By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Back in the U.S., Gorlin studied history and political science, then, having decided that Israel and Jews were not for him, took off for an extended tour of Asia. But a brief stop in Jerusalem for his brother’s wedding turned into a three-year stay, during which he served a year in the army and tended bar at Mike’s Place, the setting for The Holy Land. (In one of those bizarre juxtapositions of life and art that often beset countries in extremis, the real Mike’s Place, which had moved to Tel Aviv when life with suicide bombers got too hot in Jerusalem, was destroyed by a bomb last April.) Ironically, when Gorlin came to shoot the movie, Israel and the Palestinians were enjoying a peace both sides hoped would prove permanent. “The borders were open,” says Gorlin, “and everybody was talking about how Tel Aviv was going to be the capital of the Middle East. Palestinians were coming back from exile, and there was still interaction between Arabs and Jews.”
That makes The Holy Land, which is based on Gorlin’s novella about his experiences during the first intifada, a work of tragic prophecy, for the “lasting peace” turned out to be no more than a lull in the hostilities and the escalation of Israel’s ongoing internal crises. Gorlin spent time with hardcore settlers in the occupied territories. He visited the brothels where, under Israel’s surprisingly lax prostitution laws, naive East European girls like Sasha in the movie are lured by the promise of making pots of dough to take back to their families. He met collaborators like Razi, cynical operators who were loyal to no one, not even their families. And he’s still, like Mendy, carrying on a dialogue with the religion he has left behind, yet respects for what it has given him.
The Holy Land, which has won several awards and was the top-grossing per-screen independent film on its opening weekend at the Angelika in New York, has not yet played in Israel. Gorlin hopes it will, but he doesn’t see himself returning to Israel to live. Like many intellectuals there, he’s not optimistic about the prospects for peace: Too much blood has been spilled. Israel, he feels, is insufficiently committed to giving back land and rights to the Arabs, and both sides may have gone down paths they can’t retrace. Still, in Israel even despair comes laced with utopian dreams. “A novelist friend of mine wrote a short story,” says Gorlin, “about some sort of epidemic that knows no borders. When most Israelis and Palestinians have died and someone has found an antidote, and once people realize there are no borders and that both sides are suffering, the survivors create a new country called Isra-stine.”
— E. T.
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