Lights of Jerusalem 2013 – 4

We arrive at the end of the Festival of Lights 2013 in Jerusalem. A final day tomorrow. a lot of people did visit the old City. People wh ocome rather late, after their work, ofte nfrom outside of Jerusalem, touring form the North and from the South, the center, families, groups with guides. Crowds of groups of photographers, either touring with the intention of some aesthetic look at the event and at the Old City. Or “singletons” wh ohave very sophisticated, top-new, brand new cameras and they photograph anything.
There is a real socio-cultural move at the moment. it maybe international. In Israel, it means something else: cameras allow any israeli to think s/he is entitled to photograph anyhting, anybody, anywhere, anyhow. “i have a camera, I have the right to shoot”. It maybe softened right now in the Old City because it is clear that most of the visitors definitely known nothing about the history of the Old City, they do not know the buildings, the directions, the meanings of some signs, some edifices, some flags, the churches and they would siply ascetain it does not matter. We come, see and go. The reality is a bit different. There is a huge tendency to high hedonistic behaviors: “I do what I want”. Ten years ago, a German toursit has taken a picture of me. I obliged her to erase it because she had not spoken with me and did not even understand to which clergy and Church I belongs. On the other hand 10 YEARS AGO, she had had the nerve to answer in German “ich habe meine Reise gezahlt, ich darf mal Sie aufnehmen = I have paid my trip, I have the right to take a picture of you”. This answer is and remains frequent somehow. There is ignorance, lack of politeness, lack of education. a sort of laziness too: as if it is too difficult to put on a comment on a picture, learn what the pictures describes or shows. This year, those who are more likely to act in such a way are the “pious Hareidi, modern Orthodox visitors that are quite numerous”. I have a Facebook friend who went to Auschwitz and cannot describe what she has visited. She took pictures, stored them all. She would not track back into history what it meant, means and what the backgrounds are. In between, she would show in pictures there, laughing in sites of death. When I told her I was a survivor, she asked how come that an Armenian priest can be concerned by the Holocaust… When I told her some of my story, she apologized and said she would come to visit and speak with me very quickly… I still wait for her: she buzzles around among picturing boats, flowers, playing Arabs or south YAfo. The photographs are usually very good, nice, “meaningful” if we look at them. No explanation. I guess the reason is a real sort of ignorance and lack of education in all senses of the word. She and most photographers are tired. But they are lazy. Easy to shoot, quite difficult to store and memorize or try to understand, get to the core of what is really shown. And put this description not in clearcut short words, but in phrases that intend to explain a situation, at one point, location, moment.  It can be felt all these days as the visitors arrive at the Greek orthodox buidlings: the comments are simple. “How much do all these building cost? They are big and we could use them”. “why is there a flag here (they are not quite sure it is a Greek flag… put on a balcony as the film on a witch on broom passes between two monks playing drums… quite amazing…).On the other hand, they are astounded by our gates, our huge keys. Old City sounds “Old”, though it is not that old in the end. But they mostly live in new quarters, new buildings, towns, quarters of cities newly built. The yare gentle and it should be nice and just clever to have a real contact with them during these days. The photographers use their cameras as some uncontrolled “Esperanto”. One nice photograph wrote me as I mentioned that she could explain the picture and say where it was, that the take intended to show a “universal” situation, actually taken in India, but she did not remember where she took it and on what occasion. Precisely, there is nothing “universal” in Israel. indeed, we have the whole world coming and visiting the places. People that do not meet, cross each other’s ways and do not dialogue or shortly and not in depth. They are all “universal” because expressing something of the worldwide existence and reality that co-exist in Jerusalem and in the country in general. On the other hand, when there are more than 200 religions and religious groups, 500 mother languages, so many backgrounds ,cultural heritage etc… there is nothing to “neutralize”, except if the camera replaces the tongue, the speech that people avoid to share with those who are both close and far away, because of political, religious, cultural and other possible reasons.
There is a fear: a fear to come and speak. This explains this frentic desire to speak some Esperanto-like English everywhere – poor Eliezer Ben Yehudah! the reviver of hebrew -. It is snobbish, useless, often mistaken, both sides if not more sides concerned. I said that tonight to the woman who was assisting the photographer trying to make an aesthetic shot of the second floor of a building at Jaffa Gate. I told her that our cameras tend to replace conversations, contacts. It allows a sort of “visible image = ideogram as in Chinese”. Digitality replaced translation and omments, critics, explanations. The man took a picture of me in between. when I told thme they did not know who I am, they said I am a “ish dat/איש דת ” and that it was sufficient to them. This is an absence of education and culture. When I mentioend that in every Jewish synagogue there is a phrase “Know in front of Whom you stay/דע לפני מי אתה עומד “, she laughed and thus stopped when I told her that if we do not know in front of whom we are, we hardly can build anything or know something of God Whom we do not see”. The real problem with these cameras is “memory”. Digitality can lead t o”empty storage in blocks of storage”. We can store millions of pictures that do not mean anything except a glimpse, a moment, created to be stored or destroyed. or to survive for nil. This is not what is at the heart of the Jewish and the Christian traditions. Tonight, the atmosphere was special. The local Churches celerbate the Ascension of the Lord. We have no rea lprint or “existing proof”. We have faith. Faith is more than any film, movie or picture, photograph, shot, take. Faith takes us and we accept it or we reject it or we doubt. But there is no virtual or digitalized mark. The coming of crowds of visitors fro mall over the country and even abroad to jerusalem for the Festival of the Lights 2013 also corresponds to a vast “climbing up ascending movement” that is at the core of the Jewish existence and faith beyond atheism or doubts. How thus memory functions to make sense with all this.

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