“DAVID”— An Innocent Act of Good Faith



An Innocent Act of Good Faith

Amos Lassen

Through an innocent act of good faith, Daud inadvertently becomes friendly with a group of Jewish boys who mistake him for being Jewish and accept him as one of their own. While working together on a summer project, a genuine friendship is formed between Daud and Yoav, one of the Jewish boys.


Daud is an eleven-year-old religious Muslim boy growing up in Brooklyn. While concealing his Muslim identity, he meets a group of Jewish boys who through a haphazard sequence of events mistake him for being Jewish and accept him as one of their own. Daud experiences a sense of freedom, joy, and camaraderie that he has never felt before, and for a brief time he really enjoys being a carefree Brooklyn boy. When the Jewish boys discover Daud’s true identity, his world is shattered and he is left alone, struggling to come to terms with his place in the world.


“David” is a charming, sympathetic film with a beautiful story. This is a first feature for director/co-scenarist Joel Fendelman. Daud (Muatasem Mishal) is fortunate, perhaps, but also rather burdened in being the only son of devout, conservative imam Ahmed (Maz Jobrani), who takes his community and family responsibilities equally seriously. As a result, Daud is expected not just to do well in school, but also to tutor other children at the mosque. He has no apparent playmates, or any playtime for that matter.


One day while taking his little sister to the park, he notices a group of kids who accidentally leave a book behind. They follow the group to a yeshiva, where Daud balks, scared by his father’s casual pronouncement that “Jews don’t like Arabs.” Rather than go in, he simply drops the book in a mailbox outside, later realizing to his horror that he’s swapped his grandfather’s precious Koran with the other boy’s Talmud.


Sneaking back into the school another day, he sees the Koran on a rabbi’s desk, but before he can grab it, he gets swept into class as a presumably tardy student. Identifying himself as “David,” he keeps coming back, awaiting another opportunity to access the rabbi’s frequently locked office. Meanwhile, he becomes fascinated by the boisterous, participatory methods of the teacher (Noam Weinberg) and delighted when some of the kids introduce him to basketball, and he soon gains his first best friend when an assignment pairs him with Yoav (Binyomin Shtaynberger). Eventually, everything is going to be exposed.


Meanwhile, Daud’s older sister, Aishah (Dina Shihabi), wins a scholarship to study computer engineering at Stanford. But Ahmed is hardly about to let a daughter traipse off into a secular world 3,000 miles away.

“David’s” many small virtues add up to a winning whole, its message of cultural reconciliation is presented without preaching, melodrama, easy answers or sweeping generalities. Comedian Jobrani is excellent as the rather sad but well-intentioned dad. This kid’s-eye view of Brooklyn life is just right, design.


The section of Brooklyn when young Daud lives with his family is like a mini Israel except the ’wall’ that divides the Jewish and Moslem communities is not physically visible.  Daud is a very serious introspective boy and as the son of the local Imam reads his Koran religiously and even helps teach it to younger boys.  One day out in the neighborhood park he spots

The film is l played out against a backdrop of how both local religious comminutes are coming to terms with how they own society is evolving. For example, David’s older sister is desperate for a way to be allowed to go to College in California even if it means marrying a local Arab boy as that is the only way her devout and strict ultra-conservative father will allow her to go.


David’s duplicity does eventually get discovered and the initial reaction from his own family and his new best Jewish friends is one of sheer horror, but after some deeper thought, the boys friendship and David/Daud’s own happiness win out in the end.

This is a noble attempt at showing us one aspect of conflicting religions and their communities trying to live side by side in peace.  In a fictional story about the challenging relationship between religious Muslims and Jews, writer-director Joel Fendelman manages to avoid stereotyping and over-simplifying both communities as he captures the fearlessness and impartialness of childhood candidly, and even when the film touches on ideas like patriarchy and arranged marriage, it does so without feeling contrived or biased. This is a film that is honest and relatable, and ultimately triggers a response of tolerance and compassion.

“No Mission Is Impossible: The Death-Defying Missions of the Israeli Special Forces” by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal— The Israeli Special Forces

no mission is impossible

Bar-Zohar, Michael and Nissim Mishal. “No Mission Is Impossible: The Death-Defying Missions of the Israeli Special Forces”, Ecco, 2015.

The Israeli Special Forces

Amos Lassen

“No Mission is Impossible” is the story of some of the most harrowing, nail-biting operations of the Israeli Special forces. In the their previous book, “Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service” Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal wrote about the legendary missions of Israeli’s national intelligence force and captured the danger of the operations and the bravery of the operatives who risked everything to complete their assignments.

Now, in “No Mission Is Impossible”, they are back with some of the most intensive Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal return with intense absorbing, stories of thirty of the boldest missions of the Israeli Special Forces. We get them here in great detail and they include major battles, raids in enemy territory, and death-defying commando missions but we also get the personal stories of the soldiers and the commanders. We are privy to their hopes and their fears while also sharing the personal stories of both soldiers and top commanders, revealing their hopes and fears. While we want to read stories of victories and there are those, there are also stories of failures. There are stories of some of Israel’s most prominent and famous names— Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon, the brothers Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Avigdor Kahalani. We read of Sharon’s battle and near death at Latrun near the entrance to Jerusalem in 1948 and his crossing the Suez Canal in 1973 and we learn of Ehud Barak’s being dressed in women’s clothes, while he commanding a raid in Beirut in 1973. Each chapter contains an interview with a major name who took part in the mission discussed in the chapter. Many of what is near we see for the first time in print. It was these crucial missions that shaped the country of Israel that we know today.

“God in Pink”— Being a Gay Muslim in Iraq

god in pink

Namir, Hasan. “God in Pink”, Arsenal Pulp, 2015.

Being a Gay Muslim in Iraq

Amos Lassen

Those of us who have been part of the gay liberation movement know how difficult and frustrating it is to fight for something and see very little results. It was not until recently that we have begun to enjoy the fruits of our labors. For the younger generation of gay people who are coming into a world that is so different from the one that people of my generation had to deal with, they cannot know or understand what we went through. Now being gay is okay but we cannot forget that there are still places where this is not true and that homosexuality is punishable by death.

Hasan Namir has written a novel about a young gay Muslim in war-torn Iraq and it really opens our eyes-even more so because this is his first book. Set in 2003, we meet Ramy, a closeted university student whose parents have died, and who lives under the close scrutiny of his strict brother and sister-in-law. They pressure him to find a wife and this films him with anguish and pain because they do not know who he really is. Ramy struggles to find a balance between his sexuality, religion, and culture. He needs to talk to someone, to be open about his sexuality but he seems to have nowhere to turn. In desperation, he goes to Ammar, a sheikh at a local mosque, whose tolerance is challenged by the contradictions between Ramy’s dilemma and the teachings of the Qur’an, leading him to question his own belief system.

This beautiful book moves back and forth between Ramy’s quiet moments and violence but the most important thing that this book does is to capture the pain and the determination and fortitude of gay Iraqi Muslims.

Reading this, we realize just how lucky we are to be living in the free world. Relatively speaking we have few complaints—we are allowed to worship in our religion of choice (if we choose to do so), we can being gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender and we take many things for granted. I remember so well when I fought for gay rights when I lived in Israel and that I spent many nights in prison and had to hide who I was at work. We managed to change all of that but it was not easy and we worked for some thirty years. In Iraq, people are not so lucky.

In fact, the name of the author of this book is not Hasan Namir. He had to write using a pen name and I understand that Namir is his father’s name. He and his family moved to Vancouver from Iraq in 1998.

“God in Pink” is a work of fiction but was inspired by the author’s personal stories and it has a lot of him in it. Some of it is inspired by life experiences that he has witnessed especially regarding religion, sexuality, culture and family.

In the book we see the Qur’an doesn’t just outright condemn homosexuality, there’s a lot more to it than that. Namir said that he did not want to preach his beliefs in this book but rather to educate the readers and let them discover themselves that the issue of sexuality is a really grey area. Namir relates the story of a friend who also now lives in Vancouver but was due to be executed in Iraq because of his homosexuality. (You might want to read that sentence again so that it will sink in). They let him go is because he was in a wheelchair and they felt sorry for him. Namir says that hearing that story; he knew that his novel gave some kind of voice so that other gay Muslims would know that they are not alone. He wrote his book to start a dialogue and hope that the topic of Muslim homosexuality would become explored more than now and hopefully positively.

When I heard that story, I felt like my novel gave those kids a voice and allowed other people to realize that those voices are out there. This topic hasn’t been addressed a lot in books and film, so I wanted to give that world a voice, start a dialogue and explore this topic further. The way that Namir approaches the issue is to call it into question and I really do not want to say anymore than that about the plot. I do want to say that if you read no other book about being gay this year, make sure you read “God in Pink”.

“Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality” by Katherine Franke— Marriage Equality and Emancipation


Franke, Katherine. “Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality”, NYU Press, 2015.

Marriage Equality and Emancipation

Amos Lassen

All of us can agree that there have been astounding number of victories for the gay rights movement and I am quite sure that there are others like myself who never thought we would see something like this in our lifetimes. However, we have not really thought about the questions that are raised by marriage equality about how we as gay people have been able to successfully deploy marriage to elevate our social and legal reputation, but also about what kind of freedom and equality the ability to marry can mobilize.

In “Wedlocked”, Katherine Franke looks to history to compare the same-sex marriage movement to the experiences of newly emancipated black people in the mid-nineteenth century, when they were able to legally marry for the first time.  She says that the greater freedoms that came with emancipation were both wonderful and a bit “perilous” for those just freed and emancipated. She gives stories of former slaves’ involvements with marriage and draws lessons that serve as cautionary tales for today’s marriage rights movements.  The theme here seems to be “be careful what you wish for” but we also see “how the rights-bearing subject is inevitably shaped by the very rights they bear, often in ways that reinforce racialized gender norms and stereotypes”. Franke says that the racialization of same-sex marriage has redounded to the benefit of the gay rights movement while contributing to the ongoing subordination of people of color and the diminishing reproductive rights of women.

Much like same-sex couples today, freed African-American men and women “experienced a shift in status from outlaws to in-laws, from living outside the law to finding their private lives organized by law and state licensure”. What we have learned of their experiences is the potential and the perils of being subject to legal regulation: rights—and specifically the right to marriage—can both burden and liberate.

Franke looks at the tangled genealogy of often-incoherent power in the American context. She aligns struggles for gay marriage rights with African Americans’ first access to the right to marry, smartly exposing a thin line “between intimacy and the untouchable.” Her book is cautionary about the risks of securing a ‘freedom to marry.’ She looks at original research about the complications that marriage rights carried for slaves freed in the 1860s and she warns that marriage rights are not the “unalloyed triumph” for gay people and same-sex couples that the Supreme Court and virtually all commentators have claimed. We need to be concerned about racism in America and reminded that it still exists. Franke provides us with a look at “the traps and tripwires that marriage, as a highly regulative and deeply gendered legal construct, imposes on non-normative communities”.

“Out of Jordan: A Sabra in the Peace Corps Tells Her Story” by Dalya Cohen-Mor— Can This Be?

out of jordam

Cohen-Mor, Dalya. “Out of Jordan: A Sabra in the Peace Corps Tells Her Story”, Skyhorse Publishing, 2015.

Can This Be?

Amos Lassen

Dalya Cohen-Mor claims to be the first Israeli-born Jewish American to be sent as a Peace Corps volunteer to a closed Arab society. Even though I just wrote that sentence, I find myself reading it again and finding to be incredulous. While this is supposedly the story of a Jewish worker in an Arab country and not just any Jewish worker but an Israeli, I want to know how this happened. It is inconsistent with both Israel’s and Jordan’s policies regarding each other and knowing what I know as an Israeli citizen, something like this would have had a very hard time getting through all of the red tape in both countries.

Dalya Cohen-Mor, a Sabra-born American woman, volunteered to serve in the Peace Corps and went through a lengthy and highly competitive application process. She was accepted, and was sent to serve in the predominantly Palestinian country Jordan. Upon arrival in Jordan, Cohen-Mor was instructed by Peace Corps supervisors to conceal her Jewish identity, use an alias instead of her real last name, and pretend that she was Christian so as not to compromise her safety and efficacy as a Peace Corps volunteer. (I find this statement highly suspect as I doubt that she would have even been placed in Jordan given her background. I find it even harder to believe that the United States government would allow her to lie about who she is or even that the government would allow something so risky to happen—but then this is Cohen-Mor’s story). This is a really good story and whether it is completely true or not does not affect the way it is told really.

Cohen-Mor was forced to navigate new territory, rethink and redefine her values and attitudes, and discover what it means to be perceived as the other. She lived in the household of a Bedouin host family in a remote village in the eastern desert of Jordan where she taught English at the village girls’ elementary school. As she traveled around Jordan, she often found herself in delicate, complicated, and dangerous situations (Something I am quite sure the Peace Corps never would have allowed to happen). After three months of hard work in the Peace Corps, Cohen-Mor says that she was accused of being involved in intelligence activities and sent back home. Although she lost her dream to serve in the Peace Corps, she feels that she discovered her core identity and sense of self.

In the book we get an interesting look at contemporary life in Jordan and gain insight into the complexities of a closed Arab society with respect to family life, women’s roles, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and how America is perceived by the ordinary Jordanian. Cohen-Mor says that this is an honest and courageous look at her journey and at the realities of two nations who are enemies with conflicting national identities.

As I was doing some extra reading about the author and her time in the peace corps, another person who volunteers with Cohen-Mor has stated that since Cohen-Mor was unable to complete her service then she did not “serve” in the Peace Corps. This volunteer goes on to say that “if anyone, Jordanian or volunteer, were to have discriminatory tendencies towards Israelis, she would never have known, as she misrepresented her background. Other than that, I have few memories, as Dalya mostly kept to herself, and tended to be quite closed when dealing with host families or Jordanian Peace Corps trainers”. Then comes the clincher; “In retrospect, her behavior may have belied her desire to simply stay long enough to write this “tell-all” memoir. Admittedly, I have only read sections – I’d rather not give her time or money – but the sections I have ready have varied from “misrepresentation of the truth” to “that did not actually happen at all.”

The rest of the group served 27+ months in Jordan. That volunteer goes on to say, “Dalya, I am sorry that you did not complete your service (whether it was your decision or that of the Peace Corps). I am sorry to say that I do not recall a moment that you interacted in any kind of open or honest way with the country that was so welcoming to you. I am sorry that you decided to misrepresent the Peace Corps, your fellow volunteers, and to disrespect the generosity of your Jordanian trainers and hosts. I know you don’t understand the sadness that this has caused us all, because you didn’t stay and contribute to the family that we created”. The rest of the comments ask us not to buy the book or to buy it and return it so that Cohen-Mor will not profit from the untruths she has told here. The story is obviously not over yet but we must remember that all publicity is good even if it is not positive.

In closing, another volunteers notes the following;  “Jordan is a closed, dangerous Arab country? I thought that was Saudi Arabia. Aren’t the first two months of Peace Corps service spent in a training community? So technically, this writer spent 1 month in the community she was assigned to. I also know that when a volunteer feels unsafe in his or her community, that volunteer has the option of being reassigned to another community. I’ve met several Jordan RPCVs, and they all seem to have had a great experience over there”.

It should be interesting to follow this.

“THE BENEFITS OF GUSBANDRY”— Straight Woman Plus Gay Man Equals Gusbandry— The First Two Episodes


“The Benefits Of Gusbandry”

 Straight Woman Plus Gay Man Equals  Gusbandry— The First Two Episodes

Amos Lassen

The first two episodes of the new web series “The Benefits Of Gusbandry” have just been released. The series is based on creator Alicia Rose’s real-life relationships with her gay best friends and the series follow a gay man and a straight woman, who meet and find a spark. (Didn’t we have “Will and Grace” with the same premise?).

In Episode 1,  Jackie Rosenblum is celebrating her 40th birthday. During a break from   her party, she meets the good-looking River Manning who  is gay,but Jackie doesn’t initially realise, although it’s something they deal with in  Episode 2 when they go on their first ‘date’  (however their differing sexualities may not be a deal-breaker for some sort of relationship).

The makers are releasing episodes each month between now and next spring. 

“TRANSPARENT”: Season 2— The Return of Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura Pfefferman


“Transparent”: Season 2

The Return of Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura Pfefferman 

Amos Lassen

Following a very successful first season with  millions of viewers  and winning  winning two Golden Globes, five Emmys and many other awards, “Transparent” comes back for Season 2 on December 11, 2015.

Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura Pfefferman dysfunctional family is moving on from the initial surprise and readjustment of realising the father of their family is actually a mother.

The trailer below centers on a wedding pic— ”The whole family’s trying to get together for a wedding photo — it looks like Sarah (Amy Landecker) is one of the two brides — but it’s quickly submarined when the photographer calls Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) ‘sir.”

“BIRDBATH”— Multicultural Gay Love



Multicultural Gay Love

Amos Lassen

Aaron Nassau’s Birdbath is a witty and sweet short that looks at two very different people trying to figure out if they should stay together. Complicating  the situation complicated is the fact that they have  different cultural backgrounds. Harris realizes that his boyfriend, Jasper is a lot to deal with at the best of times. Harris comes from a’ conservative Malaysian background and he begins to wonder if the relationship with Jasper will ever work out. There is a lot of humor and several surprises in this very interesting short LGBT film.


“BRIDGEND”— Sara and Her Dad, Dave

bridgend poster


Sara and Her Dad, Dave

Amos Lassen

 Jeppe Rønde’s “Bridgend” follows Sara (Hannah Murray) and her dad, Dave (Steven Waddington) as they arrive to a small village in Bridgend County. The village is haunted by suicides amongst its young inhabitants, and Sara falls dangerously in love with one of the teenagers, Jamie while Dave as the town’s new policeman tries to stop the mysterious chain of suicides. What we see is an uncompromising story centered on the relationship between vulnerable teenagers and their parents who are left in the dark. The film is based on a mysterious suicide cluster that took place in Bridgend County, a small former coal-mining province in Wales. Between December 2007 and January 2012 seventy-nine suicides were officially committed in the area. Most of the victims were teenagers who hung themselves and left no suicide notes. Filmmaker Jeppe Rønde followed the teenagers from the area for six years and wrote the script based on their life stories.


Seeking to rid herself of her outsider status, Sara befriends a clique of rowdy teenagers whose cultish and wild behaviors take them into the forest where they strip and baptize themselves in inexplicably ritualistic bonding celebrations of their peers’ suicides. Although initially shocked and repulsed by this, Sara slowly gets pulled in and falls for Jamie (Josh O’Connor), a potentially dangerous member of the group. The unrelenting darkness that has mysteriously engulfed her peers begins to overtake Sara’s world view and unravel not only her close relationship with her father but her own sanity as well.   


The film does not try to provide answers to these unspeakable tragedies. Rather this is a dramatic investigation of the mysterious suicide incidents through the lenses of intergenerational conflict, teenage lust and adolescence. We never know if Sara’s desire to spent time with the “gang”comes merely from an adolescent desire for inclusion or the allure of the alpha-male Thomas (Scott Arthur) and Jamie (Josh O’Connor) (or both), but either way she finds herself aligning more with them than her outsider father. Her father is not happy about this, and she soon becomes more of a stranger in her own home than she is amongst the kids who continue to refer to her as “the new girl.”

Murray’s performance is mesmerizing but the focus of the film lies more on the cumulative effect of the suicides and their mysterious instigation than any of the people themselves. The film becomes more of a character study of the town than of anyone who inhabits it.

“The Fire Went Wild: a Novel” by Jordan Nasser— Gay in the South

the fire went wild

Nasser, Jordan. “The Fire Went Wild: a Novel” (Home is a Fire: Volume 2), XXVII Media, 2015.

Gay in the South

Amos Lassen

Living in New York City, Derek found that he had everything he had ever wanted— a handsome boyfriend, a fabulous social life, and an exciting career. However, when he left it all behind to reconnect to his Southern hometown, it turned out to be the greatest decision of his life. With his return to his small-town living, he found himself enjoying the colorful Tennessee culture with his family and friends. He also became involved in a new romance that has him happier than he’s been in a long time—and it’s safe to say things couldn’t possibly be much better.

This changed after Derek and Luke decide to go public with their relationship. By doing so, his romance brought about a lot of drama in the community and when a jealous ex joins forces with a disapproving family member, it’s not long before their career positions at Parkville High School are put on the line. Luke and Derek faced the end of their personal and professional lives and they had to gain support from a few close friends for support if they hoped to make it out of the rumor mill. This is a smart romantic novel that brings together

Southern culture and small-town life. “The Fire Went Wild” is the sequel to “Home Is a Fire” that I have not yet read but plan to very soon.