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With ‘Let It Be Morning’ and ‘Cinema Sabaya,’ Israeli filmmakers are winning awards for portraying Palestinian stories

(JTA) — Years ago, the Israeli filmmaker Orit Fouks Rotem took a class led by director Eran Kolirin, best known as the maker of “The Band’s Visit.” This month, movies by both filmmakers are getting theatrical rollouts in the United States.

On a recent Zoom call, Palestinian author Sayed Kashua joked: “Was that his class — how to use a Palestinian story?”

Kashua was smiling on Zoom as he said it — he is, after all, known for his often fatalistic sense of humor, particularly when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And the author had given his blessing for Kolirin to make an adaptation of his novel “Let It Be Morning,” and said he loved the final result. 

But like most jokes, this one had a kernel of truth: Israel’s two most recent Oscar submissions, hitting New York’s Quad Cinema within a week of each other, both — to varying degrees — tell Palestinian stories. 

“Let It Be Morning” is a dark comedy about an Arab Israeli village that has suddenly and with no explanation been cordoned off from the rest of the country by the Israeli military. This event forces its Palestinian residents, including a protagonist trying to return to his comfortable middle-class life in Jerusalem, to reckon with how their dignity as citizens has been denied to them by the mechanisms of the Israeli occupation. At the Quad, the film is accompanied by a retrospective of Kolirin’s work, including “The Band’s Visit,” the basis for the Tony Award-winning musical; the retrospective is sponsored by the Israeli consulate in New York.

The all-female cast of “Cinema Sabaya,” a mix of Jewish and Arab actresses, in a film directed by Orit Fouks Rotem. (Courtesy of Kino Lorber)

The following week will see the opening of Rotem’s film, “Cinema Sabaya.” It follows a group of eight women, some Jewish and some Arab and Palestinian, who bond with each other while taking a filmmaking class in a community center in the Israeli city of Hadera. Cast member Dana Ivgy, who plays the class’s instructor, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the filming experience “felt like how living in Israel should feel,” adding, “We have more women in the film than in the Israeli government.”

Stylistically, the two films couldn’t be more different. “Let It Be Morning” is a tightly plotted narrative with boldly realized characters; almost all of its dialogue is in Arabic. “Cinema Sabaya” is a loose, heavily improvisational piece that is almost entirely set in one room, and is mostly in Hebrew (although in one tense early scene, the characters debate whether to conduct their class in Hebrew or Arabic). One is a dry, Kafkaesque satire; the other is an intimate, naturalistic drama.

But together, the films provide a snapshot of the delicate dance Israeli filmmakers must perform in the current climate. On the one hand, these art-house directors are being feted on the international stage for their empathetic storytelling that incorporates or even centers entirely on Palestinian characters. But on the other, they’re being attacked by government officials for their perceived insufficient loyalty — and their films’ very status as “Israeli” is being questioned, too, sometimes by their own cast and crew.

“Everyone can call it what they want,” Rotem said of her film. “I’m an Israeli and it’s in Israel, but I have partners who call themselves Palestinians, and some of them call themselves Arabs, and each one defined herself. I think it’s really how it should be.”

“A film does not have an identity,” Kolirin insisted in an interview with JTA. “It is a citizen of the screen.”

Eran Kolirin accepted the award for Best Director for “Let It Be Morning” at the 2021 Ophir Awards in Tel Aviv on October 5, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

Kolirin isn’t a fan of the label “Israeli film” in this case, even though that is how “Let It Be Morning” was categorized at its 2021 Cannes Film Festival premiere; its own press notes also list Israel as the “country of production.” That Cannes screening took place shortly after Israel’s deadly conflict with Hamas that killed more than 250 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and around a dozen Israelis. The events turned Cannes into a political firestorm when the film’s Palestinian cast refused to attend the premiere.

“We cannot ignore the contradiction of the film’s entry into Cannes under the label of an ‘Israeli film’ when Israel continues to carry its decades-long colonial campaign of ethnic cleansing, expulsion, and apartheid against us — the Palestinian people,” the cast’s statement read in part. 

“Each time the film industry assumes that we and our work fall under the ethno-national label of ‘Israeli,’ it further perpetuates an unacceptable reality that imposes on us, Palestinian artists with Israeli citizenship,” the statement continues, calling on “international artistic and cultural institutions” to “amplify the voices of Palestinian artists and creatives.”

Kolirin himself supported the cast’s action. He knew they were grieving over the outbreak of violence in Gaza and didn’t want to put themselves in a situation where “some politician is going to wave a flag over their head or whatever.” 

What’s more, he said, the status of “Let It Be Morning” as an “Israeli” film, despite the fact that around half the crew was Palestinian, was not his decision: “The film was not submitted to Cannes as an Israeli film,” he said. “You know, you fill in the form: ‘Which were the countries that gave money?’” In this case, the answer was Israel and France.

Most of the cast later did not attend the Ophir Awards ceremony, Israel’s equivalent to the Oscars voted on by its filmmaking academy, where “Morning” won the top prize (which automatically made it Israel’s Oscar submission for that year). In solidarity at the awards, Kolirin read aloud a statement from his lead actress, Juna Suleiman, decrying Israel’s “active efforts to erase Palestinian identity” and what she called “ethnic cleansing.”

Orit Fouks Rotem (Courtesy of Kino Lorber)

“Cinema Sabaya” hasn’t played host to as much offscreen controversy, but its vision of Israeli multiculturalism is still inherently political. Rotem’s mother is a local government adviser on women’s issues in Hadera, and the film was inspired by her experience participating in a photography class designed to unite Jewish and Arab women. Rotem herself later led filmmaking classes in a similar vein as research for “Sabaya.” 

In the film, Ivgy’s character, who is modeled on Rotem, instructs her class to film their home lives, while secretly hoping to make a movie from their efforts. When her desire to do so is revealed, the women in the class feel betrayed: They thought they were just making films for themselves, not for their stories to be told by someone else.

Similarly, Rotem said that working with Arab and Palestinian actresses made her “aware to the fact that I can’t really tell their story.” Her solution was to allow the performers — some of whom are well-known activists who had to think twice about appearing in an Israeli movie — to voice their own opinions, and to establish the necessary trust to allow them to be unscripted on camera.

She theorizes that “Cinema Sabaya” has been so well received in Israel because “it doesn’t say ‘occupation, occupation, occupation.’ It says ‘humanity,’ so people are less afraid.” (She also noted that, in real life, the women who attended her filmmaking classes bristled at her initial suggestion to make a documentary about them, telling her to fictionalize their stories instead — which she did.)

Lately the Israeli government has a tendency to view its filmmaking class as agitators unworthy of national support, particularly when they make films criticizing the occupation. Former Culture Minister Miri Regev often disparaged films she thought were bad for Israel, including celebrated international hits such as “Foxtrot” and “Synonyms.” Her current successor, Miki Zohar, has already threatened the makers of a new documentary about the West Bank city of Hebron, saying the movie smears the military and that the directors might have to return government funds. 

In recent years, Israel’s culture ministry has pushed two new controversial proposals: a grant program earmarked for those who make films in settlements, which are considered illegal under international law; and a form pledging not to make films “offensive” to Israel or the military that filmmakers would be required to sign in order to apply for certain grants, which many directors have likened to a loyalty oath. For years, some of the country’s largest grantmakers have required applicants to sign a form promising to represent their projects as Israeli on the national stage.

There has also been an effort among some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing government to end funding to public broadcaster Kan, which the country’s film industry views as another attack on its free expression.

“Kan has all this dialogue,” Ivgy said. “It has Jewish and religious and Arab and Palestinian, for kids and for grownups. And nothing is taboo there. I feel that it’s very dangerous to close that option down.”

Many Israeli filmmakers are fighting back. Hundreds, including Kolirin and Rotem, have refused to sign the ministry’s pledge, and many have also protested the settlement grant program. Nadav Lapid, one of the country’s most celebrated and outspoken directors, harshly critiqued government restrictions placed on his own work in the 2021 drama “Ahed’s Knee,” which went on to win a special prize at Cannes.

Kolirin said he had recently been on a call with several Israeli filmmakers looking to further organize against artistic restrictions, and that it had given him hope. “I had this feeling of some optimism, which I didn’t have for a long time,” he said. But he didn’t mince words when discussing Israel’s new governing coalition, which he likened to “a circus of mad dogs unleashed.” 

Rotem said that the current government is “very, very bad and scary,” but that it has only strengthened her resolve to make political films.

“For me, it’s also political to show women in Israel in a deep way: I mean Arabs and Jews,” she said. “Because I don’t think there are enough films that are doing that.”

For Kashua, a veteran TV writer and opinion columnist, the question of identity in Israeli and Palestinian filmmaking is even more pronounced. After a long career of trying to write about the Palestinian experience in Hebrew as a way of reaching Israelis, he left Israel for the United States in 2014, becoming discouraged by an incident in which Jewish extremists burned a Palestinian teenager alive as revenge after Palestinian terrorists kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Now based in St. Louis, he has worked as a writer and story editor on Israeli series that center on both Palestinian and Jewish stories — including the global hit “Shtisel,” which focuses on haredi Orthodox Jews, and its upcoming spinoff, along with “Madrasa,” a young-adult series about a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school.

Israeli filmmakers choosing to center Palestinian stories can be its own radical political act, Kashua believes. He noted that the dialogue in “Morning” is almost entirely in Arabic, a language that Israel demoted from national language status in 2018 — doubly ironic as he had deliberately chosen to write his original novel in Hebrew. 

“The idea that this film is ‘Israeli’ — it really contradicts the idea of Israel being a purely Jewish state,” Kashua said. He added that, while he had initially hoped a Palestinian director might have adapted his novel, he was ultimately happy with Kolirin’s approach.

“I truly love the movie, and it’s barely Orientalist,” he joked, echoing Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said’s famous book about how a Western lens on Eastern cultures can be reductive and harmful. “Which is a big achievement for an Israeli filmmaker.”


The post With ‘Let It Be Morning’ and ‘Cinema Sabaya,’ Israeli filmmakers are winning awards for portraying Palestinian stories appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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