What is Religion? What is Islam?

In a continuing attempt to get essays that I have written over the years and circulated in various ways, all posted in one place, here is a link to an essay that actually began its life as a lecture for a 2000-level religious studies class, attempting to elicit ideas about what religion does. I reworked it as an intro to religion for a class in Islamic history and religion, and have used it to discuss theoretical frameworks for understanding religion in the Univ. of Wyoming Capstone course in Theories of Religion. Rather than edit it into this site, or for that matter editing it at all (indeed, I caught a small number of things that ought to be fixed), I am just providing the link:

http://www.uwyo.edu/sward/what%20is%20religion.htm

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Qur’an, Chosen People and Holy Land

This is a link to the text of article I published some time ago:

Ward, “Qur’an, Chosen People and Holy Land” in Khaleel Mohammed & Andrew Rippin, edd., Coming to terms with the Qur’an, North Haledon NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2008, 63-74.

This volume was a tribute to Prof. Issa Boulatta of McGill university.

http://www.uwyo.edu/sward/articles/ward-quranonisrael-boullatavol.htm

The published article was based on a piece I wrote but never published that (inter alia) I circulated to one of the editors of the Boulatta volume. I later edited the earlier piece for inclusion into this blog:

https://drsethward.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/what-does-the-quran-say-about-the-chosen-peop/

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the importance of writing Yiddish in Yiddish

I was mentioned in an article in Yiddish reviewing Larry Key’s excellent Yiddish typing program for iPod/iPhone, appearing in the Yiddish version of the Forward in March 2016. I was honored to be involved in the testing of Larry’s app, and was interviewed regarding my comments about how important it is that those involved in Yiddish actually write in Yiddish (i.e., Hebrew characters, Yiddish spelling) rather than do everything in English transliteration. The interviewer and author Rukhl Schechter (now the editor of the Yiddish edition, the first US born and first female to have this title), mentioned me at the top of p. 2.

http://yiddish.forward.com/articles/194558/yivo-spelling-on-your-iphone/?p=1

http://yiddish.forward.com/articles/194558/yivo-spelling-on-your-iphone/?p=2

(The article is in Yidish)

I am quite pleased to have been interviewed by the Yiddish Forwartz.

I basically said that the revival of this language seems to emphasize oral communication, and people often write words for song or dialogue in Latin-character transcription. However, for the language to be preserved, people need to actually be able to write the language, not simply transcribe the sounds in Latin characters—which is why Larry Kay’s Keyboard is important (Yiddish and Hebrew share the same basic keyboard but Yiddish keyboards are adapted for Yiddish, much the same way that two Latin-character languages such as English and French or Polish might have the same basic keyboard but have adaptations for the individual language).  And of course, if people write only in Latin characters they will hardly learn the alphabet needed to read the great literature written in Yiddish (In the interview I mentioned Sholem Aleichem, who died about 100 years before the interview his hundredth yahrtzeit was in May 2016), and Mendele Mokher Seforim).

Perhaps it is important to note that I knew Larry back in my grad-school days in Connecticut, the reporter was a student in the Jewish Teachers’ Seminary and Folks University, where I had my first job post-undergraduate school (her father was a colleague there), and her brother is a musician, conductor of a Yiddish choral ensemble and a colleague and friend of ours.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom: Magic and the protection of women and children

 

 

Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom: Magic and the protection of women and children

The Magic Incantation Bowl of The Mizel Museum of Judaica (Denver, Colorado USA)[1]

 

Seth Ward

—I wrote this in 2002. Looking through my records, it is based on a lecture I gave, and I circulated it to a number of places, including the Mizel Museum. It describes one of the oldest pieces in their collection, an incantation bowl similar to many found in the Middle East, especially in what is now Iraq–although unusual in that it has an inscription ending with Shalom “peace” repeated several times.  I added an Arts and Crafts project idea for the museum context, which is also reproduced here. I do not think Mizel ever did anything with this essay. 

Mizel now has exhibition space and last time I was there the bowl was exhibited as part of the permanent collection. This article is reproduced as it was written back then, with very minor revisions and copy editing. 

 

 

In Hispanic culture, La Llorona is a spirit who is supposed to inhabit streams and waterways, lurking in readiness to snatch and kill young children who wander alone in desolate areas.[2] She continues to be respected and feared at least by some.

 

Perhaps her story is based at least in part on the figure of La Malinche, an Aztec woman who became a Mayan slave and then the translator, guide and lover of the Spanish conquistador[3] Cortez and mother to his children. According to at least one version of the story, she learned that Cortez planned to return to Spain with a Spanish noblewoman, taking her sons.  She became despondent, realized that she had betrayed her people, and in her despair, she killed her own children. At least this is one view; others recount her story as an old Indian story or an Iberian folktale with no reference to the Spanish conquest of Central America.[4]

 

Hers is a sad tale, but the classic story of La Llorona struck fear into young children, and into the hearts of their parents. In recent years, some retellings of her story have reconstructed her image into a more favorable one, stressing the pathos of the narrative and remaking her into a symbol of woman spurned, of the evils of paternalism, of the need for female heroines.

 

Her tale and her fate are reminiscent of stories told in other cultures when contemplating the danger inherent in childbirth and in the survival of infants and children. She may, for example, be totally unrelated to the story of Lillith. Lillith, whose ancestry is Middle Eastern, is another story of female considered demonic for generations, then associated with a figure believed to be historic. Also like La Llorona, she is now enjoying something of a rebirth as a sympathetic figure, without reference to her murderous activities.[5]

 

In the Bible, there is a reference to “lilit” in Isaiah 34:14, where it may refer to a bird and is sometimes translated as a night owl. In context, this is one of a list of fearsome night creatures. Male and female night-demons with etymologically identical names are known also from ancient Mesopotamian sources.

 

A terra cotta bowl, probably made sometime between 400 and 800 C.E. and now owned by the Mizel Museum of Judaica contains an inscription that invokes protection against any lilliths. This bowl was apparently found around 1940 in Susa in southwestern Iran, the Biblical Shushan, not far from the border with Iraq. Hundreds of such bowls have been uncovered, perhaps more, although I am not aware of any other such bowls in museums or in private hands anywhere in Colorado.  This one may have become separated from the other artifacts found by a French team excavating Susiana because, although the letters are clear, their meaning is not entirely decipherable. Nevertheless, the incantation clearly calls for the expulsion and separation of any lillith.[6]

 

The “Magic Incantation Bowls” as they are often called, have inscriptions in Aramaic. This was a multi-cultural or at least multi-religious enterprise: They were prepared by Christians, Jews and Mandeans.  Each wrote their own dialect of the Aramaic language, using their traditional script. Jews prepared the bowls with Aramaic in Hebrew characters. Other bowls use Syriac characters, a script used primarily by Christians. Mandeans wrote in their own Aramaic script; their religious practices included frequent baptism and the search for gnosis, specialized knowledge that would help the believer achieve everlasting life. Although each dialect had its unique features, they were all branches of the Aramaic language, the nearly universal language of Middle Eastern discourse for centuries before becoming displaced by Arabic in the ninth century or so, several centuries after the Islamic conquest. The inscriptions begin near the center and spiral outwards, facing towards the outside of bowl. Some of these bowls have illustrations in the very center of the bowl; the Mizel bowl does not. Some of the bowls also have “magical letters,” usually written with lines and circles, again, the Mizel bowl does not.

 

The language of the Jewish Aramaic bowls included many words and phrases in Hebrew. Perhaps the most common ending to the invocations written on the bowls was “Amen, Amen Amen, Selah,” echoing the language of Psalms and Jewish prayer. The final words of the Mizel bowl are highly appropriate, even if unusual in the incantation context; I found them in none of the magic bowls whose inscriptions were reproduced by Shaul Shaked and J. Naveh or C. Isbell, nearly a hundred inscriptions. The Mizel bowl ends: Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom. “Peace, peace, peace, peace.”

 

It is not clear how the bowls were used. The most frequently encountered idea is that somehow or other they captured demons and constrained them from doing any harm. This may be similar to a story about a woman mentioned in the Talmud (2-6th centuries CE.). Johanne the daughter of Retibi is mentioned as a paradigm of a woman who brings destruction to the world (Sotah 22a), but the details of her story are never mentioned. The narrative supplied by Rashi (France, d. 1105), whose glosses are printed in every traditional edition of the Talmud, is based on earlier material from Mesopotamia, and reflects traditions about how magic practitioners were understood to control magical elements associated with childbirth: [7]

 

She was a widow and a witch (makhshefa). When it came time for a woman to give birth, she would stop up her womb by witchcraft, but after the woman was in great pain she would say: “I will go and pray for mercy, perhaps my prayer will be answered.” She would then go and undo her magic and the child would come out. One time she had a day laborer in her house. When she went to the home of a woman in childbirth, the laborer heard the sound of the spells knocking around in a vessel, just as the child knocks in the mother’s womb. He went and opened the stopper of the vessel and the spells left. The child was born and it was known that she was a sorceress.

 

This is the only reference to this Johanne in Rabbinic sources, although the name Johanne (here, a man’s name) is encountered in some Hebrew sources as one of Pharaoh’s two chief magicians, usually rendered in Greek (including the New Testament, 2 Tim. 3:8) as Jannes. (Johanne does not occur in the New Testament, but the woman’s name “Johanna” does, mentioned in nearly the same breath as the seven demons that had afflicted Mary Magdalene, in Luke 8:2-3).[8]

 

Many of the incantation bowls were found upside down, and it is sometimes assumed that they were placed that way in order to trap demons, much as one might trap a bee or wasp under a cup. Perhaps, as in Johanne’s story, these bowls were used to contain magic spells that would be released to counteract the evil. Very similar spells were written on amulets, which could be rolled up or left flat. Presumably in these cases, it was the inscription itself which made the amulet powerful not the role of its physical shape in constraining the demon world.

 

In this period, the Lilliths were thought at least in some circles to have fled to a cave by the Red Sea. Versions of the legend appear in many languages. In the version which has become best-known in Jewish sources, three spirits, Sanvay, Sansanvay and Samanglof seek her out and hold her down, and she promises that wherever her name is mentioned together with theirs, she will refrain from killing women in childbirth and their young infants. Based in part on a lengthy text on one of the incantation bowls, Shaked and Naveh have reconstructed further details of the story at this stage, including the relationship of the names of Lillith’s subduer in Byzantine Greek and Ethiopic versions of the story to iron. (Some of the Arabic stories about jinn also have them repelled by saying hadid “iron.”).

 

In the Alphabet of Ben Sira, probably a tenth century work, Lillith became identified with the “first wife” of Adam. In Genesis 1, God creates man and woman together; in Genesis 2, Eve is created from Adam’s rib. There are previous attempts to explain the difference between the two accounts by postulating the creation of an initial male and female, but the Alphabet is the first time that “the first woman” is identified by name as Lillith. She rejected Adam, making a strong statement against male superiority. This statement, in context probably a reference to sexual positions rather than social or religious equality, was taken as the motto of Lillith, the major Jewish feminist journal started in the 1970’s. In any case, the historical story provides an answer to the puzzling question of why anyone, demon or otherwise, would attack good women and helpless babes.

 

In the Jewish tradition, Lillith’s role continued to develop; she was identified by Kabbalists as the wife of Sammael, the prince of “the other side” (perhaps today we should translate this as in Star War’s “the dark side”), sometimes identified as the Kabbalists’ notion of Satan.   In a fascinating morality tale reminiscent of earlier attempts to constrain a very different model of Lillith, Joseph Della Reyna is supposed to have chained Sammael and Lillith, and embarked on a journey to bring them forth for judgement.  This would have brought their power to an end and brought about the redemption of the entire world—except that Della Reyna acceded to their request for a brief chance to rest along the way. The point of the tale is that even a momentary pause in the search to end evil can be fatal to the entire project.

 

Magic traditions are highly adaptive, and leave traces long outlasting their original context. As noted above, some incantation bowls contain “magic letters,” as do some amulets written centuries later. These letters are often thought to be based on ancient Greek magic. Although long removed in time from Greek influence, the forms were retained. Perhaps La Llorona and the jinn combatted by yelling “iron” evidence continuity with Mesopotamian, Jewish and Byzantine accounts of Lillith. Or perhaps they are different ways in which mankind has tried to explain our dangerous world.

 

The Mizel Museum currently has no exhibition space. It is hoped that the very near future will see the construction of its new home, and that the bowl will have a prominent place in its permanent display.

 

Seth Ward

 

 

 

An Arts and Crafts project based on the Magic Bowl

Arts and Crafts Project: I discussed the Mizel Museum bowl at a recent presentation on calligraphy at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Art teachers present at my talk were enthusiastic about the bowl as a vehicle for children’s arts and crafts projects.  I am grateful to them for this project idea, and to Ashley Kaszprzak for urging me to put my thoughts into written form.

 

Youngsters have fears and hopes. Create a small terra cotta bowl and write an inscription. The Mesopotamian bowls’ inscriptions begin near the center and spiral outwards; the letters face towards a reader on the near side of the bowl. Some of these bowls have illustrations in the very center of the bowl, usually schematized depictions of what look like people. Perhaps they are illustrations of the demons described in the bowl, or amuletic representations of the person for whom the bowl was made.

 

Some of the bowls speak about night visions and evil dreams; youngsters might want to write inscriptions to keep away nightmares or other scary visions they might have at night. No doubt, some will want to write similar inscriptions hoping that pesky sibling never invade their personal space. In any case, youngsters’ inscriptions can hope for safety for themselves and their families.

 

Many cultures have fears associated with snatching away babies or young children of various ages. The magic incantation bowls may have been a unique approach in terms of the shape and  material used; but the ideas behind the amulets, good luck charms, and warnings about demons or the “bogeyman” may well be pervasive. Art teachers creating inscriptions for bowls to be made by youngsters may have the making of a multi-cultural program, perhaps incorporating the creation of other objects with similar, protective purposes. Nevertheless, teachers should exercise diligence and care regarding community sensibilities and appropriateness of inscriptions.

 

The Mizel bowl provides at least a suggestion for an ending to the inscription that should be appropriate any context: “Peace, peace, peace, peace.”

 

[1] Thanks to Molly Dubin, who first brought the Mizel Museum of Judaica Incantation Bowl to my attention; to Ellen Premack, who greatly facilitated access to the bowl, and to Ashley Kaszprzak.  Thanks also to Edward Yamauchi and Shaul Shaked, who offered much sage advice about the bowls in general and this bowl in particular. Most of this article was written in conjunction with a lecture given in 2002 at the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities funded by a grant from the Colorado Council for the Humanities, or shortly thereafter. Only minor editing has been possible since that time.

[2] Tina Griego, writing in Denver Post, 27 February, 2002, p. B1, recalled warnings about La Llorona offered in her youth and found them still to be very much alive today.

[3] This and other versions of her story may be found at //www.lallorona.com/ (accessed March 4, 2002).

[4] On La Llorona, see for example Domino Renée Pérez, “Caminando con la llorona : traditional and contemporary narratives,” in Norma E. Cantú and Olga Nájera-Ramírez, edd.,  Chicana traditions : continuity and change . Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2002. Robert F. Gish, Beyond bounds: cross-cultural essays on Anglo, American Indian, and Chicano literature, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

[5] Griego referred to advertisements for milk and other products in which there is no mention of La Llorona’s infanticide. Probably the most striking turnaround in Lillith’s stature is the cooption of the name of this demon—feared as a killer of women in childbirth, seducer of their husbands, and killer of their children—for the name of the preeminent monthly magazine devoted to Jewish feminist issues.

[6] On the Incantation Bowls, see works by Montgomery, Isbell, Yamauchi, Cyrus Gordon, Naveh and Shaked. Rebecca Macy Lesses, Ritual Practices to Gain Power, Harvard Theological Studies 44; Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1998, has interpreted the bowls within the context of other mystical practices used to gain power over demons. Shaked examined digital photographs of the bowl, and confirmed that the inscription is mostly indecipherable.

[7]  In traditional Talmud editions, the same story (with minor variants in wording) is also found in a commentary by another French expositor, Shimon of Sens. The story was also known to the Geonim (Iraq, c. 600-1031 CE),  as it is found in a Geonic responsum.

[8] There is a lengthy tradition in Jewish literature of associating Jesus with magical arts, including linkages between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and Egyptian magic. Anything more than this quick reference is beyond our scope here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On singing pieces by Shelomo Carlebach (1925-1994) or having “Carlebach Services.”

I came across this short essay while clearing and reorganizing my computer. I wrote this some time ago; the time stamp in my computer indicated the most recent revision had been in 2015. There is a reference close to the end about hesitating to post it to the Blog, and apparently I did: at least according to the search engine, I never posted it at that time. Perhaps the reason I did not post it was that I struggled with putting the issue into a broader perspective–it seems to need one, and I added only a brief line about the broad perspective when lightly editing it now in August 2017 for posting here.

Should we sing Shelomo Carlebach’s songs? The question comes up from time to time, for example, it was raised when the Colorado Hebrew performed an arrangement of one of Carlebach’s compositions: is it appropriate to sing Carlebach’s songs or to have a whole service based on his melodies?  The issue never has anything to do with whether he was sufficiently loyal to Orthodoxy or strayed too far from the derekh, “the path.”  Rather, it has to do with reports about what today would be called abusive behavior to women; women have come forward reporting they were victimized by such activities.

I suppose I should make a disclosure, in the 1970s when I was an undergraduate at college—well after the responsum by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein mentioned below, but well before broad discussion of reports about him—we had Rabbi Carlebach visit our campus. As I recall, I was active in the committee organizing this and the Hillel rabbi would not let him be alone with women, not even to have one of our student officers meet or pick him up alone from the train station. We students were surprised, and in my recollection the Hillel rabbi did not go into any details beyond saying it was best not to have one of our female students pick him up, certainly not without another person in the car. It was clear that this was because of what today we would call inappropriate behavior, although we students probably thought it was just “unwanted hugging.” Apparently it went far beyond that, and indeed some women were traumatized by his actions. My point is that there was awareness by Hillel or religious professionals—and many who worked with them—decades ago. I do not know how much detail was “actually known” and how much was carefulness, based on unconfirmed reports. Those were different times; I do not wish to justify a less-stringent attitude of those days.

In fact, these reports had reached many in the Orthodox world—a world likely to have Carlebach services today. As I noted, they had been addressed by no less a figure than Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in 1959. There is some discussion about the meaning and reference of Rabbi Feinstein’s responsum. Rabbi Dratch, founder of J-Safe and now Exec. VP of the RCA seems to think that Feinstein would not have prohibited Carlebach’s music. http://jsafe.org/pdfs/What_to_do_with_Abusive_Rabbis.pdf   [2017: this link is down, but the article is posted here: http://theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2006/07/what-to-do-with-abusive-rabbis.html]. Like Rabbi Feinstein’s responsum itself, Rabbi Dratch does not even mention the name of the singer about whom the responsum was written.  Although it is hard to imagine the responsum refers to anyone else.

But as shown by R. Feinstein and by my experience, some people, especially “professionals,” were aware of at least some aspects of Carlebach’s behavior towards women well before the lengthy article that appeared in Lillith magazine shortly after Carlebach died.

And the opening of a musical based on his songs reopened old wounds.

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2012/08/should-the-new-shlomo-carlebach-musical-be-banned-234.html.

Scandals involving various rabbis and educators, including scandals at Yeshiva University, at Kesher Israel in Washington DC, and so forth, as well as increasing sensitivity to women’s issues in Judaism and in general society have made it imperative in some circles to raise the issue: Does the singing of Carlebach songs rub salt in women’s wounds? Is it insensitive and supportive of abuse in ways that, whatever we may have felt a generation ago, we cannot tolerate today? This should be an issue in the Orthodox world highly likely to value Carlebach’s melodies (and to treat Rabbi Feinstein’s rulings with great honor). And it should be noted that his melodies are encountered in the non- Orthodox world as well, which, also, has not been exempt from scandals.

http://hareiani.com/2014/12/07/carlebach-cosby-and-separating-art-from-its-artist/ poses the issue well.  The author probably should have discussed the quintessential rule of Lashon ha-Ra “evil tongue” –we should not speak negative things about people even if true, but if there is a purpose in doing so, it is allowed–and in some cases even expected.  I worried about this in writing this post; indeed, I hesitated for quite some time to add it to my Blog. However, the issue is worth discussing, and, unfortunately, only by including the singer’s name will the issue become clear. And it is not only an issue with Carlebach’s music: readers of this Blog are likely to be aware of parallel situations. One can ask whether sensitivity to such issues helps us move forward, or—when focused on past actors whose times were different from our own—takes energy away from moving forward. I cannot say that there is a convenient rule, or even that such a rule is possible: individuals will come to different conclusions—and it is best to be aware of the issues and be sensitive to contemporary sensitivities. [As I post this in 2017, I can think not only of Carlebach and Cosby, and for that matter R. Freundel, mentioned in this essay, but of Orff and Wagner, and in the US context, of issues raised by removing statuary, images and naming associated with support for slavery]. I know there are some people who are passionately opposed to any performance of Carlebach’s music—knowing full well that in the current situation, there are many victims who associate his music strongly with his abuse.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The TORRY AWARDS 2017

The Middle East and Israel in Film course at the University of Wyoming awards the TORRYS at the end of each term the course is taught. The awards memorialize the late Prof. Robert Torry, who taught English at the University of Wyoming for many years and who, together with Paul Flesher, introduced and taught a Film and Religion course. He is greatly missed.

Students make the nominations after we’ve seen all the films, and vote at the very end of the last session. Students have great leeway in nominating. Sometimes it is not clear to me that the scene or person nominated actually fits the category, and sometimes these unlikely nominations win. For example, the “real couple” in the Egyptian classic Ghazl al-Banat are the star, Leila Murad, and the aviator character played by her then-husband–and the director of the film. This would have been obvious to Egyptians viewing the film in 1949! But students saw the unlikely couple of Leila Murad–who plays the daughter of the Pasha–flirting with a poor school teacher who disingenuously falls in love with her, despite differences in age and social status that make this unthinkable. Perhaps this provides a window into the perceptions of these films amongst college students in Wyoming.

Most of the categories are carried over from previous terms in which I taught the course. Students have a chance to change the wording or to add or delete categories; some of the categories they’ve suggested are quite whimsical. I tried to keep the wording describing categories, scenes or people as close as possible to what the students nominated—although I made some minor edits.

Of the films screened in Spring 2017, the Turkish movie Mustang was the most popular among my students. A truck driver who helps the youngest sisters in the movie was voted the Best Hero. This is a great example of recognizing the importance of a character with only a few scenes, who nevertheless plays a key role.

Once upon a Time in Anatolia was selected for screening by students, from among numerous possibilities presented them in DVD cases, but was not enjoyed at all. One scene in the film was remembered as particularly pointless by our students. Nevertheless, the filmmaker is an important Turkish artist and the film raised a number of important points for discussion about the nature of filmmaking. It was the only nominee for Worst Film and the students nominated a scene in it as particularly pointless, involving an apple rolling down the hill. Of course, they had talked about the meaning of this scene at some length, and any time a scene sticks out and generates discussion—even if it appears pointless—it is a credit to the filmmaker’s art.

In a few categories, there was an opportunity to consider Israeli films separately from other films; for the most part, any film we screened was eligible.

“The Miracle” is a chapter in Rio I Love You, in which the topic is not Middle Eastern, but the filmmaker is Nadine Labaki, from Lebanon.

The voting for Best Israeli Movie was nearly tied; Or My Treasure was only slightly ahead of the other nominees. There was a tie for “most heart wrenching” scene.

Kazablan clearly won for best music. Not surprisingly, several of its hit numbers were nominated for best song. But the “Hashishat ‘albi” song in Where do we go now? won hands down—written by the husband of director and star Nadine Labaki.  The scene in which it is sung also won for Best Scene.

We did not show a documentary, but the students wanted to nominate and vote on two films for accuracy of depicting reality. The Egyptian comedy Terrorism and Kebab won for its depiction of the reality of oppressive bureaucracy.

I am not surprised that Zohar (Dana Ivgy) narrowly lost to the Lale character in favorite movie Mustang as best female character, although students clearly regarded Zero Motivation and Or  highly. Ivgy also ran against the Lale character, nominated for the child acting category as the teenager in the film Or. At the annual conference of the WJSA this year (2017) Ivgy spoke about some of her characters being the child of characters played by the late, great Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz—whom she would call for advice about acting and address as “Mom” because of their relationship in the films. (I think she also played the child of her father Moshe Ivgy in a film, and a high school age child in Broken Wings.).  The Lale character though was an elementary school or early middle school aged character (Mustang).

Pleasing to me (and totally without prompting from me), one of the most memorable scenes in classic Israeli cinema, the cat and gefilte fish scene from Kazablan, was recognized by my students.

In the chart below, the winners in each category are underlined and in bold. The list of films we saw follows beneath the list of winners.

May Bob Torry’s name be remembered for a blessing.

MOST IMPORTANT FILM

Terrorism and Kebab

Where do we go now?

Zero Motivation

Mustang  

BEST VILLAIN

☐ Walid in Fauda

Uncle in Mustang

☐ Eye-glass General in Atomic Falafel

☐ The Lizard in The Lizard

☐ “Gulash” in Kazablan

BEST HERO

☐ Iranian Girl in Atomic Falafel

☐ German Guy in Atomic Falafel

Truck driver from Mustang        

☐ Ahmad (Adel Iman character) in Terorism and Kebab

BEST MOVIE (NON-ISRAELI)

Mustang

Where do we go now  

Marmulak (Lizard)

MOST POINTLESS SCENE

Apple rolling scene in Once Upon a time in Anatolia

BEST ISRAELI MOVIE

Zero Motivation

Atomic Falafel

Or My Treasure

Apples from the Desert

Footnote

BEST COMEDY

Atomic Falafel

Zero Motivation

BEST DRAMA

The Attack

Fauda

MOST HEART-WRENCHING SCENE

The Attack—Doctor finds out his wife was the terrorist

Final Scene in Or My Treasure     

Suicide in Mustang

(tie)

MOST HEARTWARMING SCENE

Ushpizin—friends come in to celebrate circumcision 

☐ “The Miracle”—in Rio I Love You Harvey Keitel character calls kid pretending he is God

☐ Dancing because they got the money scene, in Ushpizin

BEST COUPLE

Young Israeli teens from Atomic Falafel   

☐ Mom and German in Atomic Falafel

☐ Young Couple from Apples in the Desert

☐ Couple from Ushpizin

BEST MUSIC

Kazablan                 

Atomic Falafel

☐ Soundtrack of Terrorism and Kebab

BEST SONG

Hitchki from Atomic Falafel

Hashishat ‘Albi (the baking song) from Where do we go now?

☐ Respect song (Kol HaKavod) in Kazablan

☐ We are all Jews (Kulanu Yehudim) in Kazablan

Democratiah in Kazablan

☐ Rosa in Kazablan

BEST USE OF SILENCE AND/OR MUSIC

Footnote

Or – last scene

Katherine the Great

Zero Motivation—pauses

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Or

Where do we go now

Kazablan

Mustang

MOST ACCURATE HISTORICALLY

Terrorism and Kebab

Fauda

MOST SURPRISING MOMENT

Women changed religion in Where do we go now

☐ Suicide in Zero Motivation

☐ Trashcan Intercourse in Zero Motivation

☐ Carving the tattoo out in Zero Motivation

FAVORITE SCENE

☐ both generals pressing the button for nukes in Atomic Falafel

Where do we go now? when they are all united together

Baking scene in Where do we go now?     

☐ Wife says she is pregnant in Ushpizin

☐ Two girls find their teacher in Mustang

☐ “Whirlpool” of people in circling in Mugamaa in Terrorism and Kebab

BEST PICTURE

Atomic Falafel

Fauda

Kazablan

Ushpizin

Mustang    

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER

☐ Zohar (Dana Ivgy) in Zero Motivation

☐ Nadine Labaki in Where do we go now

☐ Daffy from Zero Motivation

☐ Possessed Russian from Zero Motivation

Lale from Mustang

BEST MALE CHARACTER

☐ Boyfriend (Elisha Banai character) in Apples from the Desert

☐ Ahmad (Adel Iman character) in Terrorism and Kebab

Doran (Lior Raz character) in Fauda

☐ Moshe in Ushpizin

WORST COUPLE

The Attack

☐ Walid and Cousin from Fauda

Ghazl al-Banat – Leila Murad and Hammam

BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS

☐ Shuli Rand

Dana Ivgy

☐ Nadine Labaki

BEST SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE

Apples from the Desert

Mustang

Ushpizin

Zero Motivation

WORST PICTURE

Once upon a time in Anatolia

BEST SHORT MOVIE OR CLIPS

West Bank Story

Katherine the Great

“The Miracle” in Rio I Love You  

BEST CHILD ACTING

Mustang

☐ Dana Ivgy in Or

Atomic Falafel – two Israelis and Iranian

FUNNIEST SCENE

Cat and Gefilte Fish in Kazablan

☐ Video track scene from Atomic Falafel

☐ Daffy staples herself in Zero Motivation

☐ Lale tells woman dress is shit colored in Mustang

☐ Suit Scene in Kazablan

 

FILMS WE SAW IN 2017

 


Once upon a time in Anatolia 2011
Nuri Bilge Ceylan http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1827487/

 

Mustang 2015
Deniz Gamze Ergüven http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3966404/

 

O Milagre” (The Miracle) in Rio I love you

Nadine Labaki http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1456606/

 

Or My Treasure 2004
Keren Yedaya http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388311/

 

West Bank Story 2005
Ari Sandel http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0438575/

 

Footnote 2011
Joseph Cedar http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1445520/

 

Terrorism and Kebab 1992
Sherif Arafa http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1445520/

 

Catherine the Great 2011
Ana Kuntsman http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2092416/

 

Ushpizin 2004
Gidi Dar/Shuli Rand http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0426155/

 

Apples from the Desert 2014
Matti Harari, Arik Lubetski Savyon Liebrecht  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3955672/

 

Fauda 2015…
Avi IssacharoffLior Raz http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4565380/

 

Atomic Falafel 2015
Dror Shaul http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3830312/

 

Zero Motivation 2014
Talia Lavie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3576084/

 

Marmulak (The Lizard ) 2004
Kamal Tabrizi http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0416960/

 

Where do we go Now? 2011
Nadine Labaki http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1772424/

 

The Attack 2012
Ziad Doueri http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0787442/

 

Arab Labor Season 1 episode 5 Passover 2007…
Syed Kashua http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0904447/

 

Ghazl al-Banat (Flirtation of Girls) 1949
Anwar Wagdi http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0184512/

 

Kazablan 1973
Menachem Golan http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0184512/

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Middle East and Israel in Film University of Wyoming 2012 Class Awards

In preparation for my 2017 Middle East and Israel in Film class awards, I am posting the list from the 2012 version of the class. This was before these awards were named the “Torrys” in memory of our colleague Robert Torry. 

 

Middle East and Israel in Film University of Wyoming 2012 Class Awards (“Oscars”)

Categories and Nominees
Winners are underlined

 

Most accurate historically 
Wedding Song
Paradise Now
Lawrence of Arabia
Lebanon
Waltz with Bashir

Best Picture
Lawrence of Arabia
Persepolis
Waltz
Paradise Now

Most Heartwrenching  Scene
Convicts eating citron – Ushpizin
Bathhouse Scene Wedding Song
Loss of child scene Yakubian Building

Most Gutwrentching Scene
Lebanon
Waltz-Massacre
Strangulation Scene Yakubian
Shooting Scene Yakubian

Best couple
Kazablan and Rachel
Malli and Moshe–Ushpizin
Yakubian Building
Hanna Rovina and Alexander Penn

Best use of silence and/or music
Waltz with bashir
Paradise Now
No One knows about  Persian Cats
     Kazablan
Arab Labor

Best Female Character
Marjane in Persepolis
Busaina in Yacoubian Building
Rachel in Kazablan
Zahra in Soraya M
Grandmother in Persepolis
Mali Ushpizin
Soraya herself in stoning of Soraya M.

Best Villain
Shoemaker “Goulash”–Kazablan
Malik in Yacouibian
Ali husband of Soraya M
Dawlat – Yacoubian Building
Phalangist from Lebanon

Best Hero
Kazablan
Zaki Pasha (Yacoubian Building)
French Reporter in Soraya M.
Said from Paradise Now
Tarik from For my Father
Grandfather from Arab Labor

Best “Muslim” Movie
Persian Cats

Persepolis

Muhammad the Last Prophet

Paradise Now

 
Best Israeli Movie
Kazablan

Waltz With Bashir

Ushpizin

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment