Saturday, September 19, 2009

Truth in Video and Poetry

Jaffa (pronounced Yafo in Hebrew) is one of the oldest cities in Israel. It is also one of the only integrated Jewish/Arab towns in the country. However, there are two Jaffas—the one the tourists see and the one in which its inhabitants live. The second city, the second Jaffa, is not integrated and is separated by two truths--that of its Arab inhabitants and that of its Jewish.

I recently visited the Herzeliya Museum in Israel, which is a small museum located in a seaside town near Tel Aviv. The museum featured an exhibit titled “Men in the Sun,” which encompasses the work of twelve Arab-Israeli artists. One that particularly aroused me was a video piece by two artists—Scandar Copti and Rabia Buchari—called “Truth” (2003). In the piece, two Palestinians from Jaffa visit non-touristy sites (a water tower, a demolished vodka factory, a graveyard) and recount the ‘history’ of the places as if they were tour guides. However, their ‘history’ is fiction (or is it?) as potentially viewed by those living a different truth than the one recounted by the media and government.

You can view a few samples from Copti and Buchari's fabulous video installation online.

It inspired me to write a short poem:

Holy Site

She told the boy it was a water tower.
Concrete gray and green, it rises forty feet
on iron legs, egg-shaped lank and warped, its body
curves like a turned bell, the roof rusted through, it
holds water though only four feet deep, the rest, pours
as if molten from its metal shell. No one remembers
the year it was built, but it’s been standing there
a long time. At night, the boy hears the concrete fall
in wet chunks, the low wind that whines
through its wide cuts. And he can barely
sleep. In summer, the boy swims
in the dark water. He goes all the way under.
She never stops him though the water infested
with bird shit and invisible worms
will, by winter, tattoo itself in small red Os
on the inside of the boy’s wrists. And she won’t
repeat the whispers: it’s a messiah’s cup, a chalice
disguised as a tower, the water tinged brown
by something other than iron. The barbed wire
fence, the steel barriers, the danger signs
all a hoax. So that no one comes. What good
would it do? Even if the pilgrims appear
with antidote, even if a single dose could cure
the fatigue and fever. None of it’s for him.

Anyway, I suppose the idea behind the video and my poem revolves around ‘Truth.’ How is truth generated and for whom is it really true?

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