■ ALTHOUGH SHE usually accompanies her husband on his official trips abroad, Nechama Rivlin remained in Jerusalem when President Reuven Rivlin went to Croatia and Serbia last week.
Part of the reason was that the president’s wife is a movie buff and she didn’t want to miss out on the opening of the 35th annual Jerusalem Film Festival, especially as she was designated to present the first of the many Festival prizes to cinematographer Yaron Scharf, who received a lifetime achievement award for his work on the feature film The Unorthodox, which premiered at the opening.
Set in Jerusalem, the film tells the story of how Shas came into being as an influential political party because the downtrodden communities of North African extraction were fed up with being discriminated against by the so-called Ashkenazi elite. Things came to a head when the daughter of the Shas founder was expelled from school – not for any misbehavior, but because she was deemed “unsuitable,” which her father took as a euphemism for Sephardi. The plot weaves fact with fantasy, but remains sufficiently realistic in terms of how politics are conducted in Israel, and how bias is suddenly put on the back burner when it gets in the way of ambition.
This was the first feature film by director Eliran Malka, and it was also the first time that a debut feature film was screened at the opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival. Scharf, who was born and raised in Jerusalem but no longer lives in the capital, has been involved in several well-received prize-winning films. He particularly enjoyed working on this one, he said, because it took him through lanes and alleyways that he had never previously traversed in his own hometown.
“A good film is almost always one that fuses with our imagination and takes us to our deepest depths,” said Rivlin. “Cinema is like a secret eye that takes us to places we never dreamed of. For those who like to dream, who love to imagine, divert from the ordinary humdrum and confront things that are new and different, the Jerusalem International Film Festival is indeed the festival of the summer season,” in which, she added, “the imagination works overtime.”
■ ALTHOUGH BOTH Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, who hopes to become the city’s next mayor, delivered on-screen messages at the opening of the Film Festival, neither was there in the flesh last Thursday night. They were both at the wedding of Michael Amar, the grandson of Jerusalem’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who was previously Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel.
The two seated themselves on either side of the chief rabbi, but strangely enough, Barkat, who is not religious, appeared to have a closer relationship with Amar than Elkin, who is religious. Also present was Moshe Lion, another Orthodox candidate for mayor. Current chief rabbis of Israel Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau were likewise in attendance, as were rabbis and mayors from all over the country and government ministers, including Shas leader Arye Deri, whose presence was a given, and Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz. Also present were former Sephardi chief rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron, former government minister Gideon Saar, deputy education minister Meir Porush and former foreign minister and Israel Prize laureate David Levy, who was given the honor of reciting one of the seven blessings.
■TOWARD THE end of the last week in August, Bible Lands Museum Director Amanda Weiss and her husband Tamir Freund are hosting a toast to the New Year with wines from the Kishor Winery, located on Kibbutz Kishorit in the Western Galilee. It’s not just because they like this particular brand of wines, but because the winery and its adjacent bread and cheese facility are entirely staffed by people with disabilities who are all contributing to Kishor’s success. Although there’s nothing political about this, it evokes memories of the campaign slogan of former US president Barack Obama, who scored votes from America’s people of color by declaring over and over “Yes, we can.”