Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Die in Jerusalem, Part II

Dear Ms. Medalia,

For a long time after the bombing, a common question I was hit with was: "how do I feel towards the bomber?" My thoughts have never been filled with hate toward the terrorist who tried to kill me. Nor have they filled with pity, love, or forgiveness. If the truth be told, my thoughts have not been filled with her at all. What is there to think about? The woman is dead.

Recently, however, your movie (or at least, the bit of it I have been exposed to on the film website), inspired me to do a bit more research into the woman who tried to murder me. Her name was Andalib Suleiman. Here is what we had in common as of the date of the bombing:

1) We both have brown hair and brown eyes. We do not look like sisters, but hey, my actual sister and I do not look like sisters (a point which pleases said actual sister no end).
2) We were both female. (I still am. Not so relevant for her)
3) We were both single.

Now let us suppose that my luck had been different, and I, like Rachel, had been killed. And now let us suppose that you decided to explore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and decided that since I too, was single and female and had brown hair and brown eyes, an effective method would be to comparing and effectively equalize me, a normal, law abiding citizen, to a mass-murderer.

I would have come back and haunted your sorry ass from the grave.

Your movie appears to contemplate Ayat and Rachel as equal victims of the conflict, one the mirrored reflection of the other, even though one willfully murdered the other. Even though one of the two was, quite simply, a murderer. The language you use in describing the act in your statement minimizes the act of murder: "[w]hat would lead a beautiful girl just starting her life and with plans for the future, to wake up one morning, take a bag of explosives and put an end to her life". Poor, innocent Ayat... another perfectly normal teenager, just depressed over the situation in the West Bank. There is no planning here. No intent to murder. Oh no! Because, you know, every teenager has a bag of explosives lying around the house, in the event that he or she wakes up one morning and wants to put an end to her life.

Yeah, and the Al Quiada guys just woke up one random morning, took four planes, and put ends to their lives. Are you for real?

But you want to pull up, to rehabilitate the memory of Ayat. Okay. You want to establish that she is also a victim. Knock yourself out. You wish to do so by playing her against one of her victims? Not okay. Who does Rachel's memory belong to? Who does her identity belong to? From now on, everyone who sees this movie will remember Rachel as "the girl who could have been sisters with a suicide bomber". Where do you get off? What gives you the right?

You boldly proclaim your identification with Ayat. How much time have you spent trying to identify with Rachel? Where is Rachel in this story? Is she important because she was, because of the person she was…or because she was a particularly interesting victim of terror--a victim the same age as and with a striking resemblance to her murderer? This is how I see it: the only reason that you care about Rachel at all is because she makes the story of your darling, tormented suicide bomber that much more dramatic. She is a foil for the blade to play against. If she were blonde, if she were ten years older, if she were, say, the downright heroic security guard, she would not have mattered to you at all. She would have been just another sad, but rather dull, statistic.

No drama. No "in another life they could be friends". No edge. Just another dead girl.

You like to imagine, yes? Imagine this: suppose that the next time you come to Israel to visit the folks, you pull the short straw. What a dramatic movie that would be! The rising young film producer, making her mark through her heartrending movie on terror, herself a victim! Then someone could like, explain how really the terrorist was a victim. And identify with the terrorist. And try to understand the terrorist. But do not worry-you would make the terrorist that much more interesting! The terrorist would be downright fascinating, because he had such an interesting victim. And you, yes you, WHAT ABSOLUTE GLORY! could contribute in your own little way in the rehabiliatation of his memory.

Any problems with that?

Is this how Rachel would want to be remembered? Is this how she would see herself in relationship to Ayat? Is this how she would see this story? It is her story, too, you know. Not just Ayat's. Never yours.


Gila Weiss


Ahuva said...

Bravo, Gila! I hope you sent that to her.

Unknown said...

I agree to send it to her - as if it would make a bit of difference. To compare a murderer to a victim is a disgrace. But then again, I have heard so many people with this type of viewpoint I have stopped being surprised anymore.

Lawstudent said...

I am not sure if you're tired of the praise, but I really want you to write a book. Your experience and writing skill would do more to open people's eyes to the reality of terrorism than anything else I've seen. Please.

Anonymous said...

I remember the day I picked up that issue of Newsweek. I was enraged and unable to clear my mind enough to form the right words. Gila, you are a hero. I love the way you take the issue and expose it so concisely and with humor.
This post brought to mind an article that I read in Ha'aretz (English) during the time of all the bombings. The writer relayed his experience of being very close to a falafel shop at the time of an explosion. He ran in to see who he could help and saw a man lying on the floor. He immediately started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and realized that people were staring at him, not assisting him. He looked down and saw the man had no legs.

The man he was working on was the suicide bomber.

Gila said...

ce and ahuva--anyone have contact info?

I don't even know if the article is complete--the whole thing just bothers me on so many levels that I could probably work on it for a year....

To be decided--contact info with publishers? :)

Anon--I remember that story and the controversy. I thought it was great that he just ran in to help--without asking for id etc. I also thought it made sense to get an HIV test (I did the same, after I was injured).

mother in israel said...

Love it. We can't wait for her response.

Gila said...

Does anyone know if the movie is out on video? If so, I will rent it, watch it and blog about it.

Jack Steiner said...

Good letter.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

My gut reaction is "send it send it!" because the attitude is so offensive. OTOH I'm sure she's gotten LOTS of mail, and I wonder if it just strengthens her feeling that SOMEONE has to show how the Palestinians are Poor Sad Victims of the Occupation. I wonder if it would be worth the effort to send it to her.

OTOH your open letter should be sent to any periodical that is still discussing this movie, because there are still people out there who need to be educated.

You go girl. Keep writing.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely excellent. I've got a different idea. What about trying to get it published as an editorial in the NY Times or something similar? It's powerful and controversial, and your opinion as the survivor of a terror attack gives you an automatic level of authority, I think.

orieyenta said...

I would have come back and haunted your sorry ass from the grave.

I'm going to be smirking about that comment all day.

I'm with the others - you should most definitely send it.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine linked me to your blog last night and I’ve really enjoyed reading it! I would love to say something profound about how reading your blog has impacted me, but sadly I must admit that I don’t have the flare for writing that you do. I will say that I think you’re super cool, hysterical, and I will continue to read as long as you continue to post.

I'm not sure if you've already found the info, but the DVD is for sale. It is available through the movie’s website and also through Amazon for $19.99.

Unknown said...

If you buy the DVD, I would be interested in what you thought of the two mothers, esp Rachel's mom.

See, Avigail wanted to meet the other mom, it wasn't Medalia's idea, so even if Medalia made the film because of Avigail, the symmetry would happen anyway. In fact, you could say that Avigail disrupts the symmetry because most of the movie is about her, and her ideas on why she wants to do it are as inchoate as Medalia's ideas about the whole thing.

But there is still this "beautiful young girl with everything to live for" patina over the whole thing, which Medalia swallows uncritically. If she upset the symmetry meme (maybe by naming what Ayat intended to do) while filming the story of the meeting, that would be complex and interesting.

If she does show it is Sderot, I would love to be a fly on the wall at the Q&A......

Gila said...

I am on vacation this week--will head over to my local video place and see if it is in stock.

What concerns me is the director of a movie has (obviously) a lot of impact on a movie's message, direction etc.

You read the statement....


Ms Weiss,

I am humbled

instead of remaining a victim you have risen above and empowered yourself.

Kol Hakavod

PsychoToddler said...

Excellent--you hit all the right points--and still maintain your sense of humor.

Dave Barry would be proud.

Anonymous said...

(SW OH) Boy, Gila - if you can sit through that movie, you've got a stronger stomach than I do. I couldn't even get through the first couple of screens of the filmmaker's web site.

Anonymous said...

You tell her, Gila!!

Anonymous said...

Umm, there's contact information on the directors web page:


Just in case anyone was seriously considering contacting her.

Alice said...

I feel like singing the "Did you ever know that you are my hero?" song to you. Because you rock. But I won't because it's a bad song. I really hope you send it. Get down with your bad self and keep writing.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is from the area that Rachel was from (the Puget Sound Area of Washington State) I want to profoundly apologize to you about her.

She went to an extremely radical publicly funded university called Evergreen State College. The school is known for promoting a very radical mentality.

Recently they even had a riot there.

I visited there in 1990 though when I saw what was going on it seemed like it was the 1960s. The campus was its own woodstock and they even had a nude beach there (yeah that was my reason for going).

I want to thank Israel for what has happened. I saw the hate in her eyes as she burned her crudely made American flag. No doubt had she returned she would have done some act of domestic terror.

I am ashamed that America produces such people. It is the human waste bi-product of freedom, though I do believe we can have our freedom without producing such people. We just need to hold our public officials accountable for funding such places like Evergreen State College. I have tried and failed to do this and at this time am left with little hope for the future of my state and with no viable candidate for president, my country as well.

Again my apologizes for having my tax money go to produce such a monster like Rachel.

Anonymous said...

Not to confuse you, I never took classes at Evergreen State College.

I just heard from someone who visited there that it was just like you time warped into the 1960s when you visit it. So I wanted to see for myself. And indeed it was.

And I heard about the nude beach and I wanted to see that as well. The beach wasn't officially nude but in the spirit of the 1960s I guess some of the students went there nude anyway. I hear they are cracking down on that now.

This university once had a cop killer speak at the graduation (from video). It is a very radical place. A talk show host said that it shouldn't be publicly funded since it is so far to the left (most universities in America are far left but this one is even further to the left than most). And I agree. No one even takes the college seriously. A degree from Evergreen is something employers in most professions laugh at and throw into the trash can.

All I can say is if some terrorist thing happens in America and there is an Evergreen University connection to the incident perhaps then we can get it closed down. But right now even with Rachel and the recent riot there is no real effort to do that. But we remember stuff like that and we haven't forgotten about Rachel, we will not forget about the riot and perhaps the next thing will be give the needed momentum to shut the place down.

Gila said...

I think you are confusing Rachel Levy with Rachel Corey. Rachel Levy was 18 when she was murdered, never went to Evergreen (so far as I know) and I honestly do not know what her political views were.

Anonymous said...

My apologizes.

For the mistake in confusing Rachel Levy with Rachel Corrie.

And for Rachel Corrie.


Please remove the posts if you like as obviously they are off topic.

Anonymous said...

well said, really well said.
i read a book recently called "army of roses" about the "phenomenom" of female suicide bombers. though the author (i forget her name) did make it quite clear that there was a sick death cult flourishing in the territories, it did make me uncomfortable at times the equivalence that seemed to be drawn between victim and perpetrator. she allocated a chapter to rachel levy and ayat al-akhras. i was not aware of the hero haim smadar. may G-d bless his and rachel's memories.

Anonymous said...

You mean you wrote all this without even having bothered to watch the film?! Your pain must be great.

Anonymous said...

It's on Netflix. She obviously was her mom's daughter.