Time for “The Clock”

The Clock at the Israel Museum - closing this weekend

It’s hard to know exactly how to describe “The Clock,” Christian Marclay’s award winning art installation, which is currently on display, if that’s even the right word, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Tour de Force? Spellbinding? Unbelievable? They all come to mind.

The piece, at its most simplistic, consists of thousands of short film clips, all containing images of clocks and watches, or references to time, edited together briskly into a movie. There’s room for about 100 people on comfy 3-person white couches spread about in a dark space in which to watch Marclay’s creation.

But that’s just the start. Each film clip refers to a specific time (it might say 2:42 PM on someone’s digital watch, for example); that time corresponds to the actual time in Jerusalem. And the film runs for 24 hours. Although the museum is only open for some of those hours, there are special days where the exhibition space stays all night for those who can’t tear themselves away.

Which is how my wife and I felt during the 2.5 hours we stared transfixed at the screen. How did he do it? How did he find all of those clips, each with a clock, each showing a specific time? Did Marclay watch thousands of movies? Did he have a staff?

The mix of film clips was equally impressive, zipping seamlessly from 1930s black and white to modern drama and comedy. Robert Redford was a recurring image during our brief encounter. There were scenes of London’s Big Ben repeatedly chiming on the hour, a gagged and bound man watching the timer on a bomb countdown, clips which started out with nothing connected with time when, suddenly, the camera would pan up to show a clock on the wall displaying the appropriate hour.

Marclay uses actual and inserted music to tie the images together; to build tension and release. There are explosions and love scenes, in English, Japanese, French, German and many more language we didn’t hear but were probably coming up once the museum was closed.

The result is not only a meditation on the specific times shown via the clocks on screen, but also about how time has changed the craft of movie making.

There was also the audience, which ebbed and flowed as time passed. Sometimes it was standing room only; at other points we were nearly alone. About half way through, a large group of boisterous Israeli teens filtered in, sitting on the floor, yelling, laughing at scenes that were meant to be serious. My wife and I almost decided to leave – the group had ruined our more pristine viewing of Marclay’s art. But then the group moved on. Time passed so slowly – it seemed like forever while we were suffering these teens’ disrespect. In reality, they were there for less than 10 minutes.

“The Clock” premiered in London in October, 2010, and has since been presented in New York, Los Angeles, Venice, and Moscow. Marclay won the Golden Lion award at the 2011 Venice Biennale, where “The Clock” was featured as the show’s central exhibition.

“The Clock” is one in a string of world-class productions that have graced Israel this year. Another that stands out was the performance of Steve Reich’s Trains earlier this year at the Tower of David museum – I wrote about it here.

The show closes on October 22. The next (and last) all-nighter is tonight, Tuesday, October 18; admission is free after 9:00 PM. Run to see – before time is out.


Did you fast this Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is over, but discussion on the fast continues online. Two articles in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper this weekend presented differing opinions about whether someone secular should fast on the Day of Atonement. Neither author believes in God, but their approaches couldn’t be more different.

Taking the side of the non-fasting public, Uri Misgav says as a non-believer, fasting would be hypocritical, but he insists he is not secular, which he characterizes as a “narrow definition referring to lifestyle alone.” His actions certainly sound secular, though, as he brags that he also “did not circumcise my son.” “Am I Jewish?” he asks. “Certainly. I was born to a Jewish mother and I feel belonging to the Jewish people, its past and heritage.”

Amos Shavit takes the same argument about “belonging” and turns it on its head. He fasts, he says, “based on a desire to be part of a critical mass of people who decided to devote themselves to inner purity on this special day.” He also fasts to connect to the past – “because my parents fast, and this way I can almost touch them, even from a great distance” – and to connect to the future: “because of an idiotic need for my children to be proud of their father.”

Shavit says “I do it because of free choice.” Misgav wants choice too: “I was born and I shall die a free man.”

A recent survey by Gesher and Ynet found that 58% of the Israeli public fast on Yom Kippur. 50% visit a synagogue at least once during the holiday.

So, how about you? Did you fast this Yom Kippur? Please enter your vote in the talkbacks to this post and let’s get our own debate happening on the pages of Israelity.


Yes, that bacon is kosher

Don't's 100% kosher

Growing up, I didn’t have a very strong Jewish background. I never had a bar mitzvah, Yom Kippur was just another school day and Shavuot, well, what’s that? But Shabbat, now that was special – that was the day we had bacon for breakfast!

Now, I don’t want to insult anyone who’s never tried it, but I really loved bacon. That all ended in 1985, when I went kosher. For 26 years, bacon has not crossed these lips. Until now.

No, I haven’t given up on kashrut. This bacon was 100% kosher. It was on the menu at a small, off-the-beaten-track French restaurant in Jerusalem called Moise.

The kosher bacon at Moise is made from lamb, not pork, but it still has that greasy, oily, crispy texture and flavor I remember from my sacrilegious youth. The four pieces that come with the order are accompanied by several dates, walnuts, almonds…and peach slices.

This was not the first time I’d heard about kosher bacon. Several years ago, while visiting Silicon Valley, I read about a kosher restaurant called The Kitchen Table that also served the dish. I asked Claude, our waiter and the co-owner of Moise, if he’d heard about The Kitchen Table before. Not only was he familiar, he said, but it was Haim David, the chef at that California establishment, who had taught Simone (Moise’s chef and Claude’s wife) how to make’n the bacon. David is now in Israel, studying at yeshiva in Safed.

Beyond the bacon, the rest of the food at Moise is truly extraordinary, including a unique kosher bouillabaisse (the French fish soup staple that is usually made with mostly seafood). The restaurant is tres pricey, but the group buying website Groupon frequently offers half price deals and you can use two coupons per table, which really helps. But when it comes to bacon, the sty’s the limit.


Celebrity at the wedding

Ori Lachmi from the Israeli TV hit "Srugim"

The young man in the light purple shirt and the small knitted kippa looked awfully familiar. He was sitting in the row in front of us at the chuppa of the daughter of close friends. My wife Jody went up to him. “I recognize you, but I can’t place from where,” she said.

He held out a hand. “Ori Lachmi.” Jody continued her quizzical look. “Maybe from ‘Srugim,’” he offered. “Of course!” she blushed, shook his hand and sat down. I did the same, adding “I recognized you immediately,” although I hadn’t.

Lachmi played the character of Ro’i, doctor Nati’s religious gay brother, on the popular Israeli TV series, Srugim. He had one of the only good roles in the show’s rather dreary second season, creating a believable persona and raising some issues that are usually swept under the unpolitically correct carpet in the God-fearing world.

As the real-life wedding proceeded towards the meal and into the dancing, I kept my eye out for Lachmi. Despite the fact I grew up in California, I’ve never seen – or cared much – about movie stars. The last time I was in the presence of a celebrity, it was David Schwimmer who played Ross on Friends, at a sushi bar and frankly it was no big deal. The tempura didn’t taste any different. But this was Ro’i – from my all-time favorite Israeli show.

“You’re a bit smitten, aren’t you?” Jody commented. “Go up and talk to him.” “What would I say?” I replied. “Anyway, I’d get all flustered with the Hebrew.”

When I got home, though, I did what any good journalist with a crush would do – I googled him. It turns out that Lachmi is a local Jerusalem boy who grew up religious (unusual on Srugim where all the actors playing religious Israelis are actually totally secular).

Lachmi attended the religious Horev schools (where a number of children of our friends go) but got into hot water after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated when he set up a memorial corner without official school permission. He was suspended from the student council for three months and some students compared him with Rabin’s killer, Yigal Amir, saying they “both took the law into their own hands,” Lachmi told Maariv NRG in a 2010 interview.

He subsequently transferred to the Hartman High School (from which our oldest son graduated). Lachmi majored in theater.

As upset as Lachmi was from his treatment at Horev, that wasn’t the last straw. He had received an offer to act in a film and he ran the script by his mother. There was a scene in which he had to kiss a woman. His mother vetoed his participation. It was Shabbat and “after that, I just got up, turned on the TV and turned it off, turned it on and turned it off several times,” he said. “And the sky did not fall.”

Lachmi is now a proud, but ambivalent, datlash – an Israeli acronym for someone who is formerly religious. He still visits his family regularly on Shabbatot, but says he can’t abide by stringent religious laws that require strawberries to be soaked in soap for five minutes or that forbid eating brocoli at all, for fear of ingesting forbidden worms, he told Maariv.

What was his connection to the wedding? His still religious brother is married to the groom’s sister. And, it turns out, I could have actually talked to him without getting tongue-tied – he’s half Anglo (his mother is from Australia). I did the next best thing: I friended him on Facebook. Perhaps I should now go and stalk the other actors from Srugim. I kind of have a crush on Hodaya too…

Srugim returns to Israeli screens later this month on Yes.

Rosh Hashana videos…and more

Rosh Hashana videos…and more

New Year’s videos from Israel and other Jewish organizations tend to circulate around the web and email at this time of year. The Fountainhead’s “Dip Your Apple” video is by far the most popular, with well over a million YouTube views.


But there are other cute clips, including one where a bearded techie dips a variety of Apple products (an iPhone and an iPad) in honey vats of varying sizes.


There are also a couple of videos not specifically related to the holiday but that also provide inspiration and enjoyment for the New Year.

Guy Barzily was born in Israel, raised mostly in London and recently appeared on the Dutch version of the “Idol” franchise. His audition was wildly received by the judges. One said “I’ll kiss the ground you walk on.” From another: “That was a perfect audition, more than perfect. You’ve astounded me.” (For the record, I didn’t think it was that good, but judge for yourself.)


Then there’s this cool video made by 24-year-old Jerusalemite Eran Amir, which depicts 500 people flashing across the stream in 100 seconds while holding 1,500 photographs from around the country. Like the Fountainheads, his clip has also racked up an amazing million + views.


From all of us here at Israelity (and me personally) – Shana Tova!