A Colombian man is suing Israel's government after having been refused Aliyah. The case is pending in before the country's Supreme Court and has brought international media attention to Israel's controversial Law of Return. As local community groups organize in support of the plaintiff, the government has been forced to address the issue before the existing Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs which in turn formed a sub-committee to address growing debate regarding the origins of the country's Ashkenazi majority.
Minister of Diaspora
Teenagers claiming neo-nazi affiliation (Task Force 36)
- 1 NIGHT, CENTRAL BUS STATION, TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
- 2 SUB-COMMITTEE ON EUROPEAN DIASPORA, KNESSET, JERUSALEM, ISRAEL
- 3 CHANEL 10 TELEVISION STUDIO, TEL-AVIV
- 4 HILTON TEL AVIV
- 5 BAIN DES PAQUIS, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
- 6 OFFICE, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV, ISRAEL
- 7 LEMON GROVE, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV
- 8 PONT DES BERGUES, GENEVA
- 9 OLD ADMINISTRATIVE BUILDING, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV
- 10 LEMON GROVE, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV
NIGHT, CENTRAL BUS STATION, TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
The head-beams of the Tel-Aviv bound bus from Jerusalem illuminates the glowing paint from a freshly tagged swastika on the pillars supporting the elevated highway. On the sidewalk below, an African man wearing a colorful Fulbe robe stretches a three square meters cloth on which he lays out an assortments of fake Gucci sunglasses and Louis Vuitton handbags. After stopping his bus, the driver opens its side trunks and drops bags and suitcases by the street vendor's display as passengers disembark. First thrilled by the spontaneous crowd, the African man, grows nervous as passengers rush around the bus' trunks, stepping over his merchandise and getting confused when sorting out their luggage amongst the fake LVs. As passengers dissipates and the bus leaves, the man counts his units and re-arranges his layout. Peter Elliott, the last passenger to have disembarked, fixes a daisy at his buttonhole, smiles at the African man and walks away.
From across the street, a teenager purposely throws his cigarette butt which lands on the vendor's cloth. The African man, quickly removes the lit cigarette but still notices a hole in the material. He looks up to now see four teenagers wearing Doc Martins boots at the foot of his display. He addresses them in elementary Hebrew but they reply in Russian.
-Why did you do this? You burnt a hole man.
The Russians look at each other as one tries on a pair of sunglasses.
-Sorry, man, I thought this was trash.
The Russian then grabs three other pairs of glasses and hands one each to his buddies.
-Anyways, what are you doing here, man... can't you see the sign, gesturing towards the painted swastika. This means no niggers.
The African man looks around to assess how isolated he is from other vendors or passers-by and judging that he'll have to deal with the situation on his own, he folds his cloth without even packing anything first. The Russians laugh out loudly as he walks away carrying his pouch over his shoulder.
-That's it man, climb back up your tree.
SUB-COMMITTEE ON EUROPEAN DIASPORA, KNESSET, JERUSALEM, ISRAEL
Israel's Minister of Diaspora addresses members of the select sub-committee on European Diaspora in the wake of the publication of a new study led by Dr. O. Landese from the University of Geneva's Department of Genetics & Evolution. The new study about the peopling of Europe confirms key findings from another recent study which had been widely debated in Zionist, anti-Zionist, scientific and pseudo-scientific circles around the globe.
The main committee, which was dealing with the growing dissatisfaction regarding the Law of Return coming from Sephardi community groups supporting the case of a Colombian man who was refused the right of return and Israeli citizenship. The man, whose mother was a Christian of Native American origins could not unequivocally demonstrate that his late father was Jewish although the lineage was clear for Sephardi experts.
The combination of the two events in the midst of growing racism in Israel led to the government's establishment of the sub-committee.
CHANEL 10 TELEVISION STUDIO, TEL-AVIV
Ultra-Nationalist Knesset member Baruch Dershowitz is the guest of a news program along with Noam ben Hammou the leader of a left leaning Sephardi community group.
Baruch Dershowitz accuses Noam ben Hammou of helping the propagation of anti-Semitic arguments. Ben Hammou responds, with a sardonic smile.
NBH -Well, actually, right to the contrary, we are advocating for pro-Semitic policies to balance out the disproportionally high percentage of Europeans making Aliyah. The man we're representing, maybe of a Native North-American matrilineage and of Christian faith, but it is clear, through the DNA tests we've conducted, that his patrilineal heritage has deep roots in the our region.
BD -Deep roots in the region mean nothing. We cannot start to genetically select who we accept and who we don't. The process in place has worked for over sixty years. The claimant has to demonstrate both undeniable family roots and a basic knowledge of the precepts of Judaism. In this case, the claimant failed both tests.
NBH -But you have to remember that this man, Mr. Diaz, lost his father at a very young age, an was then raised by a Catholic mother in a deeply religious environment. How could he possibly know any of the precepts of Judaism. He came here in search of his roots and we're just sending him back because he doesn't fit the profile. The Law of Return was drafted as you mention quite rightly, for once, after World War 2 to handle the exodus of European Jews and the peopling of our country. Now that this has been achieved, what we're advocating is for a revision of the law to open up our society to Jews from other horizons who might not fit the post war model.
BD -What you are asking, is for the government to launch a policy of affirmative action, which as a matter of fact, and many studies demonstrated this, has been proven inefficient in the United States.
NBH -It's quite a paradox that you'd use affirmative action as an example when that is exactly what we've been doing since the first Aliyahs.
HILTON TEL AVIV
The broadcast continues in Peter Elliott's hotel room.
BD -First Aliyah was in great number comprised of Yemeni Jews. Maybe you should revise your national history.
NBH -Well, great number... that's debatable. But anyways that was before migrations were regulated from within.
HOST -Gentlemen, I suggest, that we get back to our main debate and that both of you refrain from using historical arguments which might be difficult to grasp by some of our audience. So Mr. Ben Hammou. What changes do you suggest the government implement, and why?
Peter Elliott, walks out of the bathrooms, shuts the TV and cuts a flower from the bouquet sitting on a table. He sticks it in his buttonhole, double checks his appearance in the mirror in front of him and walks out of the room.
BAIN DES PAQUIS, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
A light Foehn carries a hot breeze through the few tables set outside the cooperative restaurant on Geneva's Northern pier. Oriana Landese's eyes are lightly shut as she's absorbing the early Spring sunlight. Her thoughts vacillate from her children to a prospective lover when she's pulled back to reality by a woman's voice.
Oriana raises her hand to block the blinding sun as the woman extends hers to introduce herself.
-Carla Xanthis, Federal Department of Justice and Police.
OFFICE, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV, ISRAEL
Peter Elliott looks at old black & white photographs displayed on the wall when the Moshav's director walks in accompanied by a woman in her late twenties.
-Peter Elliott, Royal Mail.
-Please to meet you... Please have a seat, answers the director as the woman displays a forced smiles.
The three sit around a basic conference table.
-We have read your emails and as we replied to your colleagues, so many people passed by the Moshav over the past eighty years that it would be quite difficult to track them all. We do have lists, but as I said, this name... Altaras... we did not find it. Did you inquire with the Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem?
-Yes we have, but it has proven to be a very tedious task. As I mentioned, the letter dates back from 1944 when I understand the British Government was still... involved in the transition. We did check the files that have been brought back to London from the Mandate years, but the name Isabella Altaras does not appear on any immigration lists.
-Well, most of the people who landed in Moshavs came from Aliyah Bet.
-Immigration not recorded by the British.
-Right, so this is exactly why I'm here. I was told that we'd have more success by coming directly to the source. As you might know, elections are next month in Britain and what is likely to be our new government has plans to privatize the Royal Mail. If we finally deliver this letter, this will mean that all two hundred and forty four letters recovered from the Indian Ocean's wreck will have been delivered. Sixty-five or so years later but still, delivered. You can understand the positive publicity that this would bring to the Royal Mail ahead of the commission.
-The privatization commission.
-So you are here to save the Royal Mail, not because you really care about this letter.
-We wish to save the Royal Mail in order continue to provide an impeccable service and make sure that letters like this one... get delivered... eventually.
-You are a persevering man, Mr. Elliott. Deanna here, our newest moshavnik, will assist you in your research. She just arrived from New York and sorting out the archives was on her to do list.
The young woman approaches and extends her hand towards Peter.
-Deanna Sadykova, pleased to meet you.
-Very pleased as well, and extending his hand to the director. Thank you for your understanding.
LEMON GROVE, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV
Deanna and Peter drive an electric golf cart through a lemon grove on their way to the Moshav's old administrative building.
-So which part of New York City are you from?
-Brooklyn. Have you been there?
-I haven't gone back to New York since the eighties... I understand that Brooklyn was not as hip then. But no, I don't remember visiting.
-Well, I don't know about the eighties, but it's now the only place one could afford. Unless you work on Wall Street.
-Are you still a student?
-No, I work in the fashion business.
-Oh, you're a model?
-No, I work behind the camera.
They drive by an old lady sitting in the shade, under a lemon tree, looking at them pass by.
-And what brought you here, if it's not too indiscreet for me to ask?
Deanna stays silent as she looks at the old lady, then answers.
-Love... Or lovelessness I should say.
-Oh, I'm sorry. Sorry to hear this and I hope that you will find what you're looking for here.
-Let's start by finding what you're looking for... Then we'll worry about my shit.
PONT DES BERGUES, GENEVA
Carla and Oriana walk across the pedestrian bridge.
-Sorry to lead you further away from the station, but my class starts in 15 minutes.
-That's OK. I'm sorry if this all sounds a little crazy and confusing.
-My work is all about sorting out crazy and confusing stuff. To try at least.
-And what about the political ramifications of your findings.
-One theory can always be proven wrong by another. Who knows if all our findings are going to be proven wrong by my students, 20 years down the line.
-And while you were moving ahead, you never felt any outside interference?
-No... Not that I'm aware of. But you know, I'm not the best at sensing what's happening around me. I'm kind of a focused person. Not sure about that sixth sense.
-One last thing, before I head back to the station to catch my train... and let you get to your class.
Carla pulls out the photo which she received with Uri's letter.
-Have you ever seen this man?
OLD ADMINISTRATIVE BUILDING, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV
Peter has abandoned his suit and rolled up his sleeves to help Deanna lower dozens of wooden citrus boxes filled with yellowed documents. Each box is identified by sequences of three letter codes written next to words which appear to be German.
-Can you read this?
-Nope, English only.
-Well, at least we should be grateful that the filing was organized by Germans.
From the top of the ladder, Deanna looks down at Peter who just realized the dubiousness of his observation, given the context.
-Maybe this came out wrong...
As Peter sorts through hundreds of ledgers recording production, stocks and sales of lemons, Deanna uses her laptop's wifi connection to translate the heading on each box.
-BEWOHNER... Residents... That should be it. These four boxes here.
Hundreds of files are piled up on the floor. Deanna puts down the last file on the last pile.
-Do you want us to go over them one last time?
-No, I guess it's not here. We checked 1939 to 1950. She either never lived here officially or she changed names.
-Well, she would have changed her last name if she got married but why would she change the first name?
-Maybe she was running away?
-Yet she wrote a letter with a return address on the envelope.
LEMON GROVE, AVIHAYIL MOSHAV
Deanna and Peter walk out of the old administrative building to find the golf cart gone.
-Someone stole the cart!
-It's for anyone to use.
-Oh, this place is like a commune!
They walk across the lemon grove, empty handed, back to the Moshav's main entrance. The old lady is still sitting at a chair under a tree. She seems half awake. Deanna smiles at her anyways. The old lady murmurs something in Russian.
-You're the new Russian girl?
Deanna stops and look at the old lady, then hesitantly answers in Russian.
-And this is the Englishman?
-Yes, Peter, from London, and I'm Deanna, she says in broken Russian
The old lady nods.
-No one remembers here and you will never find anything in these boxes, but there was a young Italian woman who lived here for a few days, maybe a month. One day she disappeared and no one ever heard back from her... The British soldiers and the police came to look for her several times. That I remember. But as far as I know... They never found her... I was only around ten then, not more than twelve, but I remember her very well. Isabella. She was beautiful. She came in one day with an Arab boy who was just a little older than me. He stayed until the war of independence. Then he had to go too. Yasser. I had a crush on him.
Deanna kneels down in front of the old lady and holds her hand.
-And no one else knows about her?
-Here no. I'm the only one that stayed. Everyone else is long gone or dead.
-So she would have been around how old then?
-Oh. How could I know. She was a lady already, but not married I guess. Maybe she was twenty.
Deanna looks up at Peter who's looking at both of them, not getting it but having recognized the word Isabella mixed in the Russian conversation.
-She remembers her. She claims that she only stayed here a few days, a month at most and that when she disappeared, the police kept coming looking for her. You were right, she was running away from something.
-Well, at least we have a lead. Our only lead but at least a lead.
The old lady pulls back on Deanna's hand.
-What's in the letter? Did you read it?
-What is she saying?
-If I read the letter.
-Of course not. That's the whole purpose of my trip. To deliver it still sealed.