In 1948, Dor Guez's grandmother and her family fled their hometown of Jaffa in what is now Israel to escape the violence of what Israelis call their "War of Independence" and Palestinians call the "Catastrophe." The Palestinian family sought safety in Lod, but when Israeli soldiers conquered it that July, the city's Palestinian population was forced out. She and the man she would marry the following year were among a thousand Palestinians who stayed, at first confined to a fenced "ghetto" around St. George Church.
That's the wrenching backstory of Guez's mother's family — Christian, Palestinian, Israeli (Guez himself is also Jewish on his father's side) — referenced by the Tel Aviv artist in "100 Steps to the Mediterranean" at Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum. Co-curated by Gannit Ankori, Brandeis chair of Israeli art, and Dabney Hailey, Rose director of academic programs, the nine-work show is the Rose's first significant loan exhibit since Brandeis leaders threatened to shut down the museum in 2009.Guez photographs overgrown ruins of Lod homes abandoned by Palestinians in '48. He offers paired videos of a priest giving a sermon and a wall of icons inside St. George. He videos relatives describing their lives. As Palestinian Christians, an uncle says, "We are a minority within a minority. We are the weakest people in this region." A cousin recounts being forced to adopt a less-Palestinian name or lose her job. The grandfather's motto: "Be smart rather than right."
In Sabir, an unseen woman (Guez's grandma) monologues, in subtitled Arabic and Hebrew, over video of a sun setting over an unidentified beach. She recalls her childhood house by the sea, war ("All of my friends went their separate ways; we were scattered"), a bomb thrown into her father's shop, fear of Jews, fleeing to Lod ("They thought they'd return after a month") only to have the Israeli army conquer it too, and her father, who "took ill and died. Our house is ruined now." After 63 years in Lod, she notes, "I don't dream much of home."
These are devastating stories, but Guez muffles their impact with rudimentary interviewing and filmmaking and by leaving vital information for curators to explain. For example, his church video does nothing to identify the building's significance. Still, some find Guez's subjects controversial, apparently unable accept the fact that folks on the losing side of wars get screwed.
GREG COOK » GREGCOOKLAND.COM/WRITING
"DOR GUEZ: 100 STEPS TO THE MEDITERRANEAN":: Rose Art Museum, Brandeis :: 415 South St, Waltham :: Through December 9
: Museum And Gallery
, Israel, Palestine, War, More