Double Life – Where Arabs Dance

fubiniBy Daniela Fubini

Life in Israel brings out all your multiple identities. Some of us new (or veteran) immigrants keep several identities and live happily ever after, while others find it harder to blend in and keep expecting Western politeness and customer service in a place where those concepts are so far away to seem from outer space. But most of us, the new comers, are Jewish, and in Israel, these days, that is enough to feel at home completely, even when the waiter is rude or has no clue about the menu he/she is supposed to know like the Shema Israel, by heart.

During the last weekend I took a deep breath and went to see the latest movie by Eran Riklis. I took a deep breath because I was a lot younger when I saw at the Venice Cinema Festival his “Gmar gavia (Cup Final)” in 1992, and until today the final scene haunts me at times. The unlikely friendship between a PLO commander and his Israeli prisoner during the Lebanon war in 1982, and most importantly for the two, during the world cup eventually won by their beloved Italy, was something to look up to. Riklis continued making good movies, always studying the multiplicity of identities that can inhabit one given place or one person.

This time, his “Dancing Arabs” is based on the book by Sayed Kashua, author for television and newspapers about his own multiple identity of Israeli-Arab born in Tira, who studied in a Jewish boarding school, now works for an Israeli major national paper and still finds it impossible to blend in. Kashua has the gift of wit. Riklis has the gift of making movies with very distinctive rhythm: not too slow, not too fast. In the movie, Arabs dance only once, on roofs, when Saddam Hussein’s skud missiles hit Tel Aviv. The rest of the time, young Eyad digs his way into Israeli society trying to be accepted for what he is not: just another boarding school kid.

I wish all the Members of Parliament would see this movie, before voting on a “National Law”, drawing red lines that may soon become new walls.