Sunday, May 16, 2021

Arabesque and Efendi

"Arabesque is much more than just a small boutique hotel ... It is a labor of love shared by Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.  At Arabesque we view art and culture as a unifying factor, even – or especially – in a region of contention like the Middle East." From the Arabesque website

Unfortunately, the 'unifying factor' was far from evident in the past week as riots and clashes between Arabs and Jews spread like wildfire through Israeli cities with mixed populations.

Evan Fallenberg, owner of Arabesque in Acre (Akko), posted the following on Facebook:

"On Wednesday, shortly after midnight, Arabesque fell to the hands of a violent mob, in spite of the best efforts of our neighbors, who deflected the attack time and again until the mob grew to fifty and there were threats to burn down the entire neighborhood."

Arabesque was not the only victim in Acre of the widespread violence. The nearby Efendi boutique hotel was also torched and its adjacent world-famous Uri Buri restaurant was burned down. Jodie and I had stayed at the Efendi and had eaten at Uri Buri on a romantic weekend four years ago.

Uri Jeremias, owner of Effendi and the restaurant, told Yediot Aharonot this week that they were specifically targeted because they served as an example of coexistence in Acre.

Coexistence in Israel seems to be hanging by a thread these days. There have been clashes between Arab rioters and Israeli police in Jaffa (Yafo), Lod, and elsewhere. There have been shootings and attempted lynches, of both Jews and Arabs. It should be noted that some of the violence has been perpetrated by right-wing extremist Jews.

There has been sharp criticism of both the police's inability to handle Israel's internal crisis (at a time when there is a serious war with Hamas in Gaza) and the government, which has consistently ignored the country's Arab minority.

But, despite everything, there is hope. Uri Jeremias remains optimistic and plans to rebuild Efendi and re-open the Uri Buri restaurant, "better than before".

Evan Fallenberg posted: "It is not yet clear whether the people in this sad, beautiful, ravaged land can ever learn to respect the differences and distinctions between us and use them for an enhanced joint future, whether the wrongs committed by all parties can be righted. Only this, I know for certain: the friendships I have made in Acre are real and unassailable, even by hatred, anger and muscle. From this, I will build a future."

Evan Fallenberg is an American-born Israeli author and a translator of Hebrew books, plays and films. I have previously reviewed his novels When We Danced on Water and The Parting Gift.

Related articles:

The Sidewalk of Coexistence

Romantic Weekend in Israel’s other Walled Old City

Friday, May 7, 2021


Last night, I joined twenty-five members of my Marketing team at the home of our colleague, Amira, in Kfar Qasim, an Arab city east of Tel Aviv. The occasion was Iftar, the break-the-fast meal eaten by Muslims each evening during the month of Ramadan.

The food, prepared by Amira, her mother and her sister, was served on the long table set in Amira's yard. Roasted chicken, legs of lamb, stuffed peppers and zucchini, tabbouleh salad, stuffed grape leaves, and a variety of kubbeh. Delicious and plentiful, more than we could eat!

Desserts were traditional, and very sweet. Katayef, baklava, and other pastries.

It was such a wonderful experience to share Amira's culture and traditions, even if it was for just one evening. Shukran!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Related article:

I Celebrate Ramadan! On My Own. In My Backyard.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Review of the film 'Stowaway'


A three-member crew on a two-year mission to Mars discovers that there's a fourth person on board their ship. A stowaway. Although the crew quickly binds with the unexpected traveler, they discover that he has inadvertently destroyed a critical carbon dioxide-removing device. They don't have enough oxygen on board for their flight, and one passenger will have to go.

You would think that this problem is the most serious thing that happens during the film 'Stowaway' (Netflix, 2021), but something more serious occurred when the script was being written. The film is full of inconsistencies, illogical events, unlikely circumstances, and plot elements that are totally absurd.

Here is a partial list of what I found wrong in the film. (I can't take credit for everything I've listed):

·         How did Michael, the stowaway, survive the launch, when the members of the crew had to wear helmets and oxygen masks?

·         Michael was an engineer, but he was incapable of fixing any of the ship's technical malfunctions.

·         Why wasn't the ship equipped with a backup system?

·         Why couldn't the crew abort their mission the moment they discovered the stowaway and the critical malfunction?

·         Filling a cannister with pressurized oxygen turns out to be an illogically simple task, but dropping that cannister on the return to the ship by trained astronauts, who are securely tethered to each other, is just plain stupid.

·         As pointed out by other, more knowledgeable reviewers, a solar radiation storm would not be visible.

Despite all of the above, I found the film strangely captivating, primarily because of the acting. Toni Collette as mission commander was totally believable, especially when she can't avoid shedding a tear or two as things began to fall apart. Daniel Dae Kim as the ship biologist who can manage neither the physical stress of the launch nor the failure of his algae experiments. Shamier Anderson as the stowaway, whose despair when learning he is going to die comes across with the right amount of pathos. And Anna Kendrik as the medical researcher, is a joy to watch as she handles the most difficult assignments with poise and the slightest hint of a smile.

Critics of the film have noted the good acting, but also the fact that the film is quite boring. But then, a two-year journey to Mars is probably one of the most tedious journeys that humans could conceivably take in the very near future. It's a shame that the many ridiculous plot elements of 'Stowaway' make us less likely to take the trip.