Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Where to call home?



I saw a movie last night, a documentary, and it evoked quite a few issues to ponder on.

The documentary followed four Jewish writers of Iraqi descent. Baghdad to be precise. Three older gentlemen who actually grew up in Baghdad, and a middle aged younger lady whose parents are from Baghdad originally. They are all Israeli citizens.

The three men became intellectuals at an early age during the 40s, and at that time in Baghdad, many intellectuals were attracted to communism and joined the communist party. It’s a two hour movie, and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but for this short post, here are just a few interesting points:

These people kept identifying themselves as ‘Arab Jews’ which technically, I didn’t understand because the religion part of the identity is inherited from the mother in Judaism and since it wasn’t customary to invite people to join the religion, and intermarriage did not happen often, I would have thought that these writers were ethnically Hebrew, but that’s not important here. The important thing is that all four of them saw themselves as Arabs.

They talked about a major persecution event that happened in Iraq in the early 40s (maybe 1941) when many Jews of all ages were massacred during a period of unrest in the country, but they attributed that to the fact that the instigators were people seeking to fight the British influence in Iraq, and so, had aligned themselves with the Nazis, and it wasn’t because the Jews and Muslims hated each other.

In the late 40s, there were anti-Zionist Jewish movements in Iraq (although there was also a small Zionist movement there as well).

After the formation of the state of Israel, most Jews did not want to leave Iraq, but the Arab government no longer wanted them (and issued laws to annul their citizenship), and the Zionist movement wanted them to move to Israel, but mainly to bolster the number of Jews in the Holy Land (according to the documentary). All four writers were convinced that there was collaboration between the government and the Zionist movement !!! (what’s up with that?)

All four spoke of long years of discrimination in their new homeland because the Europeans saw them as backward and uncivilized even though the majority were well educated intellectuals, and so they continued to see themselves as outsiders and had to struggle with all kinds of issues of assimilation, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The lady who grew up in Israel, wrote a book about this discrimination which opened eyes and shocked many. She finally found a home for herself in New York where she feels she can now be both a Jew and an Arab, without being her own enemy. !!

Of course there is much more to the movie, but what I wanted to bring up here, is what seems obvious to me (in this case at least), that religion was used (/abused), yet again for political reasons. Of course it’s na├»ve to say that the relationship among people of different religions was ideal throughout the centuries, specially where followers of one religion were the dominant majority, but the animosity we see today, is way out of proportion compared to a century ago, and most of it did not start with the people themselves.

We have the political and religious leaders to thank for that.

As to “where to call home?”, some of us will have to wait, while for some of us, “The earth is but one country, and mankind, its citizens”.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Edo River rising,
I wish I could have shared the seat next to you in the theater.

The more I read recently of the tangled nature of Arab-Hebrew-Jewish-Muslim relations in the 20th century, and my reading is not an organized presentation but bits and pieces here and there on the Internet, I recognize the inspiration for a recent dreaming moment---

the image of two men genetically bonded together from the waist down, thus brothers; both armed with serrated knives slashing at each other, their wounds, while exposing bones and serrated edges plowing open vital organs, also begin closing up, leaving ugly disfiguring scars and the memory of the pain, thus fueling the anger to higher extremes. These two figures are also falling (off a cliff?), falling, screaming, slashing, ever onward and downward. Brothers bonded for their life. It doesn't matter what caused the initial attack; They couldn't have been born with knives. Both are falling towards seeming destruction, yet both are totally focused only on their anger for each other.

Now I haven't finished the scene ;-)
The knives are in one hand only, the other hand, at the wrist is a handcuff, this connects to a chain the chain ends with another wrist and handcuff. There are others, but in this dream I can't make sense of it..It would seem that the others could pull up the falling "heroes" or are they doomed be dragged down to a similar destruction? The wounds heal, in a fashion so this suggests some supernatural ability to avoid total destruction. This is my thinking mind handling a piece of a dream...I don't know.

My initial horror, was being pulled closer to the 2 freightening visages of mixed anger and pain. As though I could see their souls being expressed on their faces, and that expression was as a transformation into beasts that have never been seen or imagined before on this earth. This fear was partially contained as my view receded from a close up of their faces to realize they were just 2 and joined and chained. Small consolation considering they are for the moment "I was there" dragging others down, Yet I felt something else in that, that "small" consolation, it was some recognition of kinship...I write this as a final note, but to be more accurate in my dream state I was horribly freightened by the ferocity of their anger--the final note of some form of ...kinship...I like that word, reminds me of "skinship"...I couldn't say this recogntion brought any or much relief.

.Now actually that was the end of this dream segment just before I got up this morning. I rarely remember my dreams, unless I lie in bed and fall back to sleep after the first alarm..so this was only about 15 min, and there is probably much that I missed. But it certainly was vivid, for me, the part that I remember.

Faisal said...

Edo-liba san :)

Sorry I didn't know that your comment was pending publication earlier. Sorry for the delay.

What a vivid (and realistic) dream !!

I think what keeps healing the wounds, is Providence saying: "I am not giving up on you yet. You HAVE TO work it out."

As to the others who are also tied to the chains, I am afraid that they WILL be pulled down too, if they don't start pulling the miserable two brothers up.

Thank you for writing. I hope you do get to see that movie.

Keep up the good work in good old Nippon Land. .. Wakaremashtaka? :)

- Faisal