When I think of my parents’ tale of survival, and what they lost, the Holocaust becomes personal. It also has occurred to me that my father was never more savvy nor persevering in his life than when leading his young wife and her widowed aunt to safety in the United States: through countries under attack (Yugoslavia and Greece) and in rebellion (Iraq) to the other side of the world (British India), and back around the horn of Africa, up to the Americas and to New Jersey where they first settled.
Filmmaker David Fisher (R) with siblings: Gideon, Esti, Ronel
Sept. 28 marks the commercial debut of “Six Million And One,” David Fisher’s true-life depiction of his Israeli family coming to grips with how the Holocaust affected them. Twelve years after his survivor-father’s death, he discovers his diary of remembrances from his months of captivity, first deported from his home in Hungary to Auschwitz and then to the slave labor camps of Mauthausen-Gusen and Gunskirchen in Austria. The filmmaker conscripts his two brothers and one sister into retracing their father’s steps in Austria, basically browbeating them into joining him.
My father showed a resourcefulness and resolution in those years that he did not generally manifest in the rest of his life. In parallel terms, David Fisher and his siblings found a depth of soul and expressiveness in their father’s diary that he apparently lacked while bringing them up. They spoke of the “physicality” of how their father conceived the world and interacted with them, how he could not understand his children on an emotional level. Yet, despite everything, it must be acknowledged that both fathers succeeded in raising normal families.
At first, I was worried that a one-day conference wouldn’t be worth $99 or, at the last minute, $149, but the moment I was welcomed into the Unitarian church on Franklin, I received a nice string backpack containing three new books, all useful, and two, especially valuable. Already I had recouped $60! And there was much more. This is a conference I believe many Tikkun readers would appreciate.
photo by Marty Castleberg
Hawken and the Seattle Protests: Writing That Changes the World
The best moment – Paul Hawken’s speech – came first. It was wonderful to hear that someone hugely successful, the pal of people like Clinton, had shown up in person at the WTO protests in Seattle, an event he felt was grossly misrepresented by the likes of Tom Friedman who opined from a continent away. In response, he wrote a 10,000-word email. He asked for no payment from the publications that accepted it, but wanted them to give up exclusive rights so that it could be freely and widely shared. Eventually, it turned into his latest book, Blessed Unrest, a title that came from Martha Graham’s words:
Lauded as one of the most influential authors within contemporary Arab literature, Emile Habiby consistently presents his readers with thoughtful, provocative, and entertaining material that challenges understandings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a Christian Arab born in Haifa, Habiby often examines what it means to be Palestinian within Israeli society. The author led an active civic life, helping to found the Israeli communist party (ICP) and serving multiple terms in the Knesset throughout the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. In 1972, Habiby stepped down from his post in order to focus more heavily on his writing, and in 1974 he published what became his most renowned novel, The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist.
A highly satirical read, this novel presents the story of an Arab man who gains Israeli citizenship and attempts to navigate life within the newly formed state. Saeed is a gullible, seemingly foolish character, eager to collaborate with Israeli powers in order to survive. The extremity of Saeed’s cowardice and his initial lack of a strong ‘Palestinian’ identity make the anti-hero seem more pitiable than evil. Introduced as an “ill-fated pessoptimist,” Saeed takes on the position of an Israeli-Palestinian everyman, whose role in society is as confusing as the idea of pessoptimism – explained by Saeed as the combination of pessimism and optimism, “blended perfectly” so that the character can thank God for his life while still expecting things to get much worse. Saeed’s Candide-like nature, as well as a series of fantastical events (from treasure hunts to visits from a “man from outer space”), give the novel its farcical feel, drawing out both the cyclical nature and sheer absurdity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Drooker's "Tomorrow" which appeared on the cover of Tikkun's 2011 summer issue.
A small, bronze Buddah statue sits on a windowsill in Eric Drooker’s studio. Jazz plays on the radio. The room is big enough to fit a sofa, two computers, and several finished canvases scattered about the room, but it’s a tight fit. Two gymnastic rings hang from the ceiling, which Drooker uses to take breaks from working. He says it reminds him that we are all just “highly evolved apes.”
2011: barbed wire in jerusalem outside the jerusalem/bethlehem checkpoint.
Photographer Claire Schwartz explores both sides of the Israeli West Bank Barrier and the Bethlehem/Jerusalem checkpoint in her series entitled israel.checkpoint.palestine.
Schwartz describes her photographs as a form of visual activism and social justice. “For me, art is all about my politics,” she says. “It is a way of being creative and expressing things that are political.”
On a humid Saturday afternoon in Manhattan last weekend, I found myself going to see a show with a title that would have driven me away not so long ago: “I Heart Hamas”. The one-woman show “I Heart Hamas And Other Things I’m Afraid to Tell You” was created and performed by Jennifer Jajeh, who profiles her identity as a Palestinian-American actor as she navigates family pressures, stereotypes in show business, and intimate relationships with humor, curiosity and frustration. Jajeh takes her audience on a trip to her homeland in Palestine, and through her first-person narrative we get an insight into her daily reality and her ability to find comedy in tragedy.
Jajeh defines her show as “a tragicomic one-woman theater show about my experiences as a Palestinian American and my decision to move to Ramallah in 2000.” Jajeh describes the difficulty of getting acting jobs and directors asking her to “be a little less Palestinian” or trying to decide whether she can pass for Mexican. She takes us to her family’s hometown Ramallah and we discover the sights and sounds of the bustling city with her – the carpeted cabs and the boisterous shuk, the clashes with Israeli soldiers, and the ensuing teargas. We learn through Jajeh that simply going about the grit of living life is an act of resistance under occupation. Arab-American activist Anna Lekas Millerobserves that the show “helps make sense of how our personal backgrounds are politicized, and how this affects us as people.”
"Swimming Pool" by Janice Fried. This image accompanied an affirmation card called "Pay Attention to your Body" in the "Wisdom for Healing" card deck. Click on the image above to see more of Fried's art.
“Healing is more than confronting the challenge of an illness. The wise approach is to realize that it is a lifestyle requiring constant support, and attention to the well-being of our mind, body, and spirit.”
These words appear in “Wisdom for Healing,” a card deck illustrated by figurative artist Janice Fried and produced by Hay House Publishing. Most of the images in the deck present a subject interacting with nature, focusing on a craft, or doing routine tasks with serene expressions on their faces.
by: Ben Spielberg on May 22nd, 2012 | Comments Off
Baal Shem Tov / Courtesy of Tom Block
While artists do not change the world by merely raising awareness of a social issue, their activist art can mobilize people and resources around a cause.Tom Block, a witty and eloquent artist and writer based in Silver Spring, Maryland, revealed this philosophy to a mixed-faith crowd at the Mishin Fine Arts Gallery in San Francisco from May 4 to May 6. Block uses both his book (Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity) and his artwork to spark conversations between people of various backgrounds interested in “infiltrating and taking over ‘the system.’”
The first ever Amnesty International Human Rights festival, produced by Block in 2010, showcased many of his paintings and furthered several goals of activist art. Congressional sponsors of the festival included Congressmen John Kerry, Bernie Sanders, Olympia Snowe, and Chris Van Hollen, names which helped “inject the work into the worlds of social and political leaders.” More than thirty-five exhibits appeared throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. Dozens of newspaper articles, radio, and television interviews spawned by the festival drastically increased media awareness of the plight of political prisoners like Jose Gallardo, a brigadier general in the Mexican army who spent nine years in jail for publishing an academic paper that exposed the army’s human rights abuses. The festival also helped bring together more than a dozen NGO’s and art sales raised more than $15,000 for Amnesty International.
Though many of the deities in his paintings wear masks, DJEMBE & CANVAS does not. A mask would deflect, disown, and, most importantly, disguise. He disguises nothing. Instead, when we first meet him, we come face-to-face with bleached, blinding honesty. And with this radiant honesty, he inspires us to shed our counterfeit identities and transcend the living masquerade.
Oftentimes, he does not speak of himself in the finite I, Me, My but in the infinite We, Us, Our; thus, in his presence, illusionary boundaries between the self-in-here and the world-out-there collapse. And once these boundaries collapse, we experience what the Lankavatara Sutra calls, “a turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness.” In short, when DJEMBE & CANVAS says, “Collectively we can move forward as one,” he awakens our understanding that universal consciousness manifests not just in his life but in ours as well.