Family is complicated. Marriage is complicated. We can only do our best and hope that it is good enough.
The new Netflix series, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, is based on the novel, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem: A Novel, by Sarit Yishai-Levi. The first series is set in the 1920s and 1930s. It follows the women of the Ermoza family, a Sephardi Jewish family living in Jerusalem. Gabriel (Michael Aloni) is in love with another woman but is forced to marry Roza (Hila Saada), by his mother Merkada (Irit Kaplan). He tries to be a good husband and father but is not exactly dedicated to his family. Almost twenty years later, their eldest daughter, Luna (Swell Ariel Or) is growing up in a time of political tension and struggle.
I don’t recall if I read the book, but the first series is fantastic. Set against the backdrop of British-controlled Palestine (i.e. pre-1948 Israel), the emotional conflicts within the Ermoza family collide with the heady and complicated world events of the era. It is fantastic, immediately grabs the viewer, and does not let go until the final credits roll. If nothing else, it reveals a side of history in this region that is not often talked about in the mainstream press.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
The first season of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is available for streaming on Netflix.
P.S. The second season is scheduled to be released sometime in July. I eagerly await its arrival.
If there is one thing we can hopefully agree on, it is that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not as black and white as it appears to be on the surface. The truth is that there are grey areas that are not often explored or given time in the spotlight.
I have mixed feelings about this book. While he highlights the antisemitism that has, unfortunately, been part and parcel of Jewish history, I think he gives the haters too much latitude. While I am again hoping that the consensus is that there has been too much destruction and loss on both sides, I am disheartened that the author ignores the many times that real attempts for peace have been shot down by the Palestinians.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Can We Talk About Israel?: A Guide for the Curious, Confused, and Conflicted is available wherever books are sold.
The basic purpose of journalism is to provide the public with the following answers to a specific news story: who, what, when, where, and how. After all of that information is provided, the viewing and listening audience should be allowed to make their own mind up about the story.
On Wednesday, Al Jazeerajournalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in a clash between IDF soldiers and Palestinian extremists. As usual, the worldwide mainstream press does not report the whole truth.
The truth is that she was likely killed by one of her own people. While the Israeli government promises a thorough investigation, there is the usual silence and lies from their Palestinian counterparts.
I am going to end this post with the truth from Bassam Eid and Noa Tishby. This is antisemitism, pure and simple. The sooner the world realizes it, the sooner that real peace is possible.
May the memory of Shireen and every journalist who has been killed in the line of duty be a blessing. Z”L.
May is Jewish American Heritage Month. With antisemitism on the rise in frightening numbers, the easier thing would be to hide who we are. Instead, we should be loud and proud of who we are. In honor of this month, I would like to offer a small list of American Jews who have made an impact on this nation.
Silence speaks volumes and actions speak louder than words. People can say whatever they want, but words mean nothing.
Tuesday was the 79th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. When the world turned its back on Europe’s Jews, it gave the Nazis carte blanche permission to persecute, starve, torture, and murder my Jewish brethren. The only way we could survive is if we saved ourselves. It was a f*ck you to those who decided that we were not worth fighting for.
In the years since then, Jews (and Israel by extension) have had to keep the figurative middle finger raised. Because once again, we have been told by actions that we should remain sheep to the slaughter.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I believe in the sacredness of the sites and the holidays within my faith. Earlier today, militant Palestinians decided that one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, was to be used not as a site of prayer, but of a battle. This is during Ramadan, which I think deserves a little more respect. Not only did they attempt to physically destroy the building, but they used it as a base to attack innocent people.
In my mind, that is akin to Jewish worshippers destroying the Western Wall during Yom Kippur to spite our neighbors. It is something I cannot comprehend.
Given that the basic concept of Jewish history is that we are still here despite many attempts at assimilation and extermination, I personally think that it’s time to not give a shit. If living means fighting for ourselves when no one else will, so be it.
Comparisons during any international conflict are inevitable. What we have to remember is to ask ourselves if this correlation is being backed up by facts or lies?
The war between Russia and Ukraine is nearly a month old. Too many have been killed, millions have been displaced, and a generation has been forever changed due to the ego of one man. Instead of doing what they can to stop Vladimir Putin from doing any more damage, some people have decided to distort the truth to fit their perspective.
Antisemitism is being used once more to twist what we know to be true. The claim is that Israel is to Russia as Palestine is to Ukraine. In other words, Israel is (again) the big bad and Palestine is the little person trying to defend themselves. As usual, the reality is being ignored. Not only is humanitarian aid being sent, but both the Israeli government and its citizens have welcomed refugees of all faiths and backgrounds.
Truth is powerful. It transcends disinformation and forces us to face facts. But, in order to do that, we must be willing to put aside our prejudices and what we think we know. The problem is that too many are unwilling or unable to see the truth.
When we get to a certain age, it is not uncommon to see the younger generation as lazy, entitled, or selfish. While this may be true for some, the truth is that young people are not always what their elders think they are.
Reading this book gives me hope for the future. Though it is written for a certain audience, the appeal does not stop beyond the age of 25. Her ability to translate the past into understandable chunks is the key to its success. Its the type of book that if used in an academic setting, has the potential to make history come alive and feel relevant.
My only issue is that the section on what is going on in the Middle East (with Israel in particular) is missing some important facts that complete the story.
Representation both on the screen and on the page is a powerful thing. For those who feel maligned or ignored, seeing themselves in the media as fleshed-out human beings is an experience that can only be described as life-changing. It also changes minds and hopefully opens the door to understanding one another.
I have mixed feelings about this. Golda Meir was Israel‘s first female Prime Minister and a woman to be reckoned with. The actress who plays her has to have that same energy and presence. Mirren is clearly up for the job.
The problem (which I understand) is that Mirren is not Jewish. When she spoke to the director before she took the role, she understood the criticism that was potentially coming her way.
“[Meir] is a very important person in Israeli history,” Mirren continued. “I said, ‘Look Guy, I’m not Jewish, and if you want to think about that, and decide to go in a different direction, no hard feelings. I will absolutely understand.’ But he very much wanted me to play the role, and off we went.”
“I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had – it’s utterly legitimate. [But] You know, if someone who’s not Jewish can’t play Jewish, does someone who’s Jewish play someone who’s not Jewish?”
This is not the first time that she has played a Jewish character. In both The Debt and Woman in Gold, the women she played were of the faith. But neither of the women who she temporarily inhabited were in the position that Meir was in. What I think makes this question of Jewface more complicated is that Ashkenazi Jews (for the most part) are Caucasian. The question of the entertainers’ skin color is less important than their ethnicity or family heritage.
I have no doubt that Helen Mirren will be nothing short of fantastic. I have been a fan of hers for a number of years. My hope is that she will do Golda justice. But for now, we can only wait and see how the movie is received when it hits theaters.
The second is a few years later, in Bergen-Belsen. Up to this point, Hannah, her father, and her baby sister have received “special treatment” due to having passports to pre-Independence Day Israel (known then as Palestine). When she hears that Anne is alive and in the camp, Hannah has to make a choice. She can either do nothing or try to help Anne, knowing that she could possibly be killed in the process.
We all know Anne’s story. This is an angle that adds to her humanity and universality. It also points out (which is unfortunately still necessary), that the Jews were top on the list for extermination and reminds the viewer that Anne was killed because of the faith she was born into.
The problem is that the drama is a little slow. I understand the reason for the pace, but it could have been picked up a little. By the time we get to the scene in which Anne and Hannah are reunited, I did not feel what I expected to feel.
Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.
My Best Friend Anne Frank is available for streaming on Netflix.