Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Very British Musical!

Review of  'The Lord of the Rings' Musical ~ Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.

It's Monday & a 'Musical' Review ......

YOU’VE read the book, you’ve seen the movies, now here’s the musical ~ except it isn’t really a musical, but a series of spectacular scenes with dialogue and songs. And spectacular is hardly the word for it ~ it’s a phantasmagoria of light, action and sound, ~ the stage revolves , sections of it rise and fall, people appear and disappear as if by magic, there are fireworks, lighting, and other effects which really have to be seen to be appreciated. There are walking, talking Ents, Elves appearing out of the foliage covering the auditorium boxes and well choreographed kabuki style fights where one side seems to be on springs which makes for impressive action.

Amid all this there is a story trying to get out, one which covers three long volumes (four if you count The Hobbit) and here condensed into under three hours.  How then does it work? . . . It doesn’t!

The authors have done their best to try to bridge the gaps between scenes with descriptive dialogue, but unless you have prior knowledge of the tale it doesn’t really add up or make sense. To try to cram all the action from Tolkien’s Tome into three movies was already tough, to fit it into a three hour musical has proved impossible. If you hadn't read the book or seen the films, you would almost certainly be lost. But does that matter? I believe so, but that’s a personal decision. My companion, who has very little idea about Middle Earth and all that flows therefrom, just sat back and enjoyed it for what it was ~ a fabulous visual pleasure.

We were seated in the first row of the lower balcony and had a great view of the stage. The Shire greeted us through a forest growing out from a proscenium arch, and the centre-piece, a giant gold ring surrounded by branches, was the door to Bilbo’s hobbit hole, which ingeniously doubled as a portent of Sauron’s eye. Hobbits were chasing around the auditorium catching fireflies as the audience took their seats and I have No idea how they made the fireflies look so real. This set the scene and over the next three hours (yes, it was that long), we were impressed by the tech wizardry on display.

The Theatre Royal had shut down for four months to prepare for this production; it’s easy to see why. Visually, the set is spectacular. Twisted bramble, a rotating stage, in fact a rising, falling, spinning stage, and exquisite lighting give an impressive ‘wow-factor’.  Mechanics aside, there are, of course, actors amidst the visual glory trying to make their presence felt without, I’m afraid, very much success as the scenario is so episodic. Even with the help of the synopsis in the programme it’s very difficult to follow. Every line was basically a chapter from the book, there was next-to-no time for character development.

The musical is not part of the Rings film franchise. It wasn’t licensed through New Line Cinema but through Saul Zaentz, who is credited alongside Kevin Wallace as the producer. (He was one of the film’s executive producers, having sold the production and distribution rights to New Line.) Technically the musical has a book-based license, and Zaentz controls the many trademarks and adaptation rights associated with the book.   It’s hard to believe, though, that a splashy musical of this sort would have been created had the film not been such a huge success.  Running about three hours ~ including a twenty-minute intermission ~ the musical largely comes across as a hurried series of references to scenes and characters from the book.

 Acting-wise, Sam (Peter Howe) took the Hobbit crown… lead actor Frodo (James Loye) came across somewhat stilted as the put upon “hero” of the tale. He failed to make Frodo the least bit sympathetic, so we never empathised with him or cared where he went or what he got up to. Sam’s devoted journey however, portrayed the genuine struggle between the perils of friendship and the safe and familiar embrace of home. The writing didn't allow for the audience to connect emotionally to the characters, and we lost the main plot of Frodo and Sam's journey along the way. Jerome Praden's Aragorn was a proud warrior struggling with his duty and heritage and his love for the beautiful Elf Lady Arwen, played by Rosalie Craig. Both were particularly inept with absolutely no stage presence and displaying the most, wooden, school production 'dramatic' acting.


 It was Malcolm Storry as Gandalf though, who was the most disappointing. He spoke too quickly and his performance was just not believable, his disappearances and re-appearances were incoherent, the enormity of his task of living up to the character created by Ian McKellan proved way too much. Laura Michelle Kelly, however, made a very fetching Lady of the Golden Wood, she sang beautifully and dominated her scenes as the character should. Gollum also enthralled.  Unaided by Hollywood animations, Canadian actor Michael Therriault twisted his lanky body like an emaciated, strange, ring-obsessed goblin on narcotics. The rasping voice and erratic behaviour evoked collective audience pity, fear, humour and curiosity… .he was the personification of demonic evil, his hissing voice and physical writhings, his entrance, (which he makes climbing down the scenery), is breathtaking, and he never lets up, maintaining a performance which makes one forget for a moment that this is a human being and an actor, not a demented creature. Just the way Gollum should be. He was Superb. Apart from Gollum & Galadriel’s stunning performances, the other characters were shoddily portrayed. At best the acting was average. At worst . . . ?? The songs didn’t quite work well either, or were too long-winded. The music was distinctly ‘Bollywoodish’!!

I don’t understand why the producers thought this had to be a musical at all. Why not just a spectacular play? The songs are utterly unmemorable, and they obviously take up time that could have been spent on exposition and characterization.  Tolkien provides moments when songs could come in naturally, like Frodo’s performance in the Inn of the Prancing Pony.  Instead, it is turned into a big production number,  with all the patrons at the inn,  along with Butterbur (sorry, I mean “Landlord of the Prancing Pony”)  joining in the singing and dancing. The result is that Frodo does not put on the Ring accidentally when he executes an athletic dance move. There’s no apparent reason why he does put it on once the number ends.

 A helter-skelter journey through tattered remanants of JRR Tolkien’s great work ensued and anything and everything that might be a bit complex or demanding was simply elided. So we bounced from Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party (cue a song) to the Prancing Pony (cue a really big number) in a breathless whirl. There was a very clever staging of Bilbo’s disappearance at the end of the party when he puts on the ring, and the horror of the Dark Riders was alluded to, (the dark riders were giant puppets that really looked scary and huge and perfect) but it was all terribly jumbled.

Suddenly, we arrived in Rivendell where there were a lot of Elves floating. The elf costumes were incredibly ornate, one had 1,800 hand-sewn Swarovski crystals on it. (according to the programme). Again, wonderfully staged. Indeed, this was a major theme throughout the entire evening: the staging was everything. The central revolving section, which elevated and descended in various sections, was put to great use and allowed some deft scene changes whilst conveying the physical journey being undertaken. Frodo recovers from being stabbed by a dark rider’s dagger (I can’t remember it happening, but maybe they sung about it), Bilbo reappears, as does Gandalf, and they have a hasty Council of Elrond. So we tumbled on.


 We were then introduced to Saruman’s orcs, the Uruk-hai,, very full of wicked energy, most had to prance around on crutches. The lucky ones got to wear bouncy stilt things which made them doubly scary. Then off to the Mines of Moria. Speak Friend, and Enter. In we went & Pippin dropped a stone down the well . . . . Gandalf stands front of stage facing the audience and proclaims as fiery light surrounds him that the Balrog will not pass. Unfortunately for poor Gandalf, the Balrog appeared from the centre of the stage, whipping Gandalf down to the underworld and Act I closed.

A 20 minute trip to the bar!!

There were two intermissions. The first was a normal one. There were still two volumes to be played out and as we returned, there were Ents, played by actors on breathtakingly high stilts. Truly stunning, but of course time would not permit more than a brief treatment of their role within the story. The battle of the Hornburg took some three minutes, and was interpreted through dance, which started off well but became tedious to the point where it started to look like a boy band in armour doing a routine. After that my attention wandered, along with the flotsam and jetsam of Tolkien’s plot.

The second intermission was short, and you didn't leave your seat. They just brought down the curtain, upped the lights a little and set the Orcs loose in the theatre. These Orcs were pure nightmare material ~ their bouncing, screeching, dribbling was terribly magnificent. Arachnophobics are advised to steer well clear, a surprisingly-scary-up-close Orc approached us snarling and I screamed … and in case you venture to the Royal Theatre, I’m leaving you a surprise. Let’s just say Shelob was impressively amazing and the scary bits were awe inspiring, as was the final casting of the ring into the Crack of Doom.

Technically the show is brilliant, with some clever effects and ‘wow’ moments but this is no compensation for a generally disappointing show. Frankly, you can't dress up bad acting with special effects. The songs, when they appeared, were lacklustre and one might just as well have done without them except, I suppose, you can get away with more obfuscation of the plot if you describe it as a Musical rather than a dramatisation of the original. 
Perhaps the planners felt that Rings stood a chance of earning back the huge investment in stage technology, costumes, and an ensemble of seventy actors by making it a musical.   Maybe it would not have seemed different enough from the film for people to want to see it.   Maybe it was a sop to the 'Musical tourists'.   It always felt like the story was competing with the spectacle, never evening itself out to create a seamless interwoven stunning piece of theatre. As a straight play it might have worked but as a musical ~ In a wordNO!   
This is a spectacular piece of theatre,  but that is all it is  ~  Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ it isn’t!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wee Ones in the War!

“The forgotten victims of World War Two were the children.”  
~ Historian Juliet Gardiner ~

An Ancient Yiddish Maxim declares that "Those who are Remembered Do Not Die" ... and on this Memorial day my blog is in Honour of the more than 1.5 Million Children (under 12 years of age) murdered in the Shoah.  

One and a half million Jewish children were murdered in the Holocaust and were thus prevented from growing up and fulfilling their basic lives: to live, dream, love, play and laugh. Some faded photographs of children under the Nazi regime remain, and their questioning, accusing eyes cry out. And I challenge you to remain dry eyed as you look at them.

From the day the Nazis came to power, Jewish children became acquainted with cruelty, first in Germany and, as time passed, in every other country the Germans conquered or forged an alliance. The parents and families of these children were unable to grant them the security and protection they needed. Jewish children were separated from their non-Jewish playmates and expelled from state sponsored schools. They saw their parents lose the right to support their families, and often witnessed the descent of the family unit into an abyss of despair.

Eva Munzer ,  Murdered inAuschwitz
 As war broke out and anti-semitic policies worsened, the suffering of Jewish children increased: many were doomed to the horrific suffering of life in a ghetto ~ the bitter cold, the never-ending hunger and a multitude of dangerous diseases. There, cut off from the world, they lived in the shadow of endless terror and violence. As smuggling was central to survival in the ghettos, they were often forced to assume the new role of breadwinner for their disintegrating families. 

Henrika Lazobert,  a Jewish poet, wrote a paean to a daring young smuggler who, despite the risks, persevered in finding food for his family.  The poem ends .....

I shall no longer come back to you  (mother)
… and only on my lips
will one worry freeze fast:
My beloved mother, tomorrow who’ll bring you
your piece of bread as in the past?

Henia Wisgardisky
 Still, children in the Holocaust remained children, desiring only to partake in activities beloved by all their contemporaries.  In August 1940 David Rabinowitz, a young boy from a village near Kielce, Poland, wrote in his diary:

“During the war, I’ve been studying by myself, at home. When I remember that I used to go to school, I feel like crying.”

When the deportations to the extermination camps began, a chasm opened up in the lives of Jewish children. Throughout Nazi Europe, they fled and hid, separated from their parents and loved ones. Some of them found refuge in the homes of decent people whose conscience would not allow them to remain passive; several were hidden in convents and monasteries and boarding schools; others were forced to roam through forests and villages, hunting for food like wild animals and relying entirely on their own ingenuity and resourcefulness. Many were forced to live under assumed identities, longingly anticipating the return of their father and mother. Some were so young when separated from their parents that they forgot their real names and Jewish identity. Many were forced to train themselves not to move, laugh or cry, or even talk. Upon liberation from Auschwitz, one little girl asked her mother, “Mommy, may I cry now?” (A Personal Oral recollection of my Grandmother who survived Auschwitz).

Felice and Beate Zimmern
 Of course, not all Jewish children were lucky enough to find a place of refuge, and many tens of thousands of children were caught and sent to the death camps. Their young age made most the first prey of the Nazi killing machine. More than a million Jewish children were lost in those years, a whole murdered generation.

At first children were given lethal injections. Later they were starved or shot or bayoneted or strangled. Or used for mid-air target practice for snipers. These methods proved too much for some soldiers and too slow for the projected 'Final Solution.' Thus were born the extermination camps with their gas chambers disguised as showers. A guard at Auschwitz, testifying at the Nuremburg trial, admitted that at the height of the genocide, when the camp was killing ten thousand Jews a day, children were thrown into the furnaces alive. Never has humanity come closer to evil for evil's sake.

Yet there were other stories too. There were the almost ten thousand children brought, mainly to Britain, through Kindertransport.   Nicholas Winton, then a Stock Exchange clerk in London, organized eight trains from Prague, saving 669 children whose descendants ~ numbering 5,000 today ~ owe their existence to him. In mainland Europe itself thousands of children were adopted, hidden and rescued in orphanages, convents, monasteries and by men and women driven by ordinary humanity to extraordinary acts of courage, knowing that by saving a Jewish life they were risking their own.

Izabel and Solly Marton, killed in Auschwitz
 Yet wherever they were ~ in the ghettos, in hiding and even in the camps ~ they did not surrender moments of childish playfulness. A short break in a daily routine of hunger and dread was enough to summon gales of joyous laughter, childish brawls, and games with toys made of rags and scraps of paper. Together with their beloved dolls, the children could dream of a better world, of returning to their family and lost childhood; and only to these dolls could they open their aching hearts. My Mom had many such tales (she survived Terezin, Czechoslovakia).

At the end of the war, a new chapter began, one of both hope and pain for the life that was gone, never to return. Many children were lost to their families and their Jewish heritage forever. For others, the war’s end marked a beginning of their return to their real selves, a process filled with difficulties and torment. Very slowly, they emerged from hiding, from the forests and the camps, and began the long and painful process of rehabilitation. Despite the scars, they sought to rebuild their lives anew. Some did. Some did not.

Children ~ dependent, vulnerable, defenseless ~ are the litmus test of our humanity. Not by accident does the Hebrew word for compassion,  rachamim,  come from rechem,  meaning a womb. Will we continue to sacrifice our children for the sake of our hatreds, or will we finally learn to sacrifice our hatreds for the sake of our children? On that question, the fate of humanity may turn. We cannot write the future. Only our children can do that. But we can teach them to create a world of respect for difference and to remember the indifferences that allowed the Holocaust to claim 1,500, 000 million childrens lives. An Old Jewish proverb says 'Those who are Remembered do not Die'. Let's Remember  those who did and  those who didn't make it.  All deserve to be at least Remembered!!!! 


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disengagement .... Despair, Division, Disaster!!

The Jewish population in Gaza wasn’t deported there, they were deported from there in 2005. But, before going any further on this subject, a brief history of the Jewish population in Gaza must be told. 

    Jews have lived in  Gaza throughout history.   As Gaza was included in the Palestine Mandate for a Jewish national home,  Jews continued to live there.  In August 1929, however, the Arabs of Palestine,   led by the Supreme Muslim Council,   began a nation wide massacre against their Jewish neighbours.   Instead of punishing the perpetrators,  the British administration of Palestine,  forced the Jews to leave Gaza as well as Hebron ~ see video below!   The Jews weren’t even allowed to go back to their homes in Gaza when the State of Israel  was declared in 1948 due to  Egypt’s illegal occupation of Gaza (1948-1967).   It wasn’t until after the 1967 Six Day War, that Jews were allowed back home.    Since then, the Jews have been accused of occupying ‘Arab land’, when in fact,  the Jews who lawfully lived in Gaza, were forced out by the Arab rioters, and not the other way around.  This fact needs to be remembered.

In August 2005, the deportation of nearly 10,000 Jews, the whole Jewish population of Gaza,  by their own Israeli government occurred

Respectively,  August is a difficult month for the Jewish people.  The First and Second Temples, the holiest places in all of Judaism,  were both destroyed by invaders around the month of August.  The Jews of England were expelled by King Edward 1 in August 1290.  The Jews of Spain were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in August of 1492.  The Jews were expelled from Frankfurt, Germany in August of 1614 and as mentioned, the Arab massacres of August 1929 in palestine,  caused the Jews to be expelled from Gaza and Hebron.  So,  August is a very difficult month for the Jewish people!

What is even worse,  is that in August 2005,  the Israeli government was added to the list of those who expelled Jews.  The Israeli Jews of Gaza,  who were expelled in 2005,  were pioneers.   Many were given long-term loans from the World Zionist Organization to cultivate the desolate sand dunes after the 1967 Six Day War.  David Ben-Gurion,  the first Prime Minister of Israel,  called Israel’s Jewish pioneers, ‘’our finest youth’’.    Indeed,  Israel’s national treasures, ‘’These pioneers’’,  PM Ben-Gurion declared to U.S. President  Eisenhower  in a letter of March 8th, 1957,  ‘’our finest youth, have … gone to settle in the border areas, risking their lives in order to populate the wilderness.’’   They did.  The Jews of Gaza, through hard work and dedication, were able to turn unfertile swampy land into an oasis of vegetation.  Even through bombings and various terrorist attacks, the Jewish farmers of Gush Katif, Gaza,  exported in percentage terms of all of Israel’s total exports abroad: ~

- 95% of bug-free lettuce and greens

- 70% of organic vegetables

- 60% of geraniums to Europe

- Of Israel’s total agricultural exports, Gush Katif made up 15%

There are lots more statistics on my earlier blog  Remember & Rebuild!!  Not only was Gush Katif vital to Israel’s economy,  but vital to Israel’s security too.    The Jews of Gaza, individually volunteered their lives to protect the lives of the whole state of Israel.  Their presence in Gaza prevented invasions from Egypt.  During the first Intifada (1987-1990),  the Jews of Gaza were at the frontlines of the violence.  Had they not have been there,  the rest of the nation would have been under more terrorist attacks then it was.  In the Second Intifada (Oslo War or Al-Aqsa Intifada),  that began in September 2000,  the residents of Gush Katif, were the targets of more than 6,000 mortar bombs and Qu'assam rockets.  These residents served as a human buffer for their fellow Israelis.   These courageous residents,   Israel’s ‘’finest’’,  defended Eretz Israel from ground infiltrations with their own lives.  In one instance, three Palestinian Arab terrorists,  at the young ages of 14, 12, 8-10, infiltrated a Jewish neighbourhood in Gush Katif and tried to stab unarmed Jewish children.  Despite all these terrorist attacks,  Gush Katif  continued to flourish as a contributing community of Israel’s society.  Being a vital contribution to Israel’s society was the purpose of Gush Katif’s founding and it stayed true to that.  In fact, its principal purpose can be found in its name. The meaning of Gush Katif is ‘’Harvest Bloc’’.  This harvest bloc was made up of 17 Israeli Jewish neighbourhoods of which included: ~

- Bedolah, meaning ‘’Crystal’’

- Gadid, meaning ‘’Picking of Palm tree fruits’’

- Gan Or, meaning ‘’Garden of Light’’

- ‘’Ganei Tal, meaning ‘’Gardens of Dew’’

- Kfar Darom, meaning ‘’Village of the South’’

- ‘’Morag, meaning ‘’Harvest Scythe’’

- Neve Dekalim, meaning ‘’Palm Tree Oasis’’

- Pe’at Sade, meaning ‘’The Edge of the Field’’

- Shirat Hayam, meaning ‘’Song of the Sea’’

- Katif, meaning ‘’Harvest, picking of flowers’

‘’Flowers’’ is really the word to use when describing Gush Katif.  It was situated on the south-west edge of the beautiful Gaza coast line.  It became abundant in Palm trees.  The residents could wake up every morning to a soft sea breeze and watch the warm yellow sun rise to greet them.  It truly was an oasis, sweet to the senses and soothing to the soul!!

In short, it, the Disengagement, started on August 15th and ended on August 22nd,  2005.  It only took 7 days. It was conducted in a dignified and sensitive manner; and that was that.   Well,  this is the Israeli government’s version of Gush Katif’s final days.

The clean,  neutral,  politically correct word that is ‘’Disengage’’ or ‘’Disengagement’’,  is completely void of what it truly represented.  ‘’Disengage’’ sounds more like a technical term that an aircraft pilot would use. Israel Prime Minister Sharon specifically selected this word, ‘’disengagement’’,  because it has no reference to the words ‘’forced homelessness’’ or ‘’expulsion’’.  Sharon planned an expulsion, but didn’t want to use that word because maybe more Israelis would have been more reluctant to agree to it.  Think about it,  does someone ‘’disengage’’ from their home or garden?  It is such an odd term to use,   especially when an innocent homeowner is physically dragged from their home.  It is also not the first time language has been used as a Euphemism for bad treatment against Jews.  It is,  however,  the first time it has been used by Jews to cover the forced expulsion of Jews from their own homeland!!

The Israeli soldiers and Police, also wore patriotic symbols, such as the Israeli flag,  perhaps to remind the residents of Gush Katif  that these were not foreign enemies, but their own people coming to expel them. After all, it is very easy for a Jew to picture Romans, Arabs, Germans, or Spaniards expelling them from their homes, but not their own.  But times have changed,  now a Jew can picture quite well,  from this blog alone even,  fellow Jews forcibly expelling them from their homes.   Now, in the 21st Century,  Israel can join the international phenomenon,  that is the expulsion of Jews from their homes. 

It was a crime to train the Israeli army against its own people.  It was a crime for the government of Israel to destroy the lives of its own people.

‘’If we give up some land, then we will get some peace’’. 

The answer to this thought is a question:  ~ What peace is there since the Disengagement?   Is there peace?  There is no peace.   There is only pain.  Every Israeli should ask themselves these questions with their fellow Israelis in mind who were expelled from Gush Katif: ~

~  Is it ‘’peaceful’’ to be made homeless?

~  Is it ‘’peaceful’’ to watch your home destroyed?

~  Is it ‘’peaceful’’ to have your life’s business taken away from you?

~  Is it ‘’peaceful’’ to have your children’s education destroyed?

~  Is it ‘’peaceful’’ to see your children urinate in their clothes from nightmares of soldiers  snatching them away from their home?

There is no peace,  only pain,   in uprooting a family from their home and it certainly isn’t in the direction of peace.   

The palestinians do not wish to recognize Israel and have not accepted its existence.   They never will.  And, with the election of Hamas,  they again are not missing any opportunity to miss an opportunity.  They have turned the once fertile farmlands of Gush Katif into launch sites for missiles deployed against residents of the Negev and particularly the town of Sderot.  The palestinian streets have become more, not less, radicalized.  Israel's public image as an occupying country has not significantly improved in the world,  in fact it has worsened, as it looks like Israel accepts the charge of an anti-semetic world that it is an occupier!   And further unilateral disengagement in the West Bank as a possible way of solving the Israeli -Palestinian conflict has turned out to be a chimera,  in large measure because of the failure of what was supposed to be its Gazan first stage. 

 We know now that this assumption, that it is enough for us to leave territory in order for the other side to stop its attacks has proven false.  We also know that if Israel were to cede any territory in Judea and Samaria, that the next day Qu'assam rockets would begin to be fired on Kfar Saba, Raanana and Herzliya.   Israel withdrew from every millimetre of Gaza, including evacuating it's cities, orchards & vineyards and has  received nothing except rocket fire in return.

"I still cannot understand how Israel gave up parts of its land willingly and with abandon, and how the residents connected to that land were turned into criminals, instead of raising their dedication as a banner of preserving the Jewish identity of the state of Israel"   ~ Maj.-Gen Yiftah Ron-Tal,   IDF ground forces commander at the time of the Disengagement ~ Kfar Chabad weekly,  October 6, 2006.

Is Gush Katif a lesson well learned??

This rare historical film was made before the 1929 massacre of the destruction of the Jewish Community of Hebron. It is in the original Hebrew with English subtitles added. This is a rare and unusual glimpse of Jewish life in Hebron was before this ancient Jewish community was ruthlessly terminated by Arab fanatics.  Hebron is Jewish, as Gaza is Jewish!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This is My Land!

This is my friend Eliyokim's new home.  He has endured a lot of hate.  Undeserved.  A young man building a home .... reminds me of a quote by one of the founders of modern political Zionism,  Theodore Herzl.     "If you will it, it is no Dream".    Don't ever forsake your Dream, Eli.  It gives me fire in my heart & makes me excited!

You are an Inspiration & an Invitation!

And another quote ..... "There is no such thing as a palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist"    ~   Golda Meir, statement to The Sunday Times, 15th June, 1969.

(I apologise for not producing a blog today .... I'm not in a position to.  But, tomorrow,  Gush Katif   week continues with the history of the Jews in Gaza!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Mean Green Mother ...

"I'm a mean green Mother from Outer Space"

 Monday Movie ....... & this Monday it's a Mean Musical !!!!!

Frank Oz oddity ~ a Musical Movie ~  based on the stage musical   Ashman and Menken  developed in the early 1980s,  & on  Roger Corman's much loved 1960 movie,  'The Little Shop Of Horrors'.

The tale of a Faustian pact between a weedy florist and a fiendishly hungry human-eating plant.   Filmed entirely on Western Europe's largest soundstage at Pinewood Studios in London,   Little Shop of Horrors  tells the sick-joke story of a diminutive man's impetuous rise from poverty and loneliness to fame, riches, and companionship.   
Since it was adapted from a stage play,  Little Shop of Horrors  doesn't have many sets.  Much of the action takes place within Mushnik's Flower Shop.   'Suddenly Seymour'  is sung in a debris-littered back alley with a fire escape that makes for the perfect setting for Audrey and Seymour's first kiss.

Rick Moranis plays the hapless Seymour,  an assistant in Greedy Gravis Mushnick's Skid Row (Vincent Gardenia).  Business is not exactly blooming at the shop,  however, and his secret romantic interest,  Audrey (Ellen Greene from the original Broadway cast) who willingly suffers the bondage and discipline of the notorious  Orin Scrivello,  biker-dentist (Steve Martin).    The hillarious number  'Dentist'  follows a leather jacket-clad  Steve Martin from his motorcycle into the office where he terrorizes his patients and punches out his nurse.

One day, however, things start to look up for Seymour.  He finds & brings a very 'strange and interesting' plant, he calls Audrey II, to his shop.   Suddenly, business explodes.  The plant grows to monstrous proportions when Seymour discovers its appetite calls for human flesh and blood.   Then Audrey II begins to demand full bodies,  and the corpses start piling up.   Seymour must decide whether he wants to continue his life of fame and fortune and impressing Audrey, or destroy the plant altogether.
Rick Moranis delivers a meek, timid & hugely empathetic performance,  perfect for his gentle, submissive character. Vincent Gardenia gives a conniving, greedy character colour and persuasive personality. Whilst Ellen Greene's charm shines through some of her characters nuisances ... her annoying, squeaky voice and her stereotypical bimbo traits remind me of Grease's 'beauty school dropou't & Pink Lady, Jan!   She's also probably got the best singing voice this side of Skid Row.   But Greene is Great !!!    

Oz's interpretation of Audrey's dream house,  complete with  Tupperware,  "I Love Lucy" on TV,  and plastic on the furniture  ("to keep it neat and clean"),  is Magical.   The outside props are obviously (and intentionally)  two-dimensional and the grass that Seymour is cutting is fake.   Moranis and Greene make for a comely-homely pair of thwarted lovers, and Martin is his hilarious self, libelling all dentists who had just managed to forget Marathon Man.   Bill Murray shows up as the perfect dental patient, sublime masochist to Martin's cheerful sadist.  The impressive guest appearances include delicious, hilarious, scene-stealing performances by Christopher Guest, James Belushi, and John Candy

 Of course, the most impressive aspect of this movie is the monstrous carnivorous plant,  Audrey II,  which comes alive and grows before our very eyes ~  it's as real a character as any other!!   You can try not liking this adaptation of the Broadway musical hit,  but the movie sneaks up on you,  about as subtly as Audrey II.   The plant is an animatronic wonder,  all blue gums,  naughty tendrils and mighty mouth.  The filmmakers constructed several models of Audrey II,  with the largest weighing a ton and requiring about sixty operating technicians.   In addition,  to capture more fluid movement,  the scenes featuring the largest plant were shot at sixteen frames per second, meaning the actors had to sing, dance, and act at a slower pace.   These guys do these scenes with stunning versatility  ....  they make it look all soo easy!!

The musical element is provided by a Kick Ass soundtrack,  staying true to the original movie's 60's vibe,  with songs every bit as good as their titles ~ 'Mean Green Mother From Outer Space'  and   'Suddenly Seymour'  are my two particularly favourite numbers.  So too is 'Skid Row'.  
The songs have the feel and sound of Broadway production numbers crossed with Motown tunes,  and the lyrics are subversive and satirical.   Music so memorable you'll be singing for hours,  days & weeks to come.   The soundtrack is superb stuff & a staple in my car!

 The ending of   Little Shop of Horrors  has been drastically altered.  Initially,  it was filmed with the original conclusion ..... Audrey II  gobbles up  Audrey and  Seymour,  then escapes to "eat Cleveland, and Des Moines, and Peoria, and New York, and where you live."    Director Frank Oz  created an elaborate special effects sequence showing  Audrey II acting like King Kong and spreading mayhem through New York City.   But,  the deaths of Audrey and Seymour proved to be too grim &  Oz binned the big ending in favour of a happily-ever-after conclusion that is surprisingly effective.
Few Films are as lively and fun as  Little Shop of Horrors.   It's humorous,  buoyant, irreverent,  and, against all odds,  touching.  Production design is stupendousall action looks like it takes place in a surreal amalgamation of  New York and  Chicago during an era "not too long before our own."    One and a half hours of silly,  scary nonsense set to a killer doo-wop soundtrack  .....   the thing is though, you'll never look at your houseplants (or your Dentist) in the same light again!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Remember & Rebuild!

 In Israel, from today,  January 23rd, 2011,  hundreds of schools across the land will designate a special Gush Katif  Day or week,  by learning about the history and relevance of Gush Katif to the country’s development. Those schools that participate in the voluntary programme do so in cooperation with the “Gush Katif and Northern Shomron Memorial Law” passed in 2008,  and with the approval of the Ministry of Education.  Some 600 schools have already purchased  new Gush Katif educational kits.  These schools predominantly represent the state-affiliated religious system.  Education is the key element in moulding our future and that of our children.  Especially those that inhabit the precious Eretz Yisrael! And,  for those of us who are adults & living in the Diaspora my blog will follow this initiave ... so,  Gush Katif Remembrance Week!!!

Gush Katif (גוש קטיף‎, lit. Harvest Bloc) was a bloc of 17 Jewish Israeli settlements in the southern Gaza strip.  In August 2005,  the Israeli army was ordered to expel 8,600+ residents of Gush Katif.   They were evicted from the area and their homes demolished as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan.   This is how Wikipedia describes the Disengagement.  I'm going to describe it a little differently ......

Gush Katif is a strip of land bordering Gaza where 21 Jewish Settlements had turned the desert to bloom .... it boasted some of the highest developed Green House farming projects in Israel, and indeed, in the world.  A 'Breadbasket' of Israel,  today, it is part of the Gaza centre of a Palestinian terrorist hell-hole.  And it is 'Judenrein'.   Israel's government, leaned over backwards to appease the anti-Semite nations of the world who wanted, according to the Road Map Peace Plan, a palestinian State to share Eretz Yisrael , the ONLY Jewish State on the planet,  with Jews  by creating " two viable, secure states living in peace side by side "

In retrospect, the recklessness of that move has become all too apparent, as Gaza has been transformed into a launching pad for rocket attacks against the Jewish state,  leaving southern towns and cities across the Negev,  such as Sderot, in the crosshairs of palestinian terrorists.  The fiasco of Israel’s retreat has led many of those who supported the move to publicly admit the error of their ways.   In November 2007,  former Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of the Labour Party told an Israeli radio station, “I admit and I confess that I was among those who strongly supported Ariel Sharon (and the withdrawal). Today I say, with my head held high, ‘We erred, we made a very big mistake.’”   Amen to that!! Other senior Israeli military officers, pundits, journalists, and politicians have likewise acknowledged that the Gaza pull-out has proven to be ill-advised. 

 And neither, I might add, can I understand it either.  Indeed, it is still hard to accept that the forcible removal of Gaza’s Jews took place, or to believe that we could have possibly reached such a low point in the history of our nation.  After so many years of struggle and sacrifice,  those once celebrated as pioneers by successive Israeli governments were demonized as obstacles to peace and treated with contempt by much of the Israeli media.  The Israel Defence Forces were deployed against the citizens of their own state,  with the express purpose not of defending the Jewish people but of exiling them from parts of their ancestral patrimony. And withdrawal under fire, once derided as capitulation to terror, suddenly became official government policy. 
Israel’s Left was gleeful,  trumpeting the evacuation of Gaza as signaling the end of the dream of  “Greater Israel.”   But I believe they could not have been more mistaken.  For even in the face of uncertainty,  the dream of return lives on.  It might take years or even decades to achieve,  but of one thing we can all be sure .... the Jewish people will eventually bounce back, just as we have throughout our history.  And soon enough, the sand dunes of Gaza will once again most assuredly be  Eretz Israel! 

The initial date selected by the Israeli government for the expulsion from Gush Katif co-incided with the sombre Jewish commemorative Day, the 9th of Av, and had therefore to be postponed ....  On this day, centuries apart in history, both the Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed ~ the last of these, in 30 CE, causing the death of a million Jewish lives!

So, on 18th,  August 2005,  Israel carried out its disengagement initiative,  handing over all of Gaza and part of the West Bank to the palestinians, making it the first country in modern history to give up land acquired in a defensive war.   The forced evacuation of Jewish citizens from Gush Katif by their own government has revealed the great schism between the religious and the secular in Israel.  Israel's (especially leftist) secular ruling and controlling authorities rival the discriminating and brutal treatment of Jews by Jew-hating German authorities under Hitler ~ but this time in their own Land!

This all to please the Muslim appeasing President Hussein Obama & the Jew-hating nations of the world ....

100% of the Gaza Strip was evacuated and handed over to the palestinians.

300 square miles of the West Bank was evacuated.

21 Israeli settlements were uprooted in the Gaza Strip.

4 Israeli settlements were uprooted in the West Bank.

48 graves in the Gush Katif Cemetery, including six graves of area residents murdered by terrorists, were uprooted.

9,000 is the approximate number of Israelis, in 1,800 Israeli families, living in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.    All of them were moved out as part of the withdrawal.

2,842 homes were destroyed and the rubble removed at Israel's expense

38 synagogues were blown up in the Gaza Strip.

287 public buildings were left for the palestinians.

5,000 school-age children needed to find new schools.

42 daycare centres were closed in the Gaza Strip.

36 kindergartens were closed in the Gaza Strip.

7 elementary schools were closed in the Gaza Strip.

3 high schools were closed in the Gaza Strip.

320 mobile homes, ordered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, served as temporary housing for settlers, some are still living in them, without promised compensation.

45,000 Israeli soldiers and policemen participated in the Gaza withdrawal.

$1.7 billion was the approximate cost to the Israeli government for the withdrawal initiative.

166 active Israeli farmers were moved out of Gaza.

800 cows, comprising the second largest dairy farm in Israel, were moved out of Gush Katif.

$120 million in flowers and produce exported annually from Gush Katif were lost.

1 zoo, the "Katifari," that housed hundreds of animals was moved.

10,000 people employed in agriculture and related industries in Gush Katif, including 5,000 Palestinians, were made unemployed.

60% of Israel's cherry tomato exports came from the Gaza Strip. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza extinguished this economic resource.

3.5 million square metres (almost 1,000 acres) of greenhouses were abandoned in Gaza & subsequently destroyed by 'palestinians'.

70% of Israel's organic produce was produced in Gaza. This is another economic resource lost.

60% of the herbs exported from Israel came from Gush Katif.

15% of Israel's agricultural exports originated in Gaza ~ more exports that lost following Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

$360,000 was the approximate average compensation amount Israel expected to pay to relocate each family.

$870 million was the approximate cost for Israel to facilitate the resettlement of former West Bank and Gaza residents elsewhere in the country.

$500 million is the amount of money Israel’s security establishment spent in order to relocate Israel Defence Forces bases outside the Gaza Strip and build new border crossing facilities.

After the withdrawal 430,000 West Bank palestinians were able to move freely within and between palestinian controlled areas.

0 Israelis, dead or alive, remain in Gaza.

1.2 million Arabs will remain full and legal citizens of Israel.   All Israeli citizens  ~ Christians, Muslims, and Jews ~ have freedom of speech, religion, press, and the right to vote.

1.3 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, many of them in palestinian Authority-controlled refugee camps, are living under Sharia law imposed by their own leaders.

820,000 JEWISH refugees, FORCED to flee without their belongings from ARAB countries between 1947 and 1949,  still have no compensation for their losses from Arab governments.

650,000 Arab refugees who left Israel between 1947 and 1949 still need Palestinian leaders who will end terrorism and the culture of hate.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Catch a Falling Star . . . .

Film Fun for Friday .....  And, Stardust,  a sprawling, effects-laden fairy tale, is just that.  A tale filled with Fairy Magic, Fun & the Fantastikal ..... it's the story of an ordinary shop-boy's quest to prove his love,  an enchanted journey into a Magical Kingdom of Conspiring Witches, Murderous Princes, Flying Pirates and a Fallen Star.  The real gem of the movie is the story itself. I was introduced to the world of Neil Gaiman by my Philosophy instructor back in my undergraduate days in London, England, & this fairy fable is one of the first graphic novels I ever read.  It convinced me that Gaiman was a Giant of all endeavours literary, his stuff so sparkles!!

And this movie captures that spark for sure.  Sophisticated in its execution, it is a movie that possesses a child's whimsical sense of wonder (that propels the action), coupled with an adult sensibility that gives it emotional depth .... Gaiman at his Greatest!

A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?"  Pointless, really... "Do the stars gaze back?"  .... Now *that's* a question!!

To the tale .... & young Tristan Thorne (played by Charlie Cox, who comes across as naïve and accidentally valiant)  lives with his father in the small English village of Wall,  named for the cobblestone barrier that skirts it.  He vows to retrieve a fallen star for the chance to win the heart of the shallow Victoria (Sienna Miller), the prettiest girl in the village.

He soon finds himself transported to the Supernatural world of Stormhold, the enchanted land on the other side of the wall which humans are forbidden to enter. In the crater where the star landed, he discovers a beautiful young woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes ~ I've always identified with & adored Claire Danes), who, in fact, is the human incarnation of the star.  Tristan intends to take Yvaine back to Victoria to prove the depth of his love but must first navigate the treacherous byways of the fantasy kingdom. Much of the film involves the duo's journey back home, though home for Tristan is his village, home for the celestial Yvaine is, of course, in the heavens.

Yvaine is pursued by an array of villians, whose goals blur into a general stampede. It begins with the death of Stronghold’s Monarch (Peter O’Toole, looking as though he’s at death’s door), who pits his seven sons (they are cleverly named in order of birth and birthright - Primus, Secundis, Tertius, etc ) against one another for the throne. Having launched a treasured gem into the stratosphere & causing Yvaine to plummet to Earth as a falling star, his throne can be won only through possession of this ruby pendant now worn by Yvaine. This rather bloodthirsty succession ritual leads Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) and his brothers to kill one another off until the last survivor ascends the throne. As they are dispatched, the slaughtered princes provide a ghostly Greek chorus to the story.

The fast-paced action cuts back and forth between the various villians as they bear down on Yvaine. Michelle Pfeiffer is Perfect as the diabolical Lamia, the embodiment of every vain, wicked stepmother in fairy-tale literature mixed with the cauldron-tending crones of “Macbeth” (Lamia is one of three cackling sisters), who seeks the star for it’s eternal life-giving properties which can be attained only by cutting out and eating the heart of Yvaine, the actual fallen star. But since Lamia has only a limited amount of magic to deploy before she begins to shrivel into a grotesque, balding hag, she must conserve her resources. Shooting deadly green lightning from rings on her tapering long-nailed fingers, she metamorphoses from a feline beauty with a sickly sweet smile into various stages of decrepitude. Her nightmare image of herself comes and goes as she unleashes and renews her powers.

Halfway through the story, Tristan and Yvaine are rocketed into space, where they touch down on an amphibious pirate ship. Enter Robert De Niro in his all-time campest screen performance as its cross-dressing skipper, Captain Shakespeare. Wearing a demonic grin and speaking in a caricature of the New York mobster voice he used in Analyze This, he injects comic relief into the quasi-medieval mists of Northern Britain. De Niro’s drag routine makes movie sense only if you think of it as a hip response to Johnny Depp’s fey, mascara-wearing Pirates of the Caribbean character, Jack Sparrow. Ricky Gervais has a small but memorable role essentially channeling his character from Extras, including his catchphrase, "Are you having a laugh?!"

Ian McKellen's narration establishes the storybook tone, and there is an amusing cameo by Irish stalwart David Kelly,  as the ancient guard patrolling the wall.  The pacing and cinematography are excellent. The sets and backgrounds are truly epic, amidst the sweeping vistas and timeless pastures of Iceland and Scotland. The effects are really ‘special’ if not in typical style, but original and stylistic, capturing the magic and vision of author Neil Gaiman's fantasy fable, a Comic mini-series, which later became a novel.

Parallel worlds are always fun in films and literature. They offer instant symbology and context. The worlds are the opposite of each other so there can be double the storylines, double the stars, double the look, double the fun. Often as dark and brutal as a tale by the Brothers Grimm, "Stardust" is hilarious, engaging & enchanting for the ‘starry eyed’ romantics among us.

One of my very favourite 'romantic' quotes, that I shall recite in the right circumstances .... "You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn't true. I know a lot about love. I've seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate... It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves... You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and... What I'm trying to say, Tristan is... I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I'd know it for myself. My heart... It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it's trying to escape because it doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I'd wish for nothing in exchange - no fits. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fire in My Heart ...

"There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct.  There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living.  These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.  They light the way for humankind."     
~ Hannah Senesch~

 In every generation,  Judaism has never lacked true martyrs.  Most of our martyrs are those unknown people who silently give their lives to enable the continuance of the Jewish Nation, Am Yisrael!   Through her brief but noteworthy life,  Hannah Senesch (Szenes) became a symbol of idealism and self-sacrifice,  her poems, made famous in part because of her unfortunate death, reveal a woman imbued with hope, even in the face of adverse circumstance.   Hannah is one of the few of whom we are privileged to have information,  both of her life and her untimely death.  Born into an affluent Hungarian family in 1921 she was martyred by the Nazis in 1944 at the young age of 23,  leaving behind a legacy of heroism for us,  the living.   She is the subject of a new  Movie -Documentary "Blessed is the Match"  ....  & I've just finished reading her Diary & Letters.  It's Inspiring!

The daughter of a famous and esteemed Hungarian playwright who died when Hannah was only six years old,  she grew up in his shadow to become one of Israel's most esteemed poets. Her works have been read throughout Israel and have inspired many to continue in the Zionist tradition of giving their lives for the Nationalist Jewish cause.   Their mother raised her and her brother, George, who was one year older than Hannah, in relative affluence and comfort in Hungary.  Little was heard about religion and Judaism in their house.  Although their family never denied their Jewishness, still,  they paid no importance to the outer aspects of the religion. Her father had in fact believed in Humanism and encouraged it, both in action and in speech.

At an early age,  Hannah stood out as an exemplary student.  She was enrolled in a Prestigious Protestant girls' school and was quickly seen by her teachers and fellow students as being an exceptional student.  In addition to her academic standing,  she had a charming personality and admirable speaking abilities that made her friends among the staff and student body.  She was elected to the school's Literary society as her grade representative. Unfortunately, the school rules barred a Jew from holding an office in the society. This was a very severe blow to Hannah,  who began an exploration of what it meant to be a Jew.

At the age of seventeen, she made a change in her life's direction ~ She became a Zionist!    It was at this time that she felt that there was no room in the Hungarian world for Jews.  She began to prepare for her life's mission of immigrating to Israel.  Making Aliyah .... and, this is an enterprise dear to me,  as I have that Fire in My Heart too!

At the same time,  Nazism was on the upturn and Europe was witnessing major Nazi aggression.  In 1937, the question of Anschluss,  the political unification of Germany and Austria was debated in Europe.  Germany demanded the resignation of the Austrian Chancellor, Dr. Kurt von Schuschnigg.  Suddenly Germany invaded Austria compelling them to submit and Schuschnigg left Austria.   These events caused tension to build indescribably in Hungary.  It became the main topic of discussion.  Shortly afterwards in 1938,  the Hungarian parliament began a debate on the "Jewish Law".  This became the Jewish Bill which reduced the ratio of Jewish representation in the various fields to a specific percentage. It also stated that the "expansion of the Jews is detrimental to the nation and dangerous".

With this came the 'Arrow-Crossers',  the young Hungarian Nazis who began to proliferate in the schools and streets.  Although at this point they were not threatened,  yet it was a sign of the Nazi influence in the daily life in Hungary.  Again in 1938,  the Nazi threat began to disturb life in Europe as Hilter made his demand on Czechoslovakian Sudetenlands.   British Lord Chamberlain  entered into negotiations with him.  But with the succession of the Sudeten to GermanyHungary began its own mobilization.  As all of these tragic events were taking place,  Hannah increased her identification with the Zionist movement as the only possible solution to European Jewry's problems.  She was so Correct!!  She took deep pride in being a Jew and prepared for her life in "Palestine", as Eretz Israel was called before independence.  She defined Zionist in the words of Nachum Sokolov, the Zionist leader of that period, as "the movement of the Jewish people for its revival."  Oh!  how we need that today too!

She began to realize,  as was popular in that period,  that the only hope of lessening or ending anti-Semitism is to realize the ideals of Zionism.  Only when the Jew lives in his own Jewish State, as all other nations, with the ingathering of the exiles, could he exist without the cancerous anti-Semitism that he knew too well in Europe.  As the second Jewish Law was announced in 1939,  the numbers of Jews in all walks of Hungarian life were to be reduced even further.  No Jew was allowed to be a member of the Parliament, a Judge, a lawyer, teacher ... the list goes on & on!!  On February 1939,  a bomb was thrown into the largest synagogue in Budapest during the Friday evening service resulting in deaths and many injuries.  War was advancing in the world's most Cultured & Civilised Continent!

In September of 1939, Hannah began her journey to "Palestine",  the mandated land of  Eretz Yisrael.  She had been accepted to study in the Nahalal Agricultural School and began to apply herself to the actual chore of living,  learning, and building up the land of Israel.   The work was simple boring manual labour such as laundry, washing and cleaning.  Although she doubted that this would be the type of living that she could continue with after her completion of her studies, she threw herself into her chores & her studies and soon became an exemplary student yet again.   Hebrew too soon became an important part of her life and she began to compose her poems in Hebrew.  She relates that she only wished that she could find her chosen spouse,  but although the boys were in amour of her,  she only would maintain a platonic relationship with them,  preferring to wait until the "right" person would come her way.   She was now inbued with Zionist ideology,  studying works of many of the various Zionist and Jewish thinkers. 

In 1940 she wrote her first poem in Hebrew: ~

In the fires of war, in the flame, in the flare,
In the eye-blinding, searing glare
My little lantern I carry high
To search, to search for true Man.

In the glare, the light of my lantern burns dim,
In the fire-glow my eye cannot see;
How to look, to see, to discover, to know
When he stands there facing me?

Set a sign, O Lo-d, set a sign on his brow
That in heat, fire and burning I may
Know the pure, the eternal spark
Of what I seek:  true Man.

In one of her entries in her diary she compared the ingathering of the exiles to an orchard. After the fruit trees have yielded their crops and the winter has set in, the gardener comes and sees their dried branches. He thinks of the spring and trims and prunes the trees, thereby strengthening them.   In the middle of the orchard stands an ancient tree. Its trunk is thick and its roots and branches are spread all over the orchard. Its branches have grown dry, the moisture in the ground can not reach the edges. The gardener notes that the roots are still vigorous and its trunk healthy.  It is a noble tree, still able to yield fruit.  This tree must be carefully pruned and trimmed more than the other trees.   The gardener unhesitatingly cuts off the thick branches and the pruning tool leaves fresh golden wounds.

Will the tree survive? Look! In the place of the amputated branches new ones are budding.  A small twig appears near the roots, with fresh, full buds containing the hope of renewed life. Will the gardener trim this off?  Will the Tree of Israel ever blossom again?

In 1941 she finished her studies at Nahalal.   In the ensuing time, she visited various settlements to see where she would settle.  Finally she decided upon Sdot-Yam.  She was given a tent and survived a difficult and freezing winter there. S he lists as one of her accomplishments as washing 150 pairs of socks with out going mad.   Eventually she was accepted as a member and was elected as the Supply Officer of the kibbutz. She was 21 years old and switched to another settlement,  in  Caesarea.

At this time the war was raging in Europe and her heart was with her mother in Hungary and her brother who was in occupied France.  A representative of the Palmach, the armed forces of the Jewish Agency contacted her concerning a mission in Hungary.  The purpose of this was to organize and prepare the Jews for escape from the inferno of Europe.  Her answer was that she was ready.   After a delay of several months she was accepted but her assignment required special training and enlistment in the British army.  For this she was transferred to Egypt. Upon completion of her training she returned to Haifa where she met her brother, George, who finally was able to come to Israel.  Their reunion lasted for only one day.

The next day Hannah and her comrades were taken and parachuted into Yugoslavia.  Hannah was the only woman in a group of infiltrators. According to the reports that were given by her comrades, she was a compelling and reassuring force in the darkness during their hiding.

Hiding in the forests with the partisans, she earned their respect and admiration. She was always enthusiastic and warm,  radiating energy in the face of death.  During this time she wrote one of her most famous poems,  entitled   

Blessed is the Match: ~

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honour's sake
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling fame

Narrated by Joan Allen,  Blessed Is the Match is the first documentary feature about Hannah Senesh, the World War II-era poet and diarist who became a paratrooper, & a Zionist resistance fighter.  With unprecedented access to the Senesch family archive, and through interviews, eyewitness accounts and the prolific writings of Hannah and Catherine Senesh,  Blessed Is the Match recreates Hannah's mission and imprisonment. The film explores Hannah's childhood against the backdrop of significant historical events resulting in a rich portrait with several interlocking strands.  The film shows British-controlled Palestine and explores how the Kibbutz Movement drew Hannah and other idealistic Jews there in the hopes of building a Jewish state.  Blessed Is the Match retraces the perilous mission of Hannah and 31 other Jewish-Palestinian parachutists. Finally, through Hannah's diary entries and her beautirul poetry ~ and through her correspondence with her mother, Catherine ~  Blessed Is the Match looks back on the life of a uniquely talented and complex girl who came of age in a world descending into ever increasing madness.

Hannah was caught with three other infiltrators due to one of the men who panicked and gave an alert to the Germans who promptly captured them. The Germans discovered a radio set and wanted to know the code that was used to send messages. Only Hannah knew and she refused to divulge this information. For this, she was tortured and beaten in the typical manner of the Nazis.  When she refused to cooperate her mother was arrested and imprisoned. Hannah and her mother were in the same prison in Hungary,  and actually managed to see each other. Hannah managed to aid the other women in the captivity of the Nazis.  She was an inspiration to them and eased their difficulty with dealing with the every day horrors of Nazi capture. One of her requests was to be given a Womans' Torah  to read in  the prison.

As the war drew to a close and the Nazis prepared to leave Hungary,  Hannah was taken out and shot.  Her body was buried in Hungary, but brought to Israel after the war where she was given the hero's burial that was deserving for one who gave her life to benefit the Jewish nation and it's building.   In Israel, her story is mandatory reading on most school curriculum's,  as are her poems. 

Her last poem was written in prison: ~

One, two, three
Eight feet long,
Two strides across, the rest is dark
Life hangs over me like a question mark.

One, two, three
Maybe another week,
Or next month may still find me here,
But death, I feel, is very near.

I could have been twenty-three next July;
I gambled on what mattered most,
The dice were cast. I lost.

So too did the World, I believe,  Hannah!   And this world still cares nothing for Jewish Blood.  I've known the name of Hannah Senesch since I was nine years old. I've wanted to emulate her since then.  This year I finally get to do that.  I'm listening to that Fire in my Heart ~ I'm making Alyiah!

Her 1942 poem Eli Eli, ...  "to sea, to sand, water's splash, lightning's flash."