A week after the snowstorm, few blobs of grayed snow still dot the sidewalks, but the blue skies have returned and the air is so clear, the other night I could hear the Muslim call to prayer from the other side of town. It’s those moments, where the pieces of the puzzle that make up Jerusalem fit together, that make me want to stay in this town. They’re a reminder not only is this the Middle East, but how crazy and intense this place can be.
Another example? The other Saturday night, I went to the Cinematheque for a double-feature on a band from the late 1970’s named Joy Division. The stereotypical listener of their angst-filled music is the art school student living in Williamsburg. Aside from one single which became commercially popular, the music (as the first movie, a documentary, stated) reflects the turbulent and post-modern miasma that was the band’s Manchester, England hometown. It’s punk, it’s romantic, it’s scary, it’s uplifting. So many bands have since copied their sound. The second film was a biopic about the singer who committed suicide at the ripe old age of 23. The movie was cinematically impressive, shot in black-and-white to accurately portray the bleakness of Manchester, and the lead actor impeccably captured the singer’s youth.
The audience was mixed between students wearing brightly-colored wool ponchos from their post-army service trips to South America; elderly couples who have subscriptions to the Cinematheque and may not have known what they got themselves into; and the few patrons who I’d expect to see at this kind of movie, equally questioning what the rest of the audience was doing there. The late 1970’s in England gave birth to a lot of youth subcultures, all disenchanted with their socioeconomic situations. They recycled a lot of different aesthetics, including Nazi, while dispensing with whatever values they originally had; the band’s first EP contained iconic images from World War II as part of the artwork – including the picture of the young Jewish boy with his hands up as an SS officer has a gun pointed at his back. The image stayed on the screen for a few seconds, met with gasps from the audience. The final scene, after the singer killed himself, was the camera focusing on a village church’s brick chimney spewing smoke. I was squirming in my seat by that point, feeling everyone else’s supposed discomfort. Eventually leaving the theater and the building, the audience found itself facing the western part of The Old City, as the Cinematheque is perched against a cliff overlooking the walls. Again, memory and reality layered on top of each other for all to observe.
To top off the last few weeks of jumping around various identities, I got to vote in the Democratic Party Primaries in Tel Aviv. Democrats Abroad represents expatriate Americans in the Democratic Party, and this year decided to improve their registration drive by having voting centers set up in locations with the most expats. Since Israel has a rather large population of us, they set up a center in Tel Aviv for two days. The location was in Beit Daniel, a center for Progressive Judaism (what Reform Judaism is called in Israel). The voting center consisted of a small room packed with volunteers. After they inspected my US passport, I filled out two forms, one rejoining the Democratic Party and the other being the actual ballot with boxes next to the candidates to check off. As the forms were printed very early on in the campaign, lots of the now-withdrawn candidates still appeared.
(The picture above, by the way, is of the voting center. The banner in the background, part of Beit Daniel, more or less reads "Living anew the Jew that's in you." The legs at the bottom of the picture belong to a child waiting for their parent to vote.)
I’m still not sure how I feel about voting as an expatriate. While this election has far-reaching implications for how America is perceived in the world, not to mention a potential change in domestic policy which would affect family and friends, I’m not planning on living in the States for at least the near future. An argument could be made for the role expats play in promoting America abroad and in turn helping America through their unique global perspectives; it gets all the more complicated living in Israel, a choice born out of ideology. Since I didn’t move here for this country’s easy way of life, so voting from abroad fits into this increasingly complex living arrangement.
Back to studying for an exam, with little sleep in the immediate forecast. Long-term forecast calls for freezing temperatures and the S-word to return next week.