If it Worked for the Corleones, I Guess It Will Work for US

When I got into this business, I had a few things in mind that I wanted to see happen.  I’m not exactly sure what they were, but it had something to do with Stanley Kubrick or Martin Scorsese or Truffaut or Fellini.   It wasn’t the idea of making a fortune or winning an Oscar that motivated me, but it was some kind of motivating combination of coolness, self expression, art, grit, “reality” the Cannes Film Festival, high end groupies and low end substances.

I had many different substances in mind, but I can say quite confidently that one of them was not the one that I am currently abusing.   The one that’s causing my current major big problem, the one that’s got my hooked.

Olive oil.  It’s quite a monkey to have on your back — it actually weighs about 36 pounds and comes in a very hard, awkward 1 ft by 1 ft can.

It’s what we’re giving to some of our backers on Kickstarter.  The campaign launched today, and the people who commit $100 will receive 250 ml of the olive oil.

Forgive me for being in such a gloomy, twisted mood, but this Kickstarter racket is tough.    I’m cracking, and we’re about a half day into it.   But it’s the olive oil that has kept me going, and gives me hope.

It comes from a place in the West Bank called Heaven’s Field.   More specifically, it’s located in an area known by the Israelis as Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc very close to Jerusalem, next to Bethlehem, that also happens to have a lot of Palestinian villages in it.    I actually don’t even know what the region is known in Arabic — it’s close to Hebron, so to the Palestinians it’s probably either called something associated with Bethlehem or something associated with Hebron.  A tangent, but it shows you the significance of semantics in all this.

Holy Land Olive Oil

Olive oil in DHL box.

In my early travels in the  West Bank, back in August, 2011, almost everyone I asked about interesting characters in the West Bank told me, “of course you have to talk to Rabbi Froman.”  And that is what eventually led me to this olive oil.  Froman, in his late 60s  now, is a member of the original settler generation.   He was a student at the ultimate settler Yeshiva, Mercaz HaRav.  He was a paratrooper in the 67 war.   He went to the West Bank soon after the war, and was an early settler in Tekoa, where he became chief rabbi.

He broke away from the settler mainstream and became an outspoken advocate for interfaith dialog.   He personally met many times with Yasser Arafat and Hamas leader  Ahmad Yassin.  Froman has attracted an amazing group of followers, including many young settlers, who are both Orthodox, even neo-Chasidic, but simultaneously a bit freaky, reggaed out.   They are among my favorite people to  in the West Bank.

It’s some of his followers who make the olive oil.   They are an offshoot of the group called Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace), Froman followers who meet periodically and who are exploring ways to carry on Froman’s work.   Within that group, ShaulDaivd Judelman, a transplanted American who is also an ecological activists, is one of the main initiator of Heaven’s  Field, the place where the olive oil is produced.   Both Israeli settlers and Palestinians cultivate that patch of land, source of the Heaven’s Field olive oil.

The Kickstarter campaign isn’t about selling olive oil, it’s about funding postproduction of the film.   Babak Rassi, a brilliant expatriate Iranian editor, a professor at City College, is already hard at work on the rough cut.   He seems to need an occasional doughnut or cup of coffee.   Not too far down the road are other highly trained professionals who consume doughnuts by the box and coffee by the espresso maker tankful.   We need to figure how to provide.

Tell your friends, to tell their friends, that the Holy Land Kickstarter page is open for business, 24/7, for another 29 days or so.  Here’s the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/petercohn/holy-land-a-documentary-film-about-the-west-bank.