quinta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2011

When Israel becomes Isreal (Day 7: Tel Aviv)

I wake up with a sudden desire for blood. After many days surviving as a recollector in the Garden of Eden, my hunter’s instinct kicks in and I am eagerly craving for meat. I want to be on the top of the food chain again. I am no longer the Jew that stands trials, I am the Israeli that fights for its right to exist in its own terms – Jabotinsky dix it. Pedro, who is very happy eating the food that my food eats, has to accept to live side by side with his enemy. Just like everyone around us. And so we leave the house for another informal briefing with Sergio Edelsztein. By now we proudly tour the streets of Tel Aviv as if we had always been there. This seems to be a common syndrome in this area of the world and is proved to be highly contagious even to newly-comers like us. As we newly-come closer to Carmel Market (or Caramel, as I call it), we try to find a place to eat. We choose a terrace that not only will allow me to smoke but also will give us a chance to practice our odd people spotting skills. Sitting just behind us we found a good case study. A young looking woman, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying a gun around her waist, was having a meeting with an Arab looking guy. They were sketching some kind of objects or space on a piece of paper. The John Le Carré inside me was over excited. What were they talking about, who are they, what are they doing? As any good Israeli I know that a paranoid is only a well informed person and so I try to squeeze as much data as I can in order to anticipate any treats coming from my not-so-innocent looking tea sipping neighbours. All this action around us made me forget the misfortune of not having found any proper meat on the restaurant’s menu. I chose to remain hungry. I chose to remain alert. Just like everyone around us. Sergio was at his office dealing with his own Third Temple: Videozone. This international video festival was what brought me to Israel twice. As always Sergio remains apparently relaxed in the midst of many sources of stress. His wife was going to have some kind of surgery or operation and he would have to play stay-home-dad for a while as well as being the Art World shark that he so elegantly knows how to be. But what is that for someone who was born in Argentina and lives now willingly in one of the most fucked up part of the world? We chatted for a while about his projects and our adventures in the Middle West and then went for a coffee. While there, we got a phone call from Yael Bar-On. Her contact had been given to us by Arkadi Zaides as a possible “Ramallah Connection”. We made an appointment in another café in central Tel Aviv. Yael has had a fake artistic love story and so she seems to be the right person to help us appointing our blind date with Palestine. While in an international artistic residence in Italy she met a Palestinian artist named Ahmad Malki. Since they were not under the influence of the current state of affairs back home, they came up with the strange notion that they could fall in love. So in love that they would get married. And so they decided to become the Romeo and Juliet of the Middle East. That was of course an artistic project. But only they knew that. And so as soon as they started announcing such crazy idea to friends and family in the form of wedding invitations, both Israeli Capulets and Palestinian Montagues went bezerk! Yael was regarded upon as a traitor and Ahmad was considered to be a suicide-lover. The project bared the pompous sounding title of “Alii bella gerunt, tu felix Austria nube” (Let other people wage war. You, happy Austria marry instead.), a saying that has been used since the 15th Century to describe the political practice of Habsburg family. Another branch of the same venture was “Mix It Up”, a website devoted to offering an online meeting place and a micro-scale conflict resolution to Israeli and palestinian singles, developed by Yaek and Ahmad together with Japanese artist Sakiko Sugawa and Spaniard Yolanda de los Bueis. Unfortunately in the end, Ahmad had to refrain Yael’s creative frenzy and call off the performative wedding since he actually started to fear for his own life. It seems that the smokescreen of “the only democracy in the Middle East” had once again protected one of its children and doomed the fate of one of its natural born killers. After all, artists are also citizens and no matter how much they generate their own alternative realities, one day they will have to face the “real reality”: Isreal! In that moment we realized that Ahmad had felt in his own skin the consequences of daring to fall in love with the monster and so it was an absolute imperative for us to meet him as soon as possible. And in Ramallah. Yes, the mythical Ramallah. Yael, like any other good Jewish child from any other good Jewish family, was impressed that we actually wanted to go there. Ramallah is to Israelis what the end of the flat world was to our old man from Restelo: a free bungee-jumping fall into a big black hole of unknown dangers and monsters. Still she had the death wish like desire to meet again with the artistic runaway groom who had left her waiting in the leftist altar of politically engaged art. Fortunately or unfortunately, Israelis cannot enter Ramallah. Or to be more precise, cannot enter Israel after going to Ramallah. And so we came to realize the hidden agenda of Yael behind of our apparently innocent looking meeting: she wanted us to accompany her on a crazy illegal trip to the territories. Oh Israel! No day under your (hot) sun is without challenge! Since we have arrived, we were transformed into bubblicious upper-class Tel Aviv citizens, aliyah Zionists Jews willing to join the ranks of Irgun, left wing very active activists, and now, UN Blue Helmets kidnapped to serve as human shields. How can we not love you? You make us feel alive. Yael’s plan was to turn our 20 minutes pleasant sherut ride from Jerusalem to Ramallah into a shady remake of Sally Field’s movie “Not without my daughter” (6 frightful hours of ridding the dunes of despair in some G-d forsaken land in a dusty van from the 70’s driven by a man that has a piece of cloth for a face). Cool! Let’s do it! Our bravery sprung from our ignorance as well as from our arrogance: what could ever happen to us? We are Europeans, we have rights, we have sanity commissions and free public health care. Yes, we can! And so we promised to squeeze into our busy hand drawn excel sheet Yael’s eagerness to both break G-d’s law and meet Ahmad. Our minds were already bursting with expectations and could hardly pay just attention to the rest of Yael’s precious information. She mentioned a film we should see (Arna’s children), a place we should go to (the “Freedom Theatre”, in renown refugee camp/Palestinian city Jenin) and a person we should meet (Zemira something, a woman working on a PHD thesis about the love between Israelis and Palestinians). Like one book leads to another, every person we meet in Israel leads us to a handful of even more interesting possibilities. And we only have 14 days left… We must move faster. We must go. As a goodbye gift, Helpful Yael gave us Ahmad phone number and her personal blessing to our artsy love quest. In exchange, we promised to organize her illegal exportation to Palestine (Is exportation the new deportation?). Back in our flat, we devoted the rest of our evening to the detailed investigation of the work and life of Yael and Ahmad. Googling our days is how we spend most of our nights in Israel. It is the only way to make any sense of the stream of information that is thrown at our goy faces. If my blue Yerushalaim notebook would end up in the hands of Mossad they would sure offer me a job. We are lovers with method as much as the Nazis were haters with order. Before calling it a day, Pedro suggested me to call Ahmad instead. I only felt safe enough to do so after checking his facebook page. For a terrorist, he was very nice and welcoming on the phone. He suggested we should book a specific day for our meeting since he was currently very busy with the visit of his Bulgarian girlfriend. He also gave us the contact of a Jerusalem based Italian girl that could assist us with the logistics of entering Palestine. Her name was Beatrice Catanzaro. She was a left-wing activist who spoke Portuguese and who had previously been in Portugal (and that, as we know now, has many Portuguese acquaintances common to me and Pedro). I felt a rush just of knowing I was in the territories via Israeli Telecom. And as in all calls we did in Israel, I did not understand half of what was being said to me. It is very good that I was always an “A” student when it came to the “fill in the blanks” tests type in school. Still today I am convinced that Israeli secret services scrambled most of our calls by transforming simple English words into Yiddish gibberish. Because of that, neither me nor Pedro were very eager to make any phone calls whatsoever. It was hard not to laugh at each other when we had to scream over and over again over the phone: Sorry. I did not get it. Can you please repeat the last sentence?