Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sof Shavua B'Tel Aviv (For My Father)

I admit, I fail to understand religious violence.  I don't get wanting to blow up strangers because they believe differently about God than me.  I know that, historically, Christians have not been exempt from perpetration of violence.  I am troubled by periods of history in which Christians killed or oppressed others and defended it theologically.  And I have always been more troubled by the passages in the Old Testament in which God commands the Israelites to kill their enemies, including women, children, and livestock.

I supposed the same kind of desire for purity in the land that drove the Israelites is what drives the modern Islamicist to want to kill Jews in Israel.  In For My Father (I'm pretty sure the Hebrew title is literally Weekend in Tel Aviv), Tarek doesn't completely buy into the Islamist desire to eradicate the Jews from Israel.  But some friendly neighborhood Muslim terrorists have some dirt on Tarek's father, and promise that by blowing himself up in the marketplace in Tel Aviv, Tarek can restore his father's honor.  Again, this middle eastern notion of honor escapes me.  But Tarek reluctantly accepts their offer.

The good news/bad news is that the switch which would ignite the explosives Tarek is wearing fails.  He flees the marketplace and happens upon an electronic repair shop run by a friendly Jew, who agrees to order a replacement.  Since it's Friday afternoon, and Sabbath is about to begin, he tells Tarek he can't get it until Sunday morning.
With some time to kill, Tarek befriends the shop keeper and his wife.  He repairs their roof in exchange for a meal and a place to sleep.  He also befriends the pretty young shopkeeper across the street, a Jewish girl estranged from her Orthodox Jewish family.  Given the weekend to have second thoughts about blowing people up, he--well, I don't want to give away the ending.

I am trying to think about how I might view this movie were I a Muslim or a Jew living in Israel.  I have a feeling they would say the story is much too simplistic, that such chance meetings and ready friendships between Muslims and Jews are all too rare.  But I also have a feeling that if I were to wander into any given neighborhood in Tel Aviv, I would find plenty of Jews who would, as the shopkeeper did, extend hospitality and friendship to a stranger, Muslim or not.  I am alsosure I would find Muslims who detest the expression of their faith that calls for young men to blow themselves up.

This movie is moving, well-made, and presents a thought-provoking window into a modern yet ancient clash of culture and religion.  Another valuable offering from Film Movement, it's worth your time.

As the Psalmist wrote, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem" and Tel Aviv and every other city and town where Muslim, Jew, and Christian live together.

Bottom line, 3 stars.

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