Sunday, 9 March 2014
Thursday, 6 March 2014
Strange but true! I re-post in full a story which first appeared in SWNS.com – the South West News Service news agency on 25 April 2013. I’m not sure why it has reached the eyes and ears of the general public again now but I wish to assure my own readers that it is neither an early 2014 Purim spiel nor a rehearsal for an April Fool’s Day gag:
The SWNS reported that Anna-Marie Crampton, then a candidate for UKIP – the United Kingdom Independence Party – had claimed that Jews murdered each other during the Holocaust as part of a plot to create the State of Israel.
“The extreme views were posted in Mrs Anna-Marie Crampton’s name on a conspiracy theory website called ‘Secrets of The Fed’.
“Crampton, 57, is allegedly quoted as saying: ‘Holocaust means a sacrifice by fire. Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers.
“’The Second World Wide War was engineered by the Zionist Jews and financed by the banksters to make the general public all over the world to feel so guilty and outraged by the Holocaust that a treaty would be signed to create the State of Israel as we know it today’.”
“Mrs Crampton posed with UKIP leader Nigel Farrage at a rally in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, two weeks ago – and proudly posted a photo on her Facebook page.
“A further outrageous comment, posted two months ago, added: “The Rothschilds are Zionists ...there is a difference between Jews and Zionists. These psychopaths hide behind and use the Jews.
“It was thanks to them that six million Jews were murdered in the War (along with 26 million Russians!).”
“Another comment says: ‘I am anti Zionist, not antisemit (sic). I love the true Israel and the Jews’.”
“Mrs Crampton is standing for UKIP in next week’s county council elections in the traditionally Conservative ward of Crowborough in East Sussex.
“UKIP yesterday (Thursday) said they were anxiously trying to contact Mrs Crampton to hear her explanation of the reported comments, but had so far failed to reach her”.
This tale is terrible but it has a happy ending. Apparently Mrs Crampton, whose Facebook profile describes her as a ‘former NHS registered nurse’, was expelled from UKIP some time ago. I believe Mr Farrage is a decent British bloke who has the best interests of his countrymen at heart. But I’m more than dubious about much of the company he keeps.
© Natalie Wood (06 March 2014)
Friday, 28 February 2014
Sporting a taut-torsoed Romeo (Natey Jones) and a raw-boned, bawdy script, the TNT Britain-ADG Europe theatre company has this week thrilled Israeli audiences with a size zero model of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers tailored for the Twitter age.
As several Moslems attended the crowded opening matinée performance at the Beit Nir Theatre, Beit Hatotchan, Zichron Ya'acov, I wondered if director Paul Stebbings would tinge his version with local politics. But avoiding controversy, he focuses strictly on the play as an extended sonnet, evoking an Italy of the personal imagination through classical Commedia dell’Arte in which the actors wear masks and costumes from a near-mythical golden period that really never was.
While death may well be this Juliet’s (Georgie Ashworth) final lover, we first see her on the cusp of her sexual awakening, eager for adult life while clutching an infant’s rag doll. Small wonder that during the ball scene we view another rag doll being tossed about on a large sheet – symbolic perhaps of all those young women still thrown on marriage beds at their fathers’ bidding.
But while Stebbings’s anti-romantic view of one of the Bard’s best loved works bristles with mounting erotic tension, the often coarse humour far outweighs the tragedy, making us laugh more than than we weep, as he believes that the “entire play might easily be a comedy”.
So this is not a Romeo and Juliet for traditionalists but for fans willing to return to Shakespeare’s theatrical roots where actors were – indeed are – multi-skilled, able to swap roles – even gender – and shift minimal, eye-catching sets with graceful ease.
While Ashworth makes a plucky debut as Juliet, greatest honours surely go to Jones and Jude Owusu (Mercutio) while tribute must also be paid to the enthralling music and excitingly choreographed sword fights.
I appreciate that Stebbings is heavily influenced by both the late British academic Professor Sir Frank Kermode and Polish theatre director, Jerzy Grotowski with the latter’s concept of ‘poor theatre’. But as I wrote about last year’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, self-edited, heavily compacted scripts may also impoverish Shakespeare’s intent. They certainly make the second half of the current production less compelling than the first, so creating an anti-climactic finale. The ‘little death’ becomes so faint – it is barely there.
But don’t take my word for it. Most Israeli theatre-goers have showered this Romeo and Juliet with unstinting, lavish praise. So if you wish to form your own opinion there may be tickets remaining for the final performance in Raanana tomorrow evening, Saturday 01 March at 8.30 p.m. (Yad Labanim, Ahuza 147). Details from: 03-696-0389 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
© Natalie Wood (28 February 2014)
The incident is burned into my brain. I’ll never forget how 44 years ago as a preliminary to a UK ‘A’ Level History course, our teacher invited the class to debate ‘greatness’ and the nature of leadership. Most of us, aged not quite 17, didn’t have a clue!
After all, it takes an acute intelligence and the wisdom of maturity to scrape even the surface of such a big issue. Thus it became the solemn duty of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to help solve the problem during his eulogy at the memorial service to Israel’s former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.
He’d been “a complex man”, said Biden, who’d “lived in complex times in a complex neighbourhood” and had been forever loyal "to the north star that guided him - the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people”.
But Sharon’s passing – like that of former U.K. Premier Margaret Thatcher nine months before – triggered both torrents of hate-filled jubilation and candid, tearful sympathy. I guess the pair, whose personal histories could not have differed more, were somehow mated by their doughty but intricate characters – and quirkily – an unwavering, mutual admiration for Israel.
If she were still alive, Mrs T. would probably appreciate the comparisons made between ‘Ariel’ (usually translated as ‘God’s Lion’) and biblical heroes like Moses, Samson and the first ancient Jewish kings. But I think a better parallel would be with Avner, who was King Saul’s cousin and his military commander in chief.
Avner, like Arik as he was popularly known, was a great strategist and also like him and his son, Omri was physically massive. Indeed, rabbinic legend says “it would have been easier to move a wall six yards thick than one of the feet of Avner, who could hold the Israelitish army between his knees”.
Further, Sharon was a super husband and father, who married Lily, younger sister of his first wife, Gali after she was killed in a road accident. The pair brought up Gur, Sharon’s son by Gali and went on to have two sons together, Omri and his brother, Gilad. Another tragedy beset the Sharon family when Gur was killed aged 11 in an accidental shooting. Then Lily predeceased him by many years. At the end, a sure sign that Sharon’s familial bonds were as strong as his physique came from Gilad’s remark that his father “went when he decided to go”. Never mind that he lay in a coma for eight years – he still called the shots!
Moreover, opined David Horovitz of The Times of Israel, late in life Sharon was viewed as “likable and gracious and considerate; he had always been rapier smart and spectacularly courageous. But it is the loss of (his) pro-active qualities that is most being mourned, because it is those qualities that are in shortest supply among those he has left behind”.
I’m swift to admit that I was never a fan while Sharon lived and that it would be hypocritical of me to pretend otherwise, but I’d like to share the mixed and very human reaction of a man who once served under him:
“I served in Sharon’s command in ’73”, he explained during discussion on the CIF Watch monitoring site hosted by Adam Levick “and thought him to be a lousy officer. As housing minister, the total number of new settlements he allowed was a grand total of – three”. However, he added, “he had his strong points as well as weak points. He had nothing at all to do with Arabs killing Arabs (at Sabra and Shatilla) – that they do all on their own!”
But what very few people ever realised was that the man infamously portrayed as an Arab-baby eating monster enjoyed warm personal friendships with Arabs along with the great enmities. A farmer, who had long done private business with Sharon, travelled to his funeral at the ranch in southern Israel from Dir Al-Assad – the village next to me in Karmiel, Lower Galilee. The Arab called Sharon a man of honour.
So we are left with a military hero and politician who was also a pragmatist; a loving head of family who was suffused with personal nobility and who not only lost three of those dearest to him but as a man of probity was publicly shamed when his son served a prison term for fraud. So should any teacher wish to lead a class debate about greatness, perhaps they should start here!
This piece first appeared in the March 2014 edition of Live Encounters magazine (http://liveencounters.net/?p=4891) edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.
© Natalie Wood (February 28 2014)
Wednesday, 19 February 2014
Due to cancellation, there are two tickets available for anyone able to travel from Karmiel to see 'Romeo and Juliet' at Zichron Ya'akov on Sunday, 23 February at 4pm. Cost is 95 NIS with a return sherut seat available from Karmiel at 60 NIS. Contact me via this page for further details ASAP if interested. First-come, First-served!
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
I’ve been daydreaming about going to the local fleapit and seeing an image of the cinema projectionist on screen in place of the latest Hollywood heartthrob!
Or perhaps it wasn’t a fantasy. Maybe on Saturday evening last I did visit Karmiel’s smart Heichel Tarbut (cultural centre) to view the film version of Tracy Letts’s play, August: Osage County. But as I waited for the house lights to dim, instead saw an image of Zalman Nitzan, the municipality’s respected late film projectionist flickering behind the flimsy stage curtain on screen.
Earlier, Mayor Adi Eldar led public tribute to Mr Nitzan who, I understand, had served Karmiel and its film-buffs for as long as even the earliest residents dared recall. It’s said that many years ago, there were about a half-dozen movie theatres in town but all closed for financial reasons.
But more accurately, advises veteran U.K.-born olah (immigrant), Noreen Firestone “there were three cinemas at one time and before that (when we arrived) there was one in what we called the refet (cowshed) where we had to take cushions to sit on hard wooden benches. Zalman and his wife Lea owned and ran the cinema. It was where the new complex with Bank Leumi is today”.
Now, as the extended train service is being built, the community also relishes the development of a new shopping mall complete with a multiplex cinema. As Mr Eldar most graciously sent me greetings for my recent birthday, perhaps he’ll follow up with a Press pass for the opening show. I’ll keep you posted!
Meanwhile, I must report that August: Osage County is 121 minutes of degenerate self-flagellation, unworthy of the talents of a stellar cast headed by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. No matter what too many people say, I maintain that it’s self-regarding codswallop and it’s as well that Mr Nitzan was present only in spirit.
I’m sure that like me, he would have much preferred Watermarks, a small-scale, multi-prize-winning documentary movie that was screened on Sunday under the auspices of Keren B’Yachad, whose charitable work aids local needy children.
The 2004 directorial debut of American Israeli Yaron Zilberman (who has since received much praise for A Late Quartet with Christopher Walken), it features a group of women swimmers from the Viennese Jewish Hakoah sports club who were hugely successful against the rise of Fascism in 1930s Austria.
The film traces the team's success until the Anschluss (Germany’s political annexation of Austria) in 1938 when members had to seek refuge variously in Mandate Palestine, England and the United States.
Watermarks makes instant stars of the octogenarian team members featured (sadly some had died before it was made) and exemplifies how an active youth may lead to a healthy, fine-looking, deep old-age. Among those interviewed is Judith Haspel who had been a record-setting swimmer selected to represent Austria in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. She refused to go and was stripped of her records and banned from further competition. Her records were not reinstated until 1995. The movie ends with eight of the surviving team returning to Vienna 65 years later for a reunion swim at their old pool, dressed in their club gear!
But the beauty of this compelling piece of art lies as much in its background as in what foreground it displays:
The story really begins much earlier in 1909 after the Austrian government passed the “Aryan Paragraph" law forbidding sports clubs from accepting Jewish members. So Jewish athletes responded by forming the "Hakoah Vienna" sports organisation which sought, not only to give members a place to go, but a means to combat and and confront the stereotypes of (Austrian) Jews being intellectual giants but physical weaklings. The word hakoah means ‘strength’ in Hebrew and many club members became champions in various sports in Austria and throughout Europe. Indeed, the soccer team roundly defeated the U.K.’s West Ham United F.C. at an exhibition match in 1924.
However, the most successful athletes were the women swimmers who not only dominated the sport in Vienna but became the core of Austria's 1936 Olympics team, when the games were due to be held in Germany. When some refused to go, their stance was viewed as a propaganda triumph for Hitler. Then after the Anschluss, Hakoah could no longer operate and this is when the records of many of its athletes were obliterated.
Zilberman’s personal triumph is not only in reuniting these remarkable women or even in encouraging them to recall their painful past. It is the restrained gentility with which he conveys the nauseating awfulness of what had developed, continued to occur and will forever happen to the world’s Jews - Israel or no Israel.
How else to explain the girl whose parents were snobbish enough to try to stop her joining Hakoah but were eventually forced to join her in Palestine? What other reason for the terrifying, hate-filled, silent reception that the Hakoah team received during the pre-Olympic Games torch bearing ceremony when other teams had received rapturous ovations? What logic otherwise in filming the old ladies sitting trapped in a Viennese club during their reunion visit while being serenaded by someone performing the Buchenwald Song, something its composers, Fritz Beda-Löhner and Hermann Leopoldi, had been forced to write as a marching song for their fellow concentration camp inmates?
This is when I decided, against all persuasion, I would never visit Vienna, enjoy its culture or devour its dainty cakes. Who knows what pots of poison may be set for my unwary delectation?
But let me end on a happier note: Not only has Zilberman’s film won prizes, it has been screened scores of times to benefit great Jewish and Israeli causes. This should be no surprise:
Marsha Kolman, a former long-serving Director of the Women's Division at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and now a Karmieli says: “One of my presidents of the Women's Division was Iraqi-born Moj Danial. She and her husband, Robert were producers of the movie and we showed it in Miami to several groups and raised money for the annual campaign with the showings. I've seen it many, many times and it still brings tears to my eyes - it is such a beautiful story and all the women on the swim team are just remarkable people”. So it was Marsha who was instrumental in Keren B’Yachad bringing Watermarks to Karmiel for Sunday’s screening.
- I close with thanks to Alex Huber, Karmiel city’s official photographer for permission to reproduce his pictures of the tribute to Zalman Nitzan and also to Marsha Kolman and Noreen Firestone for their enthusiastic contributions to this piece.
© Natalie Wood (18 February 2014)
Thursday, 13 February 2014
Sunday, 26 January 2014
All the generations were represented when hordes of children and teenagers on scooters and skateboards were joined by their parents and grandparents at the inauguration of the lottery funded skate park in Rabin, Karmiel.
We managed to capture municipal cameraman, Alex Huber hard at work while a fellow spectator found an easier way to record the moment by wearing a camera secured firmly on a crash helmet -Israel’s fashion must for 2014!