“Shalosh… shtayim… echad…”
The room collectively sucks in its breath…
[Footsteps sound outside the metal door. A man dressed as a mifaked bursts in, and then abruptly stops. He is listening to music that will be filled in by the director later. He starts to rock back and forth, in tune with the imaginary music. He waves a finger in the air. Soon his whole body is coordinating with our imaginations.]
I’m sitting on a table with my legs out in front of me, my right foot still tapping the air to imaginary music. I’m opposite everyone else in the room; they are gathered around the director.
I volunteered to help out because the director is a friend, but everyone else knows each other pretty well from working together the past few months.
The movie is about a boy freshly graduated from high school; he has to make a decision between following his dream and sacrificing the next precious years of his life for his country’s army. It takes place against the backdrop of Israeli nationalism.
The movie will be my friend’s first, and his completion of film school.
“OK, od pa’am. Chevre, sheket. Larutz.”
The director has spoken, the assistant counts down from three, we inhale and shut up.
[Footsteps. Mifaked bursts in the door.]
The extent of my helping out at the set has been polishing army boots.
Incidentally, that will also be the extent of my own army service in Israel.
[Mifaked rocks out to silence.]
Everyone in the room is Israeli and communicates in Hebrew unless using some film terminology: “cut”, “mixer”, “sound”, “action.” The only word I’m hearing in Hebrew that relates to film-making is “larutz” – Roll (camera) – literally meaning: to run.
Roll camera. Start filming. Begin. Run.
The most bizarre, and at the same time satisfying, thing about being on this movie set with my director-friend’s cast and crew is that they are all speaking in Hebrew to each other and that this is the place where I live. I have voluntarily began life in a Hebrew world, and it has begun. It begins again everyday when I wake up and walk outside.
It is possible that I should not fear Hebrew, distrust Hebrew, dismiss myself dressed in Hebrew words when it is what I am to be here, wrapped in it, embraced in it, like the soft wrap skirts Israeli girls wear.
That someone told me “larutz” and I did; I can feel the Hebrew wrapped around my waist, over my legs, surrounding me in its soft melodic fabric that makes me feel like running further, more.
And, on the set, when someone makes a joke in Hebrew, I laugh. When my director-friend declares a five-minute break, the crew disperses into pockets of Hebrew conversation. And when there is something they need me to do in wardrobe, I’m on it – as soon as they give me the command in Hebrew.