From Israel With Love

08.05.13

VIDEO: What Do Israelis Wish For Iranians?

Hassan Rouhani was sworn in yesterday as president of Iran. He was to be Iran's moderate president, reflecting public sentiment to avoid the bombast of the erstwhile Ahmadinejad. But on Friday, al-Quds Day, he said "there is a sore that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years," presumably referring to Israel.

Joseph Shamash, a friend and Farsi-speaking Iranian Jew from L.A., along with his team of dreamers, posted a video in anticipation of all of this. They called it "One Wish for Iran, Love Israel" and it takes the viewer through a poetic hope for human connection between the two peoples, reminding us that in both countries there are subways, families, and daily coffee drinkers.  When I showed the video to my father, the son of two Holocaust survivors, he told me it was on the wrong plane—"You could have said the same thing about Germany in 1933," he said.

Last April, Joseph Shamash, Andrew Lustig, and Jeff Handel made one Haaretz correspondent laugh and cry as she watched their first video called "One Wish Jerusalem", which they shot in a single day. In that first video, the team asked the basic question: What is your one wish? "I have a sick son, I hope God heals him quickly," said one man. "To win the lottery," said one woman. A old Palestinian man declared in Arabic: "We want neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Jews. Jordan coming back is the best thing for us." One little boy just wanted to "be in the jungle", and two kids, Arab and Jewish, juxtaposed in the video, talked about wanting Palestine to be free of Jews, and the "Arab marketplace to be ours [the Jews']".

Video screenshot

Since April their ambitions have grown and  they've raised a bit of money. This time, the laugh-cry film features the founders of the Facebook campaign "Israel Loves Iran" and IPRCI (Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information). It's set to shifting music that is simultaneously unnerving and calming. It is aware of its dreaminess, quoting people from across the spectrum from those who have nothing to say to Rouhani, to those who tell him to "be more secular, and then all the problems will be solved," to an Arabic-speaking nun who talks about her "small wish" of brotherhood and peace. I had two favorites (spoiler alert): One Israeli-Jewish Persian storekeeper who says early on in the video "Who loves us? The entire world hates us!" and at the very end, sings to the camera in Farsi. And an expressive Tel Aviv Israeli woman who talks with her hands about how we should "stop fighting already…for F#$%'s sake!"

I have canned rebuttals to my father's comparison: Rouhani actually is more moderate than Ahmadinejad. Iran is searching for regional power, not world dominance. Iran a country that feels deeply embattled from all sides (Western, Shi'a, Asian), and scapegoats the easiest target. Iran sees Israel as a Western colony, an extension of the US, which of course brings me the expected standard: Iran isn't interested in destroying the Jews, it's interested in destroying Israel. I'm sure none of these responses will satisfy him — and I'm not sure they should.

But the video, for better or worse, isn't directly addressing our politics — it's addressing our emotions, spreading hope. And it's worth watching. It's an attempt to digitally drink coffee together, a prayer that "love could be enough", and opens with an apt quote by the Iranian poet Hafiz: "Your heart and my heart are very old friends".