Hate springs eternal....?

Beit Avi Chai's Eternal Hatred program on Tisha Be'av uses a variety of media to discuss an age-old question.

Tisha Be'av themes also speak to the secular community. (photo credit: Reuters)
Tisha Be'av themes also speak to the secular community.
(photo credit: Reuters)
We have come a long way since the bad old days, surely, when the largely Ashkenazi establishment often treated Israeli Jews of Sephardi origin as second-class citizens. Iraqi musicians, for example, who had been lauded in their country of birth, hardly got a chance to display their polished instrumental and vocal skills on the radio airwaves here. But, hopefully, as the second, third and even fourth generations of Israelis have come along, such inter-ethnic bickering and discrimination have gone by the wayside. But have they?
That is one of the issues that will be addressed, debated, discussed and possibly argued over during the third annual Eternal Hatred program that will be held at Beit Avi Chai on Tuesday, Tisha Be’av, from 1 p.m. until the end of the fast.
It is a full and wide-ranging program, which opens with a session entitled “Hatred in the Political World,” followed by – in the main part of the agenda – three more sessions called “Self- Hatred,” “The Return of the Old Hatreds” and “Disrupted Childhood,” the last of these incorporating a screening of a documentary entitled Alone against Everyone by Tzippi Beider, which looks at the painful subject of children ostracizing other children.
Elsewhere on the program there is an intriguing session, moderated by cinema researcher Yuval Rivlin, entitled “Ethnic and Religious Conflicts in Israeli Cinema and Television.” The discussion will center on the idea that there are two contrasting patterns in the contemporary Israeli film industry – the return of social and religious stereotypes that were thought to have been consigned to the fading collective memory banks, and the emergence of characters who range between social and cultural extremes and have no clearly defined identity.
This year for the first time, there will be a session in English, entitled “Self-Hatred: The Easy Way Out.” Held at 4:30 p.m., the discussion will be led by Hava Divon, scriptwriter and creator of the TV series Srugim. She will take a clinical look at the way the average Israeli is portrayed in the visual media.
“We want to restore to Tisha Be’av something of its general and all-inclusive nature,” states Beit Avi Chai deputy director Michal Nakar. “Originally, Tisha Be’av was a national day of mourning, it wasn’t a religious day of mourning. While it historically and traditionally marks the day on which the Temple was destroyed, the destruction of the Temple was a matter for national lament over the loss of national sovereignty and over the damage caused to the society of the time. The day was marked as a time to address baseless hatred rather than a time when the religious ritual was lost. In the past few decades, Tisha Be’av has become a day for the religious, and the general, national message has been forgotten. We are not the first institution to address this. There are others who also look at the social, moral and structural aspects of the day.”
Nakar has certainly pulled out all the stops to compile a starstudded team for the day. Radio presenter Liad Modrick-Danan will chair the Hatred in the Political World event, along with clinical psychologist Avner Hacohen, while other well-known figures in the lineup include TV personality Merav Michaeli; Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism of the Hebrew University; children’s author Galila Ron-Feder Amit; and Charlie Biton, former MK and Black Panther member.
Biton’s fiery approach to the topic of Ashkenazi-Sephardi issues has not dulled over the years and he will, no doubt, be a highly colorful participant in the “Return of the Old Hatreds” session, along with journalist Danny Adino Ababa and Dr. Nissim Leon of Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
According to Nakar, there are still many problematic areas in our social fabric and day-to-day life, including some issues which, by and large, were considered passé. “There are lots of types of hatred that we would like to believe have become extinct,” she says, “like inter-ethnic hatred, which we can see is not just going away of its own accord; it has to be dealt with.”
Nakar is keen to point out what she terms as “something we prefer not to take too close a look at” – hatred among children. “There is a serious problem today of violence among children, which reflects something that filters down from the parents.”
Galila Ron-Feder will take part in that panel discussion. She has a lot of experience in the field, and she will be joined by Aviv Keinan, who oversees the Branco Weiss network of schools.
There have been quite a few student movies on the subject of hatred in Israeli society in recent years, and the “Hot Blood” slot of the day’s agenda, which starts at 4:30 p.m., features three student films – Kvish (Road) by Nadav Lapid from the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem; Ahim (Brothers) by Yiftach Dror from the Tel Hai Technology College; and Kavod Aharon (Last Respects) by Omri Shinhar from the University of Tel Aviv.
Nakar explains that the English-language “Self-Hatred: The Easy Way Out” session has been in the works for a while. “We have a lot of English speakers who come to our events at Beit Avi Chai, including to the previous Eternal Hatred days. They all understand Hebrew but don’t necessarily have sufficient command of the language to take an active part in the discussions. The session with Hava Divon should offer them the opportunity to express themselves more freely.”
Many of the sessions will include screenings of documentaries, feature films or excerpts from movies, followed by discussions. “It is very interesting to relate to cinema as text. Cinema is, in fact, like literature or poetry, except that you need a team to make them, so there is collaboration built into the process. Today, it is clear that, just like any other medium, cinema portrays an approach rather than reality. I find that movies provide a very good basis for discussion and that you invariably get a very interesting discussion after a screening,” says Nakar.
Even with the wealth of topics and iconic participants on offer, Nakar says she has no illusions about the event’s ability to generate significant and immediate change. “All I can say is that the previous programs have been very well attended – we have had 1,000 people here – and the sessions have been very lively. That shows there is the interest and concern. There have also been quite heated debates, but that’s fine – it all came from respect, not from hatred.”
Admission to all events is free, and light refreshments will be provided at the end of the fast.
For more information about Eternal Hatred, visit www.bac.org.il or call 621-5300.