more common than it seems

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Dear Friends,

First of all, I’m fine. I’m in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, there is no
bombing here. Just in case the Hezbollah missles can go farther
than expected, we have done the drills for what to do when the air
raid siren goes off [one minute to get to a shelter,wherever you
are] and everyone has been refreshing the shared shelters with
water, food, pillows, sleeping bags, decks of cards, and other
things. I am actually staying in a shelter which had been modified
into an apartment so though we have no light, musicians tromp in
and out at all hours, and it smells like cats, it is very safe.
I will reassure you with “War, and nothing’s going on…”

OK, so before I get into politics, here’s what I’m up to: lots of
rehearsals for the 12-piece which is HolyLand Hostess, as well as
for Dropkin, this other project I sing for here [all lyrics by
tzilia dropkin, yiddish modernist 1880s-1930s] . ALso cutting a
record for Dropkin and being interviewed at the Yiddish institute
on diaspora conciousness, guest DJing on radio shows, doing live
music on some kind of Ellen-like show where the hosts dance along
to the performers (this one’s in 11/11/13, good luck!). last night
i did a solo set at a queer dance party/drag event organized by the
same folks who are demonstrating against the bombing of Lebanon.
Yes, I’m going to the demo, but more on that later. These people
are also organizing something quite cool–an alernative to the
corporate, sanitized and anti-political World Pride in Jerusalem.
They are doing a radical gathering called Queeruption–no
sponsorship, everything is free, you stay on people’s roofs and do
actions agaist the Wall as well as fun stuff. Also doing some
collaborative stuff in a feminist space. Did I mention also good
eats–khummus, mshawasha, sabih, melawakh, jakhnun, borek, and
malabi for desert. yum.

A friend from here named Ilan Volkov who is also a conductor has
co-founded a new club called Levontin 7. That’s where both
HolyLand Hostess and Dropkin will play. It’s like the Tonic of
Tel Aviv and I have been going there pretty much every night.
Awesome programming! So far: baroque string trios, iraqi jewish
folk, balkan beat box extravaganzas, minimalist noise bands, free
jazz, doom metal, and other popular forms, it’s cool. Both of my
projects play next week.

As with last time, I like the people I am working with very much.
Some people are the same, some are different. The line-up: 3
singers, violin, viola, trumpet, bassoon, accordion, guitar, bass,
drums, electronics and beatbox. Just what I always wanted–a big
band with all scheduling and most charts done by other people.
Yay! Everyone is working awfully hard for no money and there are a
lot of interesting conversations going on about the things you
might expect: the occupation, the war, Zionism, forms of
resistance, the relationship of Israel to the US, to the world,
etc. Lots of political identities–anarchists, anarcho-capitalists
(gross! but understandable in former soviet citizens), socialists,
communists, situationists, zionists and anti-zionists. The thing I
notice the most about personal interactions here is extreme
generosity. People offer up apartments, bring you food, pay for
your taxi, go far out of their way to honor guests. On the other
hand, strangers can be extremely rude, yelling, pushing, and
generally deserving of a good swift kick. The thing about me that
really freaks people out here is that I identify as religious.
They get a perplexed, disbelieving, somewhat disgusted look on
their face and ask qustion after question: “So…you’re
religious? You mean you’re RELIGIOUS? You sometimes work as a
WHAT? A cantor? You sing songs on Shabbat? Is is a Radical Jewish
Shabbat? WHY are you religious exactly?” Funny people, the
Israelis…not so into Jewish, per se. The best comment I have yet
heard on this Jewish Problem was handed down from Boris, the
producer. His bubbe commented that Jews are like snake venom.–a
little by itself can cure, but too much is deadly.

I spent the whole week going back and forth to Jerusalem for a
conference of “Occult Power and Officiants in Near Eastern
“–otherwise known as Jews and Magic with a focus on late
ANtiquity. All the famous [to me] living bowl scholars were there,
and there were presentations specifiacally on the bowls, as well as
on many other issues of ritual power–how authority is established,
the connections between the magical and the mystical [like bowls to
Kaballah], a breakdown of the countercharm formulas in the bowls,
the role of magicians, points of rupture and continuation—lots of
good stuff. I learned a lot and will continue meeting with some of
the scholars next week. Nice to be around people who think the
bowls are normal and mainstream!

Of course everyone is talking about “ha-matzav”–the situation–and
people are depressed, angry, scared. The news is on all the time
in every little store, cab, boombox, you walk down the street and
everyone is listening to the same thing. Ground troops are
engaging and bandmates are starting to get called away. The thing
is, I don’t really see bombing the shit out of Southern Lebanon as
making any friends in the region. It doesn’t seem like a helpful
reaction, nor is it commensurate, nor will it change the climate in
a positive way. On the other hand, Hezbollah is really bad news.
They are hard to fight, not just because they are supported by the
strong arms of Iran and Syria, but also because they send their
Katyushas and Fajrs from the midst of civilian communities in
Lebanon. It’s appalling.

People have good reasons to be mad at Israel–they run a vicious
occupation and the state discriminates against Arabs but calls
itself democratic. They have foolishly allied themselves with the
US, to the exent of being a client state, with all the bad middle
east policy/arms dealing/oil pandering that comes with it.
Definitely Israel should get the settlers the fuck out of
Palestine, make Jerusalem an international city, make restitution/
reparations to any who lost property because they won’t be given
the right of return, and either take down the wall or at least have
it run fairly along the green line [not just making things easier
for settlers]. These are the morally right things to do, and I
think they should do them–I think they will have to do them, for
any measure of peace. But when I think about Hezbollah, and many
other angry neighbors, I feel nothing but despair. Israel has so
far to go to be a just and democratic place. Many people feel this
despair and just leave. But even though I see and talk to many
young people working for peace, I don’t think anyone will listen
while Israel is under attack. It makes it hard to stay open , to
hear and to see what others are suffering in your name.

Omigawd, I think I’m becoming a pacifist! Get me outta here!

Lots of love to everyone.



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Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

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