If homosexuality and forbidden love was accepted everywhere, then two star-crossed lovers wouldn’t have to live in a bubble.
In Tel Aviv, where “good sex is explosive and explosive is cool,” two men have larger issues than being accepted for their love – one is Israeli and the other is Palestinian.
With explicit scenes on the menu, viewers aren’t sure what to expect.
“Is this a porno or something?” one woman asks.
Just because something seems vulgar doesn’t mean it is. Tel Aviv is a bubble disconnected from reality. With a war zone as a backdrop, the characters are consumed by fashion, music, parties, sex and love – things they find worth fighting for.
“Tel Aviv is really out of touch with the reality of what is going on in Israel,” said Katelynn Plotnick, a senior public relations major and Jewish studies minor. “People who live in Tel Aviv aren’t really affected by what is going on in the West Bank and other issues in Israel. They’re kind of protected.”
In The Bubble, three young Israeli roommates, Noam, Lulu and Yali don’t like to talk politics. But when Noam falls in love with Ashraf, a Palestinian man, they’re forced to face the violence that shrouds the Middle East and is prevalent outside their borders. It’s the only force that can penetrate their bubble, so they organize a rave for peace and shelter Ashraf illegally in a place where he would never be accepted.
The Bubble’s opening scene takes place at a checkpoint, a place where Israeli and Pakistani soldiers guard the border and check identification and baggage of people crossing through. This is where Noam first meets Ashraf. Noam fails to help a woman in labor and is blamed by Palestinians while Ashraf tries to defend him. Already the tone of the film is set; Noam and Ashraf were doomed from the start.
“People try so hard to obtain peace and sometimes, as much as you do, you can’t really make a difference,” said Plotnick, who is a member of Temple Students for Israel. “The characters in this movie did make a difference in some way or another, like when [Ashraf] was narrating. He said ‘maybe one day everyone will see how beautiful we were together and that all of this is nonsense.’ And the last line was, ‘no, they probably won’t.’”
Away from enemy lines, the two share an inconspicuous yet romantic night together on the rooftop of Noam’s Tel Aviv apartment. The roommates change Ashraf’s name to Shimi, a Hebrew name to hide his identity, and Yali gets him a job at the local café.
“Tel Aviv is mostly secular with a lot of young people; it’s like New York, almost,” said Aelon Porat, a Temple alumnus. “That also makes it a bubble because it’s so removed and disconnected from the harsh reality.”
When Ashraf’s secret is uncovered, he flees Tel Aviv and goes home to attend his sister’s wedding and faces his arranged marriage.
When Noam and Lulu use fake French accents and press cards to get through the checkpoint, Ashraf is excited to see Noam but apprehensive about what his presence might mean. In Palestine, homosexuality is not accepted the way it is in Tel Aviv, and he does not want his family to know this about him.
“Israeli society is much more accepting than the Palestinian society,” Porat said. “A lot of Palestinian gays end up in Israel. You can see the differences between how open and how accepting [of homosexuality] the Israeli society is versus the Palestinian society.”
Porat was responsible for bringing The Bubble to Temple Thursday, March 26. He wanted to shed light on the conflicting situation and initiate new, open-minded outlooks. While he was a student at Temple, he was asked questions about growing up in Israel.
“It’s not as black and white as you think,” he said. “Most people just want to live their lives peacefully without all the bulls— or the politics, and that’s one part of the area that I wanted to show. I want to make sure people understand the message.”
Before enrolling in his freshman year at Temple, Porat served in the Israeli army for three years. Growing up, whenever there was an emergency, he and his family and friends would have a chain of phone calls to make sure everyone was OK. If the chain broke, they knew something was wrong.
“There’s no way in the world you’d understand it if you’d never been there, so I think maybe [The Bubble] in a way is a part of my attempt to expose people to what’s going on,” Porat said. “I’m an Israeli, and as an Israeli, it’s important for me to show that Israel has a different side. People get a very one-sided view of Palestine also. They get a very biased idea of what is going on from the media.”
The Bubble shows the conflict from both sides and represents the way each country views homosexuality.
When Ashraf’s brother-in-law sees him kissing Noam, he begs him to keep quiet. Noam and Lulu leave Palestine and reunite with Ashraf at their “rave against the occupation.” In Tel Aviv, Ashraf is comfortable being open about his relationship with Noam.
A bombing takes place in Tel Aviv and Ashraf frantically calls Noam to make sure everyone is OK. Yali is hospitalized and becomes paralyzed from the waist down.
When Ashraf’s sister is killed in accidental crossfire during a conflict, her husband plans a suicide bombing revenge in Tel Aviv, and Ashraf asks to take his place. When Noam calls Ashraf again, he hears his phone ring outside his shop window, and he knows what’s about to happen.
“So what’s my favorite part? I think the ending,” Porat said. “I kind of like it when they go up in the clouds, it was just completely like the bubble, a complete disconnect from the movie, talking about how they love each other, and maybe in a different world, a different time…”
Their bubble could not shield them through the ignorance in the midst of raw injustice, or withstand such an explosion.
Melanie Menkevich can be reached at email@example.com.