that part of me was still even frustrated with Yom HaShoa. I keep blaming Israel for being unable to see through a lens that isn't racist against Arabs, isn't defensive against every piece of criticism, and yet I sat there and criticized the state itself for addressing only the Jewish issues. Inside, I wish when they had said, "we are here to make sure that genocide never happens again..." all I heard was, "We want to make sure that a JEWISH genocide never happens again..." I was frustrated because I knew that this cause would only forward the elimination of antisemitism, but not anti-hate. I had to struggle to realize that it doesn't matter what agenda people have when promoting a cause or an event, because the 6 million that died deserve this day, deserve to remembered, and what am I, a 3 and a half generation American, with no family ties to the holocaust, to have an opinion on the matter?

Only about 8 days later does Israel find two "holidays" back to back. First is Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance for all of the soldiers and lives lost fighting for the country. 24 Hours later is Yom HaAtzma'ut, the craziest Independence Day of any country I've ever experienced. It's basically 48 hours of memorial day, only much more intense, and much more extreme, on both ends of the spectrum. On the day of remembrance, I almost felt inappropriate mourning. On Holocaust memorial day, I may have had my qualms, but I am Jewish. It was a Jewish holiday, and every year I feel it. Remembering the soldiers - I felt as though it almost wasn't my place to feel this way. I never served in the army. I do not live here. I do not know one person that has been hurt fighting. I'm quite lucky in that way. But still I thought that this is a moment, where again I feel pushed to be Israeli simply because I am Jewish, and in reality, they are not the same. An Israeli is not always an observant Jew, and a Jew does not always have to be Israeli. (I think too, that almost every political issue that this country runs into stems from this very issue of confusion as well). Israelis here was somewhat baffled by this: You don't need to be Israeli to mourn, this is you! I couldn't explain the feeling.

On this day again, a siren goes off. For this ceremony, I went to Har Hertzl, where (most/ all?) soldiers in the IDF are buried. People from all over the country pile into this enormous cemetery, although on this day, you would never be able to notice it's size. The siren and ceremony here is unlike anything I've experienced. Similar to Yom HaShoa, the siren calls for solemn silence. Except at this point, I'm not standing near an intersection, and the silence does not seem out of place. Some of my rough footage below shows this this event. I wanted to capture it for two reasons. First, I needed to start shooting - something, anything. I knew this being at this place, on this day, would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Secondly, I did want to think about how I could implement some of this footage into the bigger picture. As I begin to develop my idea of analyzing the relationship between secular and religious jews in Israel- I wanted to think, as my friend Jason always says we should, with the end in mind. Seculars have this idea about what they've done for the country, and how the Haredi (ultra religious) are getting in the way - and the Haredi as well think they know how to run the country, and disagree often with how the seculars want to advance the country. On a day like this, however, when all types of people have fought and died, and both sides can finally agree on one thing - Israel for them - I think that this is one place where their differences can be put aside, and everyone can come together. The footage is very raw - and I didn't want to spend too much time editing, I really just wanted to give a good idea of the space. I'd love to hear outside thoughts.

Yom HaZikaron from Kady Buchanan on Vimeo.

At sundown that evening, everything changes. You go from mourning a loss, to the biggest and best outdoor party ever. It's fun and incredible and so easy to become so patriotic and nationalistic. So easy to get caught up in and think wow- this country is amazing - it is important - we need to keep this spirit alive. At the end of it all, however, as much as I love this country and know it needs to be kept alive, I kept thinking at how there's much work to be done. People in the past week are being literally thrown out of Gaza, extreme inequality not just between Israelis and Non Jewish Arabs, but between Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs (in areas that are still governed by Israelis). I'm not sure if this makes me a bad Jew, an even worse Israeli, or just an extremist leftist. I think I force some of these feelings as part of a bigger effort to not to be completely entranced by the Zionist agenda - because it would be so easy.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Tel Aviv, a city I described to my mother as "The Vegas of Israel," goes out of its way at time to say, HEY - WE ARE NOT KOSHER. Tel Aviv also is filled with a lot more Arab - Christians and Muslims. Looking for some fun on a Saturday afternoon in Tel Aviv during Shabbos, we headed for the more dominantly Arab and Christian area, Yafo. Walking around the local businesses and parks, seeing people wear crosses, dressed head to toe in what obviously was not orthodox Jewish wear - I, (for the first time in a number of weeks) felt more comfortable. I am finding more and more ways each day how I am the product of an American upbringing - and not necessarily a Jewish one. I am from a country where it is normal to be surrounded by people of other faiths, by the notion that it is better to separate church and state, where it is better and a much more advanced way to run a society, and that separate but equal is never quite equal. Be it ultra orthodox women or black men and women - the back of the bus is not separate but equal.

But I must remember that the way I grew up is not the only way to grew up, and that just because I grew up Jewish does not mean that I grew up Israeli. I still feel an on-going struggle to feel at home here. I guess one could classify that as culture shock. To go further: every week for Shabbat I make attempts to step out of my comfort zone, to explore Judaism in some way, to make the day holy - if only for a moment. At the end of my five months here I could be an orthodox Jew, or I could be an atheist Jew, but I will never know unless I take this time to explore. At the end of every Shabbat, I somehow always feel isolated. With the secular crowd here, I feel as though I have something to hide whenever I want to explore Judaism in any way (classes, services, etc) With the more religiously observant crowd here, I feel as though no matter what I do, I've disappointed them in some way, that I am not observant enough, that I did not give up enough, and did not make enough of an effort to connect. So I find myself constantly somewhere in the middle - almost always with a small feeling of guilt. Now I realize in trying to "explore" it is very debilitating to constantly compare yourself to others - when I am probably in a different place than most. But when joining something such as a religious institution - it becomes difficult not to.

In an interesting conversation with a friend the other night about my personal views on Palestinians in Israel, my friend brought something to light I believe I have been doing for years - but have never really understood until this night. My view, again something that isolates me in this pro-zionistic group and program I am apart of, and is far from everyone else on this topic. I believe I am the only one that believes in rights for non-Jews in Israel. (My specific views are more suited for another day.) I don't automatically side with the Jews, as a Jew, because I don't necessarily see that as enough justification, when I look at the history, and both sides. When I look at the situation, I try with all of my might not to bring my emotions to the table, but to look at it, as if the topic is a subject in a documentary, as if I owe that subject and the audience something, and that I have a ethical obligation to choose a stance that is as objective as possible and the most beneficial not just to myself, but to both sides. Now, when dealing with a subject for a documentary, this all seems relatively sound. But in dealing with my personal beliefs, values, politics, etc I believe this might make me somewhat crazy. It seems that it has put me in a place where my views are barely based on what I believe, but what is most ethical, and what side of the story is the best for the people whom it involves. It hit me that this continues to be my issue in Jerusalem, what continues to isolate me here. I like the idea of being more observant, but maybe not necessarily because I believe in G'd, the 613 commandments and the right of the Jewish people to Israel as mandated to Moses on Mt Sinai; but because it is what the "most dedicated" people here believe. Maybe it makes me uncomfortable to observe because it is not what I want to do in the first place, but only what I think someone who wants to be religious should be doing. As my friend said to me, maybe I need to stop looking at the situation as what someone who is interested in pursuing Judaism further, and just think about what I do want to do, what I might believe - and just stop apologizing for it.

Or maybe I'll just continue to experience what is known as Jewish guilt.

For whatever reason, the connection I felt with Judaism in Boston existed in a way that does not exist in the holy land. the HOLY LAND. And that makes me think. Maybe it wasn't Judaism I connected with - but something else.

And this, is the last blog without footage. After today, I am hitting the streets - with a new way to meet people, start shooting, and stop making excuses. In the days to come hopefully some of what I see will be clear to you in moving picture form. My religious struggle has been dominating this blog, and I'm ready to move on.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week 2: As things progress ... some ideas for your viewing pleasure

It's been about two weeks and I've been bad and haven't posted sooner. It's been an interesting period of acclimation. That being said - I don't feel entirely at home yet.

Religious update:
I think that in the back of my mind, for some reason, I assumed (and probably partly due to my overwhelmingly pro-propagandistic first trip to Israel through Birthright) that I would just love love love Israel and fall in love. But Jerusalem is a hard place to be. For many reasons. It's obviously a place with a very high concentration of orthodox families. Although in almost every neighborhood there is a great number of seculars. This can be very overwhelming. I left Boston and the states with a great interest in continuing Jewish learning. I loved studying it, being a part of Jewish culture, everything about it I found fascinating. Here, it doesn't seem as though there are a lot of people interested in learning more about Judaism in a more liberal setting. If you grew up here, you know all you could want to know about Judaism. If you made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) then chances are that you would feel comfortable with your level of observance, and not necessarily searching for it. In America, a lot of liberal sects of Judaism exist to really just give jews a place to go, give them a community and an opportunity to meet other Jews. Here, there is no reason to do that for "liberal" jews. Everyone here is Jewish, and for many - they don't feel the need to go anywhere to express that. It's embedded into every aspect of their life. But I don't feel Israeli and comfortable with just existing in Jerusalem as a way to express my Judaism, and I don't yet feel comfortable in the world of orthodox Judaism. So my current response is to not explore any of it, and stay 10 feet away, for now. It's seems strange to me that I could be in Jerusalem, and feel so much more isolated as a Jew then I ever felt as one in Boston - buuuuut its still only been two weeks. We'll see how things progress.....

Everything else update:
There's this voice constantly playing in the back of my mind, don't forget why you came here (to create a body of short documentaries) - don't forget you should always be on the lookout for stories! I gave myself a rule: to wait 1 months before shooting anything. Take the first month to settle in, to acclimate, to feel comfortable enough to go up to a stranger, and start talking to them. But I can't help but think that time is moving very quickly - and by the end of my first month here, I will still feel uninspired, and have no idea where to go and what to create.

The program I am in also has an interesting dynamic. It's aimed at post grad kids, with a couple of people here in their late 20s. It has a very collegy feel to it. We're all in the same apartment building, we attend Hebrew class together, have lunch break at the same time, attend our classes in the afternoon together, go out together, etc. I remember working not even six months ago, thinking wow I cannot wait to go to Israel, I'm not sure if I am ready for this 9-5 world yet. But being back in this collegey world, in one where no one around me is on some fast track career path, is something that puts me in a somewhat culture shock. I have been waiting so long to do this program, and at times, I wonder what I am doing here. I am sure that these feelings are normal, and what many people have when they make any drastic location and life change. It's difficult to go from having a great job, right out of college, surrounded by people who are eager to move forward career wise, to a place where I'm struggling in language class, and not surrounded by anyone who wants to move fast toward anything. I think that in the back of my mind, I did ultimately decide to come to Israel for my career, to make me a better filmmaker and storyteller, and to fulfill this little travel bug I've caught. In doing that move, however, I feel so far removed from anything resembling ambition. I think I miss being busy in a work or school atmosphere, knowing that each hour I work feels another hour closer to a goal. I am quite busy here, taking the most intensive Hebrew class I could have imagined, studying hours and hours each night. But the work I am busy with here doesn't feel like it is moving me towards my goals, it kind of feels like I'm just starting over. We only have intensive Hebrew for a month, and then we start our internship. I am sure that once I get into that routine, I will feel much more in control of how I spend my time. Okay that is enough complaining about how every second is theoretically changing my entire life. It's a bit dramatic. I've outlined a couple of ideas that have intrigued me thus far. I'm not sure that ANY of them could be turned into documentaries, and I'm sure that the stories will present themselves in the forms of people, and not just things that interest me when talking about Israeli politics. But here they are below. I'd love to hear if any of them do anything for you.

1. In the book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem," (one of the best books I have read relating to the middle east) Tom Friedman talks about the incredible confusion of what Israel wants as a state. He mentions the three things that Israel wants to be, and would be in a perfect world, but has never really obtained simultaneously. In a perfect world, he says it would be a democratic nation, in the state of Israel, that remains a Jewish (theocracy, depending on how you view it) haven for Jews everywhere. In many of its problems through out history, It has only had two of the three. And if they only have two and not three, could they succeed? Could Israel live in another state, and be a jewish haven, and a democracy? Could it be in Israel, be a democracy, but not only cater to the Jewish people? This idea is of great interest to me, especially when it comes to the many political ideologies of what Israel is, and what it should be. Some people believe in separation of church and state for Israel, and are fighting so hard for equal rights between the arabs and jews. Others believe that G'd gave this land to the Jews, and that it must remain so (thus maintaining that Israel always must have more Jews than any other religious affiliation). It would be interesting to me to explore how people view these three aspects, and what they believe Israel's future is.

2. Haredi/Ultra Orthodox vs. Secular: The two groups is especially of interest to me when it comes to serving in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). Everyone in Israel has to serve in the IDF. You can however, be exempt from all forms of service for religious reasons. And to go even further, if for religious reasons, you choose not to partake in society by holding a job, and supporting your family, the government will support you. This is true for many ultra orthodox families, who are supported by the government and choose to devote all of their time to Torah and Talmud study. This does of course anger many seculars in Israel. It seems to anger them that they not only have to serve in army when others are exempt, but that their taxes support them. I read an interesting piece one about the balance between these two groups in Israel. The idea that if you are very traditional, you of course believe it is right to live your life according to the torah, and in the case of some people, one belief is that one of the ways that the messiah would come, is if everyone obeyed shabbos, and lived by the torah, etc. You get the idea. If someone dedicates their life to Judaic study, they must on some level believe that it is the only way to live. That everyone should do the same. But they are being supported by people who do not live by the Torah, people that work on Shabbat, people that break almost every mitzvah in the book. And on the other end of the seculars, it angers them that they support these people. But, it holds in question, if none of these ultra orthodox existed, there would far less zionists. There would be less of a place for traditional Jewish values to thrive. What information would be lost and what would remain? So while these two groups disgree and anger each other, there is a certain balance, and a certain respect they continue to hold. Whether or not this idea is true, I think it would be interesting to juxtapose different people's viewpoints of eachother.

3. Education and Linguistics: Israeli education is aparently a very hot topic to discuss. They barely teach the history of Israel in the classroom, because it is extremely difficult for them to know how to teach it. For example, when you bring up the creation of the state of Israel for the Jewish people in 1948, do you say it was conquered from the palestinians, or do you say it was claimed? Even in teaching Americans in their 20s, who are visiting Israel, it is difficult for people to convey the history of Israel, without being biased. When we discuss things in class, everyone, even at the age of 22 and 23, people come with this strong idea of what they think is true. It's impossible to even talk about. I think in class the other day, when discussing the UN partition of Israel, some asked, in 1947, what is the goal of the Arabs with this plan? Someone answered, to kill all the jews? I'm not positive how this idea could be turned into something, but it intrigued me all the same...

4. As I think about how I want to string the short pieces together, I think it would be great to have a same set of questions I ask everyone in one place - supermarket, on the street, etc. This could be thought of as a man on the street. It would be great to interject people's answers inbetween the pieces, as they become relevant. I would relate this to in a book, when a new chapter begins, and an author will insert a poem, short transcript, or something unrelated to the actual content, that helps introduce what you are about to read.

5. IDF Soldiers. I feel like there has been a lot of things done on IDF soldiers, and this maybe is something that is only interesting to Americans. But I think it is also so interesting to take americans view on war and service, and how appauled I know so many people would be if a draft was ever reinstated. With that audience in mind, it could be interesting to do something informative on either IDF service or soldiers, or even what it is like for young people after they have completed their mandatory service. I'm sure there are many extremists who are against whatever political power is currently instated in the Israeli Knesset, and what it is like for them to serve.

So there are just a few ideas, some of them are just interesting things, not necessarily possible for the documentary format. But as I said my original intent for the blog was to create a forum for my ideas and footage, here is step one. I'd love your thoughts!