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Hadassah Son Meets Iman’s Daughter

Hadassah Son Meets Iman’s Daughter

Before you use up your allotted 20 free New York Times articles (although, as a journalist, I must encourage you to subscribe and pony up anyway), check out the following articles:

This one, a Q&A (by former Jerusalem bureau chief Deborah Sontag) with Julian Schnabel, the pajama-clad Jewish director of the film, "Miral," which opens tomorrow in New York and has already garnered criticism/condemnation from Jewish groups and bad reviews from The Jewish Week and elsewhere.

The film, starring Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire,” is based on an autobiographical novel and screenplay by Schnabel’s Palestinian (and exceedingly glam) live-in girlfriend Rula Jebreal. According to the Times it “tells the story of three generations of Palestinian women from the perspective of a teenage girl who came of age during the first intifada in the late 1980s.”

The Times also has a Style section feature today in which the Prada-wearing, Italy-educated, TV journalist Jebreal, despite her impressive wardrobe and perfect manicure, insists that “I don’t really connect with the physical things. I could live with Julian and my daughter under a bridge.”

As in many, if not most, Jewish-gentile couples, neither Brooklyn native Schnabel nor Haifa-born and east Jerusalem-raised Jebreal seems particularly religious, and I suppose their relationship is more intercultural (not to mention intergenerational — she is 22 years his junior — and interfashionable, what with him rather shlemeil-like and her dressing like a supermodel) than interfaith.

I actually had to read several articles about Jebreal before I determined that she is a Muslim (by heritage if not practice). Neither Times piece mentions her religion, but according to a profile in Vogue , her father, a gardener and “minor imam” at al-Aqsa Mosque, was Muslim.

What I found most intriguing about the Q&A was where Schnabel (whose mother was a Hadassah president) discusses how his relationship with Jebreal has, not too surprisingly, affected his perspective on Israel:

… I had a show in the Israel Museum in 1987, when Teddy Kollek was mayor. My mother had been saying, “Go to Israel — you’re going to get that special feeling,” from the time I had my bar mitzvah. It’s something I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to be like everybody else. Art was my religion. But eventually, I thought, “O.K., I owe this to my mom,” and I organized that show.
Q. And did you feel that special something?
A. I did feel something. But later I went back to Israel with Rula, and the interrogator at the airport said, “Uh, what’s your relationship?” I said, “She’s my girlfriend.” He said, “Well, how many times do you see her a week?” I said, “How many times a week do you see your girlfriend?” He said, “Come with us.” I don’t think that was the special feeling my mother was talking about.

[In response to a question about whether the film is anti-Israel]: …. I wanted to tell a story about what I found out in my on-the-job training as somebody who grew up the child of Zionists. I mean, my mother was the president of Hadassah in Brooklyn in 1948. She believed in this democratic utopia and I do, too. I just don’t think it’s the Jewish way, the way my mother taught me, to treat people in the way that I see Palestinian people being treated there.

Incidentally, I’m neither endorsing nor condemning Schnabel’s views on Israel (although, having seen how much more unpleasant my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s experience dealing with El Al security was than mine had ever been, I can relate to bitterness about goings-on at Ben Gurion Airport.) I’m also not commenting on the movie, since I haven’t seen it yet.

While you’re going through the Times, you might also enjoy this article about the dramatic growth of interracial families in the Deep South. Not Jewish or interfaith, but interesting nonetheless.

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