Gush Etzion, Gabriel Allon, and Charles Bragg (6 cents)

The Movie: “Dubak -The Palestian Jew” is a very interesting one hour film directed by Israeli film maker Ella Alterman, shown tonight at the JCC. The director was present for a talk-back after the movie.

It is a biopic focused on an unusual West Bank resident, who unfortunately died of a heart attack during the filming, cutting short what was to have been a much longer film. Dubak lived in the Gush Etzion bloc, a religious block of settlements east of Jerusalem created after the 1967 war by proponents of a Greater Israel. But he was unusual.

A descendent of Jews who first came to the area in the 1850s, he felt his roots there, and stated that he didn’t care what country he was in. He would fight for his land and the right to live there, but whether he lived in an Israeli state or a Palestinian state was unimportant to him.

One of his four sons was killed by a terrorist in the 1990s. He was greatly affected, as one would expect, and redirected his life. He settled in the valley that his ancestors had settled in, he planted trees and vines and vegetables, and built stone fences. He took children from the Jewish settlements who were having trouble fitting in (academically, socially, whatever) and had them work with him, treating them sternly but very positively. He devoted time to searching for missing hikers, and found quite a number of them; he knew the hills and valleys well, and his co-workers in this task were the Bedouins. He was very close to the Beduoins and they seemed to respect and like him. Everyone did.

He was, I thought, a very confused person, searching for the answers, finding them only in the land. And his early death (he was quite overweight) affected that land, I am sure. For there was no one to continue of his programs. His kids were too sophisticated, too normal. His wife (not in the film) is, according to Alterman, very different from her husband; she is the daughter of an American rabbi.

I thought Alterman caught her subject well. A friend of Dubak’s in the audience agreed. I think Dubak’s unique life and thought process raise many, many questions, none of which have complete answers, and all of which should.

The Book: “The Messenger” by Daniel Silva. A fine book to read when you have a cold and want something that will keep your attention (and not lead you to close your eyes) and which you can finish in a day or two. And, yes, Gabriel Allon comes out just fine, even deciding it’s time to marry Chiara (although of course he doesn’t quite do it in the book). But it’s a tough ride – he witnesses a terrorist attack on the Vatican which kills hundreds, he moves back and forth between Italy and Israel and CIA headquarters in McLean, he saves the life of the Pope (one of his close friends, of course) as well as the life of the President of the United States, he gets a young Phillips Gallery curator into a heap of trouble and sort-of barely extracts her, he penetrates the secrets of one of the world’s largest corporations to see how they fund and control al-Quaeda and other terrorist activites, and he has some wonderful meals at some exquisite Caribbean restaurants. What more can you want?

The second book. Charles Bragg’s “Asylum Earth”. Great drawings, nonsensical writings that look like things that I write. I can’t say it’s classic literature. But you have to like stories about St. Francis of Azusa who loved animals so much. He got a lion to lie down with a lamb; they looked so nice. He wondered why, when he looked at them later in the day, the lamb had decided to leave. He thought that God made bats blind so they couldn’t see how ugly they were. And “the gentle and saintly Francis could not even bring himself to swat a mosquito….. He died of malaria.”

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