Volume 3, Number 44
"There's a Jewish story everywhere"
SAN DIEGO—The Lemon Tree, shown recently at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, is based upon a true story about a Palestinian widow who lives in poverty, but manages to make ends meet. She sells lemonade which she makes by tending to the lemon grove that her father planted before he died.
The Israeli Defense Minister, Israel Navon, and his wife, Mira, move into a big house opposite her lemon grove on the green line border between Israel and The West Bank. The secret service men convince the Israeli Defense Minister that the lemon grove poses a security threat to him and his wife because a terrorist could hide among the trees. The widow, Salma, then receives an eviction notice telling her she must move and her lemon grove will be uprooted because it poses a security threat to her Israeli neighbors. The story continues as Salma finds a young Palestinian attorney, Ziad, to represent her as she takes the State of Israel to the Supreme Court.
The Defense Minister and his wife tell the secret service men to take some lemons from Salma’s yard to use at their house-warming, without finding it necessary to ask her for permission first. When Salma comes out to rescue her stolen lemons, the secret service men push her to the ground. Finally the Defense Minister tells the secret service men to leave her alone. Mira explains that they needed some lemons for their party and she’s sorry. Even so, they did not offer Salma any recompense for her stolen property.
Mira’s heart silently goes out to Salma but her words and actions don’t follow. Although she feels anguish as she sees the pained expression on Salma’s face, she feels too restricted to ameliorate the situation. At one point Mira appears without any make-up as she climbs the fence and knocks on Salma’s door. The head secret service man tells her he will get in trouble if anyone finds her there. She obediently returns to her side of the wall and no one is there when Salma opens the door.
A second attempt to reach out comes when Mira tells the news reporter that she wishes that she could be a better neighbor to Salma. The final attempt at friendship is when she tells the news reporter the true story about how Salma had been issued an eviction notice, told her lemon grove needs to be uprooted, and how her house was ransacked by Israeli soldiers vehemently searching for possible terrorists.
I felt especially moved by the speech made in court by Salma’s long time friend and employee, Abu, although his eloquence when speaking didn’t match his education level. Perhaps Riklis tried to make the point that one could appear articulate without education if one feels strongly about the issue. Abu talks about how trees have feelings and they don’t like to be chopped down. The trees are silent witnesses and they are the ones who are suffering the most as a result of the conflict.
Mira liked the beauty of seeing the lemon groves. However her husband builds a wall between their home and the lemon groves. The wall is symbolic of trapping his wife in their house under the guise of safety as he keeps long hours and has an affair on the side.
I liked the film because of the acting. I especially liked Hiam Abbass as Salma.
I just returned from guest conducting the State of Chihuahua Philharmonic Orchestra. I arrived there on February 8, the concert was on the 13th, and I returned home the following day. Five daily rehearsals and one concert.
I am glad to report that my experience was most satisfying. This is a fairly young ensemble, fifteen years since it was founded, and is comprised of many young musicians, mostly of conservatory age. This is a full time, professional orchestra, and is directed by a very talented musician and colleague, Armando Pesqueira. He is originally from the Tijuana-San Diego area, and is a complete and dedicated conductor, with many accomplishments already to his credit.
The musicians of the Philharmonic are practically all Mexicans, with the addition of two Bulgarians, two Armenians, an Italian, a Venezuelan, and one recent arrival from China. I was very pleased to work with a group that was enthusiastic, energetic, flexible, willing to learn, and most capable in the technical and artistic categories. The two horn players were a father and son. All rehearsals were conducted in Spanish, and our time together was efficient, inspiring, and a lot of fun.
We prepared and presented in concert Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Mozart’s Symphony No. 26, and the Harp Concerto by a Beethoven contemporary, Francois-Adrien Boieldieu. The latter featured as soloist an outstanding Mexican concert harpist, José Enrique Guzmán. Since he and I were visiting the City of Chihuahua, after the rehearsals were done for the day, we enjoyed plenty of free time to rest, have leisurly meals, and tell each other many anecdotes and musical war stories, along with “shop talk” and plenty of jokes.
We were part of several newspaper interviews, a press conference, hundreds of photos, and a one hour television interview.
Our hosts were most gracious, taking us to historic sites and museums. We toured through Pancho Villa’s own villa, the Municipal Palace where the liberator of Mexico, Miguel Hidalgo was imprisoned and executed, and the modern art exhibition at the Casa Redonda, and old refurbished building which used to be a regional locomotive repair facility. The meals together with our hosts were memorable events.
The city of Chihuahua with nearly one million inhabitants is located quite far from other metropolitan centers. Its climate was that of a high desert plain, dry, windy at times, with moderate daytime and evening temperatures. Good Chamber of Commerce advertising! It is spread out over a large geographic area, and has practically no high rise structures. What was delightful to experience was the small town, provincial hospitality, in the best sense of the word. All the people that I met were gentle, polite, educated, generally low key, and clearly and justifiably proud of their orchestra. The concert at the Teatro de los Heroes, a modern, aesthetically and acoustically pleasing structure, was attended by 600 to 700 people, who were warm and enthusiastic in their response to the music we presented.
I was most pleased that the music we made was propulsive, energetic, fresh, reflecting a youthful spirit, and hopefully, conveying the intentions of the composers whose music we played.
Chihuahua also has a Music Conservatory and a University.
A couple of quirky, unexpected surprises: The television in my hotel room provided a generous 80 channels of entertainment. One of these offerings was CNN International, not the same feed we receive here at home. In the middle of the week, this station generously gave hours and hours of coverage of the Israeli elections, with analysis, minute by minute reports, interviews, and the victory speeches of both Binyamini Netanyahu and Tsipi Livni.
And, one of the Mexican movie channels showed several times two films on Chassidic subjects, of American and Dutch productions, both with subtitles in Spanish.
What makes such an experience so unique is that guest artists walk into a situation where all that counts is the artistry and the music-making. By definition, we are detached from the logistical problems that the managers and resident conductors have to tackle. The new friendships, relationships, and memories that one brings back home, as it was in this situation, are very pleasant indeed.
JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE
THE JEWISH CITIZEN
The Believers, a novel by Zöe Heller, HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 978-0-06-143020, 335 pages, $25.99.
Editor Harrison may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
SAN DIEGO (Press Release) — Each week the 1st through 5th grade students visit the Gruss technology "Learning Lab" two times and spend 20 minutes each on reading and math using the SuccessMaker educational technology program. The students go through the program at their own pace to reinforce classroom math and reading lessons. The Kindergarteners spend time on computers three times a week in their classroom working on the "Waterford" program that is designed for younger children. The entire technology learning lab is generously underwritten by the Gruss Foundation of New York and the CIJE (Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education).
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CAROL ANN GOLDSTEIN
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