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Harmony On Spring Hill

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Last post 24/07/2017

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      By popular demand, I'll be posting excerpts of my latest book. At least until the moderators delete it or I lose interest. Or enough people find that petition asking me to stop.

        Chapter 1
        Riding to Work

        When Harmony got the script in the mail, she tore the envelope open like it was Christmas morning. The only physical mail she ever received anymore were utility bills. Beyond the outer cardboard packaging, the manila envelope from Jerusalem smelled like days long past.

        "I thought they were just going to e-mail me my part," she told Livia. "But they sent a hard copy of the entire script."

        "Is it in English?" Livia asked her. "I thought the movie was going to be in Hebrew? How did you read the script?"

        "They sent me an English version," she told Livia. "The only Hebrew in it was the title, but it mentioned when the dialogue would be in Hebrew and when it was supposed to be in English."

        "What's the Hebrew title?" Livia asked.

        "It's box, dash, a couple of boxes, backwards G, bowl, old woman, and then some more boxes and dashes," she answered.

        "How does that fit on the posters?" Livia laughed.

        "That's what it looks like, at least," she said. "In English, it's Family Harmony."

        "Good title," Livia said. "Especially if you're in it. I'm kind of amazed they went through all the trouble to print out an English script if it's mostly in Hebrew."

        "My character is an American who speaks English," she told Livia. "They always wanted an American to play her. I guess they assumed any American they found wouldn't know how to speak Hebrew. I don't think they did the English script just for me."

        "So even when other characters are speaking Hebrew, you'll know what they're saying because you have the English version?" Livia wanted to confirm.

        "Isn't that great?" she asked Livia. "My character might not know what the people around her are saying, but I'll know what's going on."

        "That's helpful," Livia agreed.

        "That's very important, in my opinion," she said. "If you only know your character's part, you're only reacting to what's happening around you. If you know everything else that's going on, you know why your character does what she does and why other characters do what they do."

        Harmony let Livia read the script and Livia sat down with a cup of tea, finishing both in about ninety minutes.

        "That was great," Livia said, setting the script gently on a table as if it might break.

        "That was fast," Harmony said.

        "It's a movie script," Livia pointed out. "Not War and Peace."

        "What do you think?" she asked Livia.

        Livia poured herself another cup of tea and poured Harmony one as well, even though it was Livia's Red Rose tea and not Harmony's rooibos. While rooibos has a nutty, almost smokey flavor, Livia's tea tasted like colored water.

        "It could be a great little movie," Livia answered. "I don't know anything about how they're going to film it or how they make movies in Jerusalem, but the characters were great. And your part was a lot better than I expected."

        "It's a small part," she said.

        "It's small, but it's a great part," Livia decided. "There's no story without your character. You get to bring the conflict and chaos into this family's lives."

        "That's odd," she said. "I didn't see it that way at all."

        "What do you mean?" Livia asked her. "They're a happy family until you, the foreigner, come in and turn their world upside down."

        "That's not my interpretation of it at all," she said. "I think the family is slowly falling apart and she comes in and helps bring them back together."

        "Did we read the same script?" Livia asked.

        "Maybe you read the Hebrew version," she joked.

        When the tea pot had one or two cups left, they were still discussing the movie.

        "I think I like it even better now," Livia told Harmony after they had talked about it for a while. "Any great story should be open to interpretation. If we see this family in different ways, imagine how other people might see them."

        "This story could mean something completely different to everyone," she said.

        "Those are the best movies," Livia decided.

        "Those are also the movies that make the least money," she pointed out.

        "Who cares?" Livia said. "This movie is never going to be a big international blockbuster. First of all, it's mostly in Hebrew. Who outside of Israel speaks Hebrew? Second, it's an Israeli movie. Some people are going to automatically hate it no matter what it's about. If Israel cures cancer, some people will reject the cure because it's from Israel. Third, it's a small movie about a family dealing with family issues. It's not a CGI action blockbuster. There isn't a single dinosaur or superhero anywhere."

        "But if it were American, it could be a sleeper hit," Harmony speculated.

        "Maybe," Livia said. "More likely, it would be a modest success, but get a few Oscars. Then it would be a hit for a little while. Until the next comic book movie comes out."

        "I'm only a supporting player anyway," she said. "I don't get any of the profits, and in the unlikely event of Oscar nominations, I wouldn't even be invited to the show."

        "But does any of that really matter?" Livia asked her.

        "Not at all," she answered. "If I were in it for the money, I would have never accepted this part. They're practically paying me in grocery coupons. I'm in it for the experience."

        "And it's a great part," Livia added.

        "A character who either tears a family apart or brings them together," she said.

        "Or both," Livia suggested. "Maybe you're their metaphorical therapist. You get them to break down and cry before handing them a tissue and talking about their feelings."

        "I should probably ask the producer what the character is to him," she said. "I don't want to play her as catharsis if they all see her as comic relief."

        "Sometimes comic relief is cathartic," Livia said.

        "I don't see it as a comedy," she told Livia. "I only laughed once while reading it."

        "You definitely have to talk to the director or producer about your character," Livia said. "Or both. It doesn't really matter how either of us interpret her. They're going to want you to play her the way they interpret her."

        "I think I understand the character," she decided. "She met a guy and fell in love before the movie starts. They're engaged and now he's taking her home to meet his family. It's pretty straightforward. I think we can all relate to meeting the family."

        "But the difference here is that going home to meet the family means going to a completely different country," Livia pointed out. "That's not something most of us ever do. The parents aren't wacky CIA agents. They're from a place and culture that's completely alien to your character."

        "That doesn't affect who the character is," she said. "That only affects how she reacts to everything around her. I can play that. Especially since I'll be in a foreign country when we shoot this. Just like the character, I'll be surrounded by new people in a new place that I don't know anything about."

        "Is your character Jewish?" Livia asked.

        "I don't know," Harmony answered. "I don't think it makes any difference."

        "But the Jewish culture is different," Livia said. "You can't play her white Anglo Saxon Protestant."

        "Maybe in Jerusalem," she said. "But my character's American. I can play American Jewish. That's pretty much the same as American Christian. You can't see an American walking down the street and know what religion they practice. Maybe it's completely different in Jerusalem. I don't know. But for my character, that doesn't matter since she's not from Jerusalem."

        "It's kind of weird that the script doesn't mention her religion," Livia said. "Are we supposed to just assume she's Jewish since she's marrying a Jewish guy?"

        "It's not about religion," Harmony told Livia. "The conflict is that she's a foreigner and if the son marries her then he obviously can't marry the girl they want him to marry. Plus, he'll probably stay in the United States and not move back to Jerusalem like most of the family wants. Any future children will be born and raised far away from the rest of the family. Everybody's religion is irrelevant."

        Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

          "I think they wasted a good opportunity for a lot more conflict if they played up the religious angle," Livia decided. "If she were from a Catholic family or whatever Mel Gibson's Jew-hating religion is, there could be a lot more tension."

          "Maybe," Harmony said. "But maybe the people making this movie and the intended audience don't see religion the way we do. Maybe religion isn't about differences to them the way it is to us."

          "Are you sure about that?" Livia asked her. "They've been fighting religious wars for centuries."

          "I don't know," she answered. "I'm just open to the possibility that a culture completely different from mine might see things differently. And I think Mel Gibson is Catholic."

          "Religion and politics," Livia said. "Those are the two easiest ways to introduce conflict. Mel's a great example. Just mention his name and people go crazy. Not because of his acting. Because of religion and politics. And this story takes place in Jerusalem. That's a gold mine for religion and politics."

          "To us," she said. "Maybe the people who live there don't see it that way. When we hear about Israel on the news, it's always something political. Maybe the people living there hear about everything else. The latest medical breakthroughs, who won the chili cook off, the puppies rescued from wells, the everyday stories that don't fit with the image of the Middle East as a time bomb. We're looking at them from our American perspective."

          "I'm not American," Livia reminded her, though it was unnecessary.

          "Canadian," she corrected herself. "Close enough. Canada might as well be the fifty first state."

          "We Canadians don't see ourselves that way," Livia pointed out, though that was also unnecessary.

          "And maybe Israelis don't see themselves the way our news media want us to see them," she postulated.

          Livia got up and poured Harmony another cup of her neutral Canadian tea, though Harmony's bladder was already asking for a cease fire.

          "And why is her name Maria?" Livia asked her.

          "I don't know," she answered. "I think they were going for a basic American name, to set her apart from everyone else and all of their Hebrew names."

          "Maria?" Livia asked. "They should have gone with Jennifer or Tiffany. Those are American names. When I hear Maria, I think of West Side Story."

          "That's very American," she said. "Disaffected teenagers in gang wars on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You can't get more American than that."

          "I thought she was Puerto Rican," Livia said.

          "That's American," she said. "Puerto Ricans are American citizens."

          "They just can't vote in your elections," Livia surmised.

          "Of course they can," she told Livia. "They can vote based on wherever they live, just like any other citizen."

          "But I thought Puerto Rico doesn't have any of the rights of other states," Livia said.

          "It's not a state," she told Livia. "They have their own officials, just like any state. They just don't have anyone in the House or Senate. Maybe it should be a state, but that would change all the math and upset the old boy's club. Especially when you add people who aren't white."

          "So Puerto Rico is like Palestine and the U.S. is like Israel," Livia insinuated. "That's why they named her Maria."

          "That's a bit of a stretch," Harmony said.

          "Is it?" Livia asked. "West Side Story is basically Romeo and Juliet. Your character is Juliet."

          "Except there's no feud between our families," she said. "That's the center of the entire conflict in the play. In this movie, we never see any of my character's family. They're irrelevant to the story. If they wanted to do what you're saying, they could have made the character Palestinian. But that's not what it's about. No one has a problem with the fact that she's American. Nobody in this movie is anti-American, as far as I could tell."

          Harmony took a sip of her Red Rose tea and wondered why Livia, who likes almost all of the same things that Harmony likes, has the worst taste in beverages.

          "The problem is that she lives on the other side of the world," Harmony continued. "She's taking her future husband and eventual children away from his entire family. Children are a big deal in this family, and any children these two have will be born and raised nowhere near the rest of the family. If she were Palestinian, they could all live next to each other. The conflict would be something else entirely. It would be a completely different story."

          "I'd kind of like to see that movie," Livia said.

          "It could be good," she agreed. "But then you get into politics and religion, and that's only going to upset a lot of people no matter how good the movie is. As soon as you mention politics, half of your audience is going to hate everything you say from that point on. If I say I'm not a Republican, Republicans assume I'm a Democrat and stop listening right then and there. The same with Democrats. Both sides think you have to be on one or the other. Even if you switch sides, they'll never know about it because they rejected everything you had to say right away. I like how this movie is about a family. Their political or religious affiliations don't matter."

          "For some people, family is more contentions than politics," Livia observed.

          "For a lot of people," she said. "Politics are misery we bring on ourselves. Family is the original source of conflict in the world."

          Harmony got up and walked toward the bathroom.

          "And inferior teas," she added.

          Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

            This is interesting ! It could be a good play, too. Has a play-like structure, with all the pithy dialogue. I'll come back and read it again when I get more time. I like the ideas and insights in this. And its important, timely theme. And its two female protagonists

              I had the impression some of your books were travel writing, too, non-fiction--or literary essays about living abroad-- an impression garnered from the titles. True?

                I've never written a travel guide. I'm not at all qualified. Maybe one or two could be labeled travelogues. I've done non-fiction, but I think novels are more liberating. You can do absolutely anything.

                This one has large chunks without dialogue. It just starts out with a few conversations. I can't really picture it as a play, but I suppose any good playwright could do something with it.

                I'm glad you like it. But you haven't really read it yet. Your opinion might change after you read about the fire-breathing vampires who kidnap all the zombie children and make them play the Hopscotch of Death to find the magic spells that transforms Facebook likes into jelly beans.

                  Chapter 2
                  Under Penalty of Perjury

                  The setting of the movie was Jerusalem, so they were scheduled to film everything in Jerusalem.

                  "Everything's going to be shot where it says it is in the story," she told Livia. "As far as I know."

                  "Chances are, they don't have a lot of studios in Jerusalem," Livia decided. "If it's supposed to be in someone's house, they probably film it in someone's house instead of on a sound stage somewhere."

                  "I don't know anything about Israel's film industry, but I bet they have enough studios for whatever they put out," she said. "I'm sure there are sound stages somewhere in the country. Odds are they mostly use houses when it's supposed to be in a house because that looks better. Most countries outside of the United States and China go for realism in their movies. A house always looks more like a house than a movie set."

                  Harmony was told the name of the hotel in Jerusalem, which she liked, but it was on a small street that was never photographed by one of Google's street view cars. She could look at some of the larger streets nearby, but that told her nothing about the neighborhood. Sometimes Google can give a relatively decent idea of a few places. Google's street view of Nathan Road in Hong Kong looks exactly the same as the 3D offline version. In Jerusalem's case, she would actually have to go there to know anything. Modern technology forced her to live like her ancestors.

                  "What about food?" Livia asked her. "What are you going to eat when you're there?"

                  "I don't really know," she answered. "But I'm sure it will be good. What little Israeli food I've tried has been excellent. And they have Arab food, which has always been good to me."

                  "But you've never had the real version," Livia reminded her. "All your experience with Middle Eastern food is outside of the Middle East. It's been adjusted to local tastes."

                  Livia had a good point. The best Israeli food Harmony had ever eaten was in France, so it was French Israeli. There is no lack of Arab food in China, but what she had in Thailand was much better. That was most likely Thai Arab. This was going to be her first taste of authentic Israeli and Arab food. Fortunately, the authentic version of any cuisine is always better than some variation on the other side of the world. Harmony used to love American Thai food. Then she went to Thailand. Now she realizes that what she was eating was authentic Thai the way Taco Bell is authentic Mexican.

                  "Jerusalem is supposed to have some good outdoor markets," she told Livia. "That's the kind of shopping I want to see. I don't care about giant malls that all look and feel the same. I want to walk down a narrow alley and smell spices and flowers with people yelling over each other in strange languages I'll never understand."

                  "In that case, I think you're going to the right place," Livia decided.

                  "I don't know how much free time I'll have anyway," she said. "I don't know the schedule yet. They haven't even come close to handing out call sheets."

                  "Have you looked up any museums yet?" Livia asked her.

                  Livia and Harmony were best friends, roommates and could have been sisters if not for growing up in different countries with different parents. They knew each other inside and out. Livia knew that if Harmony was going to a new country, she was going to find a museum or two.

                  "There are hundreds of museums in Jerusalem," she answered Livia. "Jerusalem has more history than almost anywhere in the world. I'm definitely not going to have enough time to see most of it. If I can only see one museum, I'm going to the Israel Museum. That's the main one. It has all kinds of art and archeology, and the Dead Sea Scrolls."

                  "What about more modern pursuits?" Livia asked her. "Do you want to see any stage shows? What kind of theater life do they even have there?"

                  "I'm sure there's something," she answered. "I just don't know what they have. Jerusalem has a million people. There must be some kind of performing arts center, but I don't know where it is yet. I still have to figure out how I'm going to get around."

                  "Won't the production provide transportation?" Livia asked her.

                  "That's to the set or any filming locations that day," she answered. "I don't think they're going to give me a ride to all the sights. I know Jerusalem has a tram system, but it doesn't go all over the place. I think it's only one line. There's no subway system, for obvious reasons."

                  "What are the obvious reasons?" Livia asked, thinking about it. "Why can't they have a subway? It's too dangerous?"

                  "Today's Jerusalem is a city built on a thousand older cities," she answered. "Digging a subway would be an archeological catastrophe."

                  "They must have buses," Livia said.

                  "Of course," she replied. "No doubt I'll use that more than anything else."

                  This was a safe assumption on Harmony's part, but it turned out to be completely false.

                  "You could rent a car," Livia suggested. "You like driving in strange places."

                  "Places like France and California," she clarified. "I don't know the first thing about driving in Jerusalem."

                  "I'm pretty sure they drive on the right side of the road," Livia told her.

                  "Ok, I don't know the second thing about driving in Jerusalem," she said. "Do they follow the rules of the road and are the drivers polite like Canada? Or is it pure anarchy where people would rather die than wait their turn like China? I have no idea."

                  "It's somewhere in the middle, in all likelihood," Livia speculated. "Israelis might be polite, but no one is as polite as Canadians. And it's hard to imagine anyone driving more recklessly than the Chinese. China can lose half a million people a year in traffic accidents and not even blink. Israel can't. Most countries would outlaw driving altogether if people drove Chinese style."

                  "I'm sure I'll just take the bus," she said.

                  But she would not.

                  Since Harmony was going to a new place that was older than the hills, Livia wanted her to use modern telecommunication devices to keep in touch every step of the way. They both predicted that the hotel would have some form of internet connection.

                  "I don't know why all hotels don't have free wi-fi in this day and age," Livia wondered.

                  "I don't know if I want to bring a computer anyway," she told Livia.

                  None of this would be an issue for people who buy new phones every two years. Today's phones can do anything a computer can do, and are easier to carry in a purse. Harmony's phone cannot. She bought hers back when they used to be called cell phones. Back before they got smart. Her phone could send text messages, but its options were severely limited by modern standards. It could also send and receive phone calls, which appeared difficult for modern phones. The people Harmony knew with "smart" phones used them to type more than talk.

                  To solve any potential communication issues, Livia bought Harmony a brand new science fiction e-phone. Harmony objected at first. She was always perfectly satisfied with her old cell phone and resisted the newer smart phone ideology. Livia convinced her that it would be better for this trip and that she could always give it away when she got back home if it was so offensive. Eventually, Harmony agreed to carry it around Jerusalem if only to make Livia happy. Livia had to teach her how to use it.

                  "I've never felt so old in my life," she said while Livia was showing her how to operate a telephone with her thumbs.

                  "Why didn't you get into this right away?" Livia asked her. "This is our generation's technology."

                  "I don't want to buy a new phone every month," she answered. "I don't use Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Virb or Junkster. I don't need to be in constant contact with everyone I've ever met twenty four hours a day."

                  "Until now," Livia said.

                  "I just want a phone that makes phone calls," she continued. "My antique phone does that perfectly."

                  Harmony would be able to call Livia from Jerusalem with her old cell phone, but with the new computer phone, they could talk, text and send pictures. It was also a navigational device, which could come in handy in a place Harmony knew almost nothing about.

                  Livia knew that Harmony was resistant to the technology, but she could never understand why. Neither could Harmony. It was her generation's technology. She was supposed to love texting her friends with smiley faces and pictures of cats while ignoring all of the rules of grammar and punctuation that her teachers spent so much time drilling into her head. But Harmony would much rather talk to people in person while those phones were coming out more and more. Harmony wants to live in a world where people have conversations when they get together, not loiter nearby and play with their phones. She believes that the more our technology lets us communicate, the less we will actually talk to each other.

                  The main benefit to using the new phone, as far as Harmony was concerned, was that she could keep in constant contact with Livia and only Livia twenty four hours a day. It had a new phone number that the world did not know, so she would not be inundated with constant messages. She had no intention of using the phone to read a book or attempt to translate a conversation, but she could use it to call Livia day or night. And mostly when Livia was just about to go to sleep. Livia would not be with Harmony in Jerusalem, but the phone would. They could talk to each other at any time, almost as if Livia was there.

                  In the twenty first century, that is close enough.

                  Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                    Chapter 3
                    Enter Arcadia

                    On the twelve hour flight, Harmony found herself resting securely between the bulkhead and a young woman with a colorful scarf wrapped around her head.

                    The young woman looked like an exotic model and smelled like fresh laundry. Arij could never be an international supermodel, but she had an ethnic quality that photographers love. She was short, but young, with good cheeks and the kind of skin a serial killer wants to wear around the house. She wore pants, which surprised Harmony for some reason, and a blouse long enough to be a short dress. Her headscarf was a different pattern than her blouse, and Harmony thought they clashed.

                    Arij and Harmony talked about their jobs and why they were flying that day. They talked about food, specifically the food in China, Jerusalem and on the plane. Since they had both recently broken up with their boyfriends, they talked about men and how everything they do, say and think is wrong. Harmony broke up with her boyfriend about a year earlier, and Arij left her fianc? a few months after.

                    Arij was studying engineering, which Harmony found interesting.

                    "Not that I know anything about engineering," she told Livia. "But she looked more like an actress playing an engineer in a movie."

                    "What do engineers look like?" Livia asked her, mocking her assumption.

                    "I don't know," she answered. "Whatever they want, I suppose."

                    Arij and Harmony talked about adjusting to life in China, where Harmony lived full time while Arij shuttled back and forth between school and home whenever she got the chance. That might have been why adapting was more stressful for her.

                    "The smells are difficult," Arij told Harmony.

                    China is not the cleanest place in the world, and practically everyone smokes, but there is food everywhere. The more aromatic food can often mask the sewers and cigarettes. Cars and trucks, on the other hand, will always dominate the olfactory landscape.

                    They had a nice conversation about food. This was an easier subject since they were both prepared to embrace each other's ideas. Arij liked the food in China, but assessed Arab food to be the best in the world. Harmony liked what little Arab food she had tried, but she was not ready to call it the best in the world.

                    "Maybe somewhere in the top ten," she told Arij.

                    They both loved hummus, but talking to Arij about hummus was like talking to an Italian about how to cook. Arij insisted that hummus was invented in Palestine, which may or may not have included Israel, and that everyone else makes it the wrong way, especially every Arab country.

                    "Hummus of Lebanon is atrocious," Arij told Harmony. "Hummus of Iraq is not fit for a dog's beating."

                    When it came to Chinese food, Arij and Harmony traded places. Arij was far less insistent that her way was the right way and everything else was an abomination. Harmony was the food snob when it came to Chinese, though most people would not infer that from their favorite restaurants. Harmony has always preferred the tiny food stalls and holes in the wall with plastic stools and the most authentic Chinese food. Arij preferred the fancy celebrity restaurants at places like the Mandarin Oriental and Langham Place.

                    Arij's favorite Chinese dish was beef and broccoli, which is unheard of in any part of China Harmony has ever seen. It is available because of the large expat community. There are an abundance of Chinese restaurants that serve American or British versions of Chinese food. They look Chinese to the tourists, but there are often signs out front warning local customers that they have "Western" food, which is becoming more popular with younger generations.

                    "You don't have to be able to read the Chinese signs," Harmony told Arij. "If the place only has young customers and foreigners, and there are never any older Chinese people inside, chances are it's not authentic Chinese food."

                    "I am sure all food in China is Chinese," Arij confidently assumed. "They know of their culture more than you. Outsiders do not get to decide the truth."

                    Something they could both easily agree on was the airline food in front of them. Their flight served dinner not long after take off and they both inspected their meals carefully. Arij had a halal meal, so hers was noticeably different from Harmony's.

                    Harmony never kept secret her opinion of airline food. It is mostly unfit for human consumption. She usually flies Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines, whose meals she would not feed to prisoners on death row. The exceptions were KLM, which was essentially school cafeteria food with a worthwhile dessert if she looked hard enough, and Air France, which had actual bread instead of those microwaved dinner rolls with hard edges and no substance. They also had real cheese, something she never saw on flights from China. But the Air France flight was in first class. That no doubt accounted for the difference in quality. The more the ticket costs, the more the airlines treat passengers like human beings.

                    "I don't know why China isn't a cheese culture," Harmony told Livia once. "Cheese is international."

                    "It comes from cows," Livia explained. "How many cows have you seen in China?"

                    "They have goats," Harmony said. "Why aren't there any Chinese goat cheeses?"

                    Harmony was not especially impressed with their in-flight entertainment options, but Arij seemed personally offended. There were the usual HBO movies that were on every flight, as well as a few American TV shows, but most of the choices were Israeli.

                    "What do you watch when you're in China?" Harmony asked Arij.

                    "I do not watch the television," Arij answered. "It is all filth and propaganda."

                    Fair enough. Harmony thinks TV is far worse than it was when she was younger.

                    "That's what all old people say," Livia has pointed out to her more than a few times.

                    "But in this case, it's true," she has answered Livia more than once. "Those so called reality shows will be the end of civilization as we know it."

                    What Harmony could not understand was why someone who was above watching TV was griping about the TV options on a plane. There were plenty of music choices, including a wide variety of Arab songs and stations. Harmony usually brought her own music, but if she was sitting next to someone who wanted to talk, she would talk to them more often than not.

                    Harmony was ready to ascribe all of Arij's criticism to poor political sportsmanship, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, but then they started talking about the wide world of dating. Though still in college and undeniably young, Arij was recently engaged to an equally young man from her hometown. He was initially supportive of her studying in China, up until they got engaged. Then his family demanded that she leave school for the kitchen. He wimped out and joined his family, forcing her to choose between marriage and an education.

                    Arij's own family was divided over whether she should go to school, so it must have been difficult to go against the majority and do what she felt was right for her.

                    "Once you get that engineering degree, you'll meet all kinds of men who aren't afraid of educated women," Harmony tried to console Arij.

                    It was a weak attempt, especially since Harmony knew nothing about Arij's world or what kind of working conditions she might encounter in her career. Harmony got the impression that Arij intended to live and work in Palestine, and even Arij admitted that it was not the most open minded place in the world when it came to gender equality.

                    Harmony broke up with her boyfriend of eight years, so she could easily empathize with Arij. Her boyfriend never tried to damage her career or stifle her growth as a human being, but they were together since high school. Breaking up was hard to do.

                    "Have you begun dating in China?" Arij asked her.

                    This was the type of question that came up often. When she was dating, everyone asked about marriage. When she was single, everyone asked about dating.

                    "I'm not ready to get into all of that," was her standard answer.

                    The truth was that Harmony did not know how to date. She met her last boyfriend in high school. Dating was elementary in high school, despite all the drama everyone shoved into it. They all saw the same group of people every day. Sooner or later, someone was naturally going to develop some kind of attraction to somebody. With any luck, at least two of those people would be attracted to each other. Talking to the opposite sex was child's play since everyone was already engaged in some form of communication at school. The choices were never complete strangers.

                    The adult world works a little differently. The only group of people Harmony saw on a regular basis were at work. The last thing she wanted to do was date a coworker. In the entertainment industry, a lower than average percentage of the men were heterosexual. Even if they were all interested and available, Harmony did not like the idea of dating men with whom she worked. In high school, everyone already knew everyone else's business. There was almost nothing anyone could do about that. At work, everyone had the choice to keep their private lives private.

                    If a girl breaks up with a boy at school, they might not have any classes together next semester. Sooner or later, everyone moves on to new gossip. If a women breaks up with a man at work, they might have to see each other every day until he quits or she plants questionable medications in his locker and leaves an anonymous tip that he is the office drug dealer.

                    Living as a foreigner in a strange country does not help. Expat dating has to be one of the least attractive forms of courtship. Men from Harmony's country go to China expecting to find women who are docile and comply with every deviant sexual request. They have to learn the hard way that Chinese women are some of the most willful and obstreperous people on the planet. Chinese women always wear the pants in their families.

                    Dating local men has its own share of problems. Chinese culture and Harmony's culture are very different. They demand different things from their subjects. Most of the locals Harmony meets cherish their ancient traditions. They wear American clothes made in China and buy Japanese electronics made in China, but at the end of the day, they want to live the Chinese dream.

                    "You never see white women with Chinese men because Chinese men want that stereotypical Chinese woman," Livia said. "They can't find it either, so they go to Vietnamese women. They know they're never going to find it with western women. We're way too independent."

                    "What if Vietnamese women are just as strong willed as Chinese women?" Harmony asked Livia.

                    "They are as likely as not," Livia speculated. "Nobody ever follows their stereotype."

                    For now, at least, Arij and Harmony would have to get comfortable with being single.

                    Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                      Chapter 4
                      Independence Day

                      Her initial plan was to get lost. She knew that there were important sights in the Old City, but she had no idea where anything was. Google and her new phone were essentially useless at this point. The Old City is the world's largest hedge maze, with stone walls instead of shrubbery, and millions of people moving in every direction. The larger roads, as small as they were, had crowds packed in tightly enough to obscure the pavement. Even the tiny alleys had at least a few people walking this way or that. Harmony was wandering the city by herself, but she would never be alone. It was a Thursday afternoon, but it reminded her of Mall of America on a Saturday, or anywhere in China on any day. The holiday was only part of it. The main road into the Old City was full of life every day.

                      Past the Jaffa Gate, her options were turning right or continuing forward. Straight ahead was a narrow passage full of people, but it thrust deep into the heart of the Old City. That was the way to go, without a doubt.

                      Harmony went to a few outdoor bazaars in her day, but nothing she had ever seen prepared her for the bright colors, hectic din and musty aroma of an ancient city turned flea market staffed by boisterous yet indifferent shopkeepers with twenty first century technology and twentieth century t-shirts. Almost every single man standing in front of every single shop was yelling at the waves of tourists to buy from them, but none of the merchants gave any facial cues that they were appreciative whenever a customer stopped their way. Harmony walked past most of it.

                      There were a few stalls selling spices, and she anticipated that she would come back later to pick something up, but she was not the least bit interested in buying t-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains or refrigerator magnets. The quantity and poor quality of the t-shirts reminded her of Bangkok, except that there were more political messages in the Old City.

                      Beyond the tiny shops that catered solely to tourists, she felt more like she was actually in the city. After breaking through tiny alleys full of stores, Harmony was on a tiny alley with nothing but stone walls and the occasional door and window. On gift shop alley, it was easy to forget that people actually lived and worked in the Old City. Deeper inside, the stone buildings she was walking between were people's houses.

                      The tiny alley eventually opened up to a small but crowded square. There seemed to be nothing there but newer stone buildings that looked similar to the older stone buildings. There were also a lot of people, though she could not tell if they were there for a specific reason or just part of the general throng.

                      Most of the crowd was going to or coming from the same general direction, so she followed. That quickly led to a much larger public square and a large synagogue. She had already passed a few churches and synagogues hidden behind walls and courtyards without realizing it, but this one let her know that it was a celebrity. Not only was it the largest religious building she had seen so far, but the square in front of it was enormous compared to all the tiny alleys that lead up to it. For claustrophobic people, the Hurva Synagogue was the first patch in the maze where they could breathe again.

                      Harmony watched the people who were all just hanging out or taking pictures of the synagogue for a minute or two before it was time to move on. Another small road took her away, but this alley was indisputably wider and newer than the others. It was all the same color and looked like it was made of the same type of stone, but this alley was conspicuously not built hundreds of years ago. The road was smoother and had much better drainage, and the buildings looked like they were all constructed together rather than the random patchwork of everything she had seen before. She was still in the Old City, but this was blatantly the new side of town.

                      This new road had a few shops and restaurants, but almost nothing compared to the other alleys. A block or two later and she was in a food court.

                      "You mean a market?" Livia asked her.

                      "No," she answered. "It was a food court. Just like any shopping mall. Except it was a white stone shopping mall without any Zara or Starbucks."

                      Not only was there no Starbucks in this Old City food court, but Harmony would later learn that there was no Starbucks anywhere in Israel, making it the only country she has ever been to without a Starbucks on every block. In China, KFC and McDonald's are more popular than any Chinese restaurant. She was disappointed to see a McDonald's near the hotel in Jerusalem, but she only saw two in the entire country. And there was no KFC anywhere in sight. Israel was already an alien land to her. Not running into any of those American corporate logos only made it more foreign. She could not have been happier about that.

                      Beyond the food court were a cascade of stairs. Up to this point, she was more or less on an even surface. There was a little uphill and a little downhill here and there, but now she was undeniably descending to a lower elevation.

                      After walking down enough stairs to make her think she was in Montmartre, the walls suddenly opened up and Harmony was standing in the middle of a postcard. Behind her was the newest section of the Old City, built mostly in the 1970s and 1980s. In front of her were the remnants of a Jewish temple built 2,500 years ago and a Muslim shrine built 1,300 years ago. They were downhill from where she stood, giving her the closest thing to an aerial view she was going to get.

                      She also had a good view of the rolling hills in the distance, dotted with the same white stone buildings as the rest of the city, but it was the Temple Mount that attracted everyone's attention.

                      Down more stairs, she was surprised by how few people were in the security line to get into the Western Wall Plaza. She saw a vast assembly of people near the wall from her perch at the top of the stairs, but there were only three people in line in front of her. The security was a simple x-ray machine for bags and three security guards. It felt more like getting on a Greyhound bus than entering Israel's single most popular tourist attraction and Judaism's holiest site.

                      The plaza opened up onto what was easily the widest open space in the Old City.

                      "You could fit a few thousand t-shirt shops there," she told Livia. "Or half a Costco."

                      There were at least a few thousand people in the plaza. It was louder than Harmony anticipated from a major religious site, but it did not feel crowded. Most of the people were making their way to or from the wall itself. There were at least a hundred people gathered at a much smaller barrier wall that separated the people praying at the Western Wall from the rest of the plaza. She watched people at the Western Wall from the tiny barrier wall and contemplated how far she should go.

                      "I didn't know if I could go in or not," she told Livia. "Or even if I should. People were in their prayer clothes and I was in regular walking around in the hot sun clothes. The men all wore hats or yarmulkes and most of the women had headscarves. I had a sun hat, but is that allowed? I don't know. It's their most important place, so I stayed out."

                      From the Western Wall, Harmony ambled back into the maze of the Old City.

                      "Did you even know where you were going?" Livia asked her.

                      "I wanted to get lost," she answered. "That's how you find the best things. The Old City's pretty small anyway."

                      Harmony knew she was in the Muslim Quarter when all the signs switched from Hebrew to Arabic.

                      "And the hats change," she told Livia. "Looking at the people, there's no physical difference between Jewish, Muslim or Christian. But they all have their own hats."

                      The Muslim Quarter was visibly older, and there were far more children running around. It was the middle of a weekday, but school was out for the holiday. Whether the people saw it as a day of celebration or a day of mourning, they all got the day off.

                      The shopkeepers also got more aggressive.

                      "There was nothing physical," she told Livia. "Most of them just stood or sat at the door to their shops. But every one seemed personally offended that I didn't want to buy a t-shirt from their shop."

                      Harmony felt more like an outsider while walking through the Muslim Quarter.

                      "I don't really know why," she told Livia.

                      "You're not Muslim," Livia said.

                      "I'm not Jewish either," she pointed out. "But I didn't have that feeling like I was trespassing when I was in the Jewish Quarter."

                      "Did the people treat you differently?" Livia asked her.

                      "Not really," she answered. "More people stared at me in the Muslim Quarter. Nobody stared at me in the Jewish Quarter. It almost felt like I could have been one of them, for all they knew. I never felt like anyone would mistake me for Muslim."

                      "Maybe that's the difference," Livia suggested. "You felt more comfortable in the Jewish area, so you never attracted anyone's attention. You felt more uncomfortable in the Muslim area, so people noticed you more, and that made you feel like an outsider even more."

                      "But I wasn't uncomfortable," she said. "I simply felt more like a foreigner. Which I definitely am in a place like Jerusalem."

                      "Did you feel more threatened in the Muslim part?" Livia asked her. "Did it seem more dangerous?"

                      "Not at all," she answered. "I was surrounded by families. There were women and children every step of the way. I thought there were too many unsupervised children running around, but they weren't dangerous. They were children running around and playing."

                      After passing a row of shops that sold cell phone accessories, there was a sudden shift in demographics. The signs switched from Arabic to what looked like Russian. The shops went from selling t-shirts and cell phones to t-shirts and rosary beads. There were far more religious items on display, but the clothing of the people in and around the shops became more secular. Religious hats were replaced by baseball caps. Harmony was clearly in the Christian Quarter.

                      "The Muslims dressed more Muslim, but sold all the same crap that could be from anywhere," she told Livia. "The Christians sold more Christian merchandise, but dressed more like anyone else."

                      The small alley opened to a small square with an ornate fountain. There was a church steeple behind a few buildings, so she headed in that direction. It looked like the bell tower at Piazza San Marco in Venice, so she figured there might be something to see. It turned out to be a large Lutheran church, so she felt no need to go inside. Harmony already knew plenty about Lutherans. She wanted to see places that were new and different to her. But she was glad about heading in that direction after passing through a small tunnel.

                      The tunnel immediately opened to a crowded courtyard. After the Western Wall Plaza, this was the most popular part of the Old City that she would see that day. Much like with the Western Wall, she had no idea how she got there, but recognized where she was right away. People were trickling in and out of a single door while most of the crowds congregated outside. The building was conspicuously old and worth looking at, but she chose to go inside. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was one of the main reasons Harmony was in the Old City.

                      Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                        Vivid descriptions of these foreign (to me) lands--actually, you could be a travel writer...interesting story, but wondered why you use few, if any, long paragraphs--your writing style of short paragraphs makes the page look choppy, truncated or something. That's why it reminds me of a play. I always favored long, some of them very long, paragraphs in my own writing. I think I picked that up from reading 19th century 1800s classic novels as a child and teen and college student, and I admired the New York Times usage of long paragraphs when I read it, as a young teen. Was avid for the arts and entertainment section, especially.

                          This is the internet, so I'm posting it internet style, with spaces between paragraphs and no tabs, rather than traditional book style.

                          I'm not sure what you mean by long paragraphs. A paragraph should be whatever length it wants to be. Making it longer for the sake of making it longer would be a mistake.

                          But it is truncated. These are excerpts. I'm posting the stranger in a strange land aspect of the story. Since it takes place in Jerusalem, hopefully it's a foreign land to most readers.

                            Chapter 5
                            Shabbat Shalom

                            After a quick breakfast downstairs, someone picked her up and drove her to the studio, which she did not realize was the studio. It looked nothing like a Hollywood compound of giant sound stages and a backlot. Instead, the studio was an office building near Hebrew University.

                            This was the last day of rehearsals, but Harmony's first. Everyone else started before she was in the country, but they were all in more scenes. She had a small part. Putting her up in a hotel for a week or two just so she could watch everyone else would have been a waste of money.

                            It also worked out for the characters. Harmony played the stranger in a strange land who is just meeting everyone else. The only person she was supposed to already know was her character's fianc?. All of the other characters have known each other for years, so more rehearsal time was helpful for them.

                            Harmony met the cast, one or two producers, a few executive producers, some studio executives, the director, the director of photography, several production assistants and some of the crew in a suite of offices. Everyone was friendly and welcomed her, knowing that she was the only foreigner in the room. It was one of those times when everyone already knew each other and she was the odd one out. During introductions, they only had to remember her name. Every single person she was meeting was new to her. She forgot half of their names before the introductions were over.

                            Beyond the handshakes and greetings, there was a sense of urgency that Harmony attributed to their tight schedule and the beginning of principal photography. What she would soon discover was that this was Shabbat. Everyone wanted to get home early.

                            "I thought that was tomorrow," Harmony said, trying not to sound like the only foreigner in the room.

                            She knew that she had the next day off, at least until later at night, and assumed that was because Saturday was Shabbat.

                            "It begins Friday sunset," a large man named Hed told her. "And ends Saturday sunset."

                            Hed was the assistant director and in charge of cast and crew scheduling, among other things. He looked like a retired right tackle who could tear the arms off a grizzly, but his smile reminded Harmony of a giant teddy bear.

                            Harmony would have to adjust to days beginning at sunset, but from her point of view, she only had to remember that most of Jerusalem would shut down Friday night and come back to life on Saturday night. They started this rehearsal early enough in the morning that everyone would be able to get home and do their thing before the day ended, or began.

                            "Did everyone speak English around you?" Livia asked her.

                            They mostly did. They ran through the entire script, and most of the scenes were in Hebrew, but most of the conversation in the room was in English. During the Hebrew scenes, Harmony read along with her English script to follow what was happening. No one had any difficulty communicating in English and only reverted to Hebrew when they forgot that she was there. A quick reminder from someone else and everything was back in English.

                            "I never got the feeling that anyone resented speaking English for my benefit," she told Livia. "They all spoke it well enough that we all understood each other. And they all knew that I couldn't speak a word of Hebrew. Listening to the Hebrew scenes was interesting, but I didn't learn anything. I think that might be one of those languages that takes years to learn."

                            Everyone was quick to leave when the table read was over. No one was trying to be unfriendly. They simply had things to do. Harmony knew nothing about their Shabbat customs, but she could recognize quitting time on Friday. The actress playing the grandmother took charge of making Harmony feel welcome and invited her home for dinner. They had only met earlier that day, but Harmony accepted for a number of reasons.

                            When she travels to strange places, Harmony mostly eats in restaurants and markets. Sometimes she will pick up some bread and cheese and have a picnic somewhere. If she is very lucky, an exceptionally gracious person will offer her a meal in their home. The worst thing anyone can do when traveling is to become insulated from the locals. If someone offers Harmony a home cooked meal, she takes it. Not only will it most likely be the best meal of the trip, but she will learn infinitely more about the people than she ever could at their shopping malls and hotel lobbies.

                            It also helped that Savta was universally respected everywhere she went. Harmony had never heard of her, but it was apparent that the rest of the cast and crew were fully aware of her long list of accomplishments. She had everyone's attention merely by walking into a room. Harmony was looking forward to their scenes together after watching how everyone treated her.

                            They were driven to Savta's house by one of her nephews, who seemed to appear out of nowhere as soon as the rehearsal was over. In the car, Savta and Harmony talked about acting, and a minute into the conversation, Harmony could tell that Savta knew more about the subject than Harmony could ever hope to learn. Harmony made it her mission to soak up as much from Savta as she possibly could in what little time they would have together. A home cooked meal was one thing, but Harmony wanted to glean whatever she could from Savta's experience.

                            "I didn't know what to expect her house to look like," she told Livia. "Everything kind of looks the same in Jerusalem. It's all white rock, and nothing's very tall. You can tell it wasn't all built at the same time, but it's all intended to look like the same style. More or less. I almost thought she'd have a movie star mansion, but I never saw anything like that here."

                            Savta's house was draped on a hill rather than sitting flat on top or beside one. It was not a giant mansion, but clearly had multiple floors. The hill saw to that. They entered what was essentially the second floor, but at ground level from the front door. Harmony knew right away that this was not going to be a quiet dinner with just the two of them.

                            Savta introduced Harmony to her children, their children, her siblings, their children, a few cousins and their children. There were more people in that living room than it was designed to hold. Every single one of them was waiting for Savta's return. She obviously commanded just as much respect at home as she did at work, if not more.

                            Harmony quickly noticed that everyone was dressed in their Sunday best.

                            "Or their Shabbat best, I suppose," she told Livia.

                            Harmony did not exactly look like a drunken hobo, but she was distinctly underdressed for the occasion. While Savta disappeared to change, Harmony was taken to a bedroom by one of Savta's older granddaughters and given more appropriate clothing.

                            "Do I need something to cover my head?" Harmony asked Savta's granddaughter.

                            "Are you married?" the granddaughter asked her.

                            "No," Harmony answered. "Not by a long shot."

                            "Then no cover," the granddaughter said. She stopped and looked at Harmony for a second. "You need not adhere to any formal dress," the granddaughter said, as if stating the obvious. "You can dress as you like. I deduced you did not wish to draw attention to yourself."

                            Harmony had no strong opinion either way. She preferred not to go out of her way to stand out, but as the only foreigner surrounded by an unfamiliar culture, she was going to be miscast no matter what she wore.

                            This was a family gathering, so everyone already knew that Harmony was not one of them. Yet no one seemed surprised or concerned that a total stranger was invading their special day. Harmony presumed it was because Savta had invited her, and Savta was incontrovertibly the head of this household. It was later explained to Harmony that inviting weary travelers to dinner was a common Jewish practice, especially on holidays. She had never heard of it, but where she came from, bringing home strays was not an option.

                            "My parents would never invite a stranger to Christmas dinner," she told Livia. "Not in a million years."

                            When Savta returned, she looked amazing. Savta always seemed to look subtly glamorous in clothes that were classic without being ostentatious and gray hair that was both elegant and understated. She looked like a character out of the Bible as she walked down the stairs. Everyone gathered around Savta as she lit two candles.

                            "I was expecting eight candles," Harmony told Livia. "But it turns out that's Hanukkah."

                            Prayers were recited and Harmony watched everything without any idea what was happening. She thought this was the beginning of dinner, but there was no table or food anywhere. Before she knew what was going on, everyone walked out the front door. Savta took her arm and led the way, so Harmony followed. Savta was a kindly old grandmother with the wisdom of her years. Anyone would have followed her. Why people like her are not leading the world's governments is anyone's guess.

                            They all walked for a few blocks in what was plainly a residential neighborhood before Harmony noticed other small groups of people heading in the same direction. Everyone was going to the same place, but she was in the dark until Savta told her that they were going to school.

                            "I didn't get it at all," she told Livia. "This is supposed to be the main day off and we're all going to school? That doesn't sound like much of a day off to me. I guess it's ok for the adults, but the poor children. They have to go to school on their day off from school?"

                            They arrived at a building that Harmony immediately recognized as a synagogue. Savta was calling it "shul", and never used the word "synagogue" or "temple". Harmony learned that what they call their church reflects how they feel about it. A synagogue is a place of assembly. A shul is a place of learning. Unlike Americans, no one in Israel called it a temple. There is only one Temple and it is currently in ruins.

                            At the building, whatever it was called, the men all disappeared and Harmony followed Savta and the rest of the women into a large nave, probably called something else. The exterior of the building looked old, but the interior was recently renovated. Everything was clean and new. Harmony was used to clean churches, but this one lacked that Bible smell in a Christian church with a few hundred books all printed at the same time. This shul was full of books that in all likelihood were printed in different decades by different publishers.

                            There was a very short service, which Harmony more or less understood. It was all in Hebrew, so she did not recognize any of the words, but a church service is pretty much the same in any language. It all happened too quickly for anyone to translate anything for her, but she got the general idea. Christianity branched out from Judaism. Anyone who can understand one should be able to understand the other. Someone stood in front of a group of people and said a bunch of religious things; do unto others, praise the Lord, try not to hate people, and everyone prayed.

                            The biggest difference that Harmony noticed was the word "amen". In Christianity, it is used at the end of prayers and by anyone listening to the prayer, as if to say "ditto".

                            "Dear Lord, please smite my ex and let me win the lottery. Amen."

                            In Judaism, it is only used by the audience in agreement with the prayer. The person saying the prayer never says ditto.

                            After the service, they all walked back to Savta's house. Walking in the door, Harmony had more of a chance to look around without a house full of people looking at her. The house was as spotlessly clean as one would expect from someone like Savta, but it also looked like it was being used. This was not a celebrity showpiece for magazine spreads. This was a comfortable home.

                            While Harmony looked around, several relatives set up several tables with candles, and a movable feast of fish, soups, salads and an endless assembly line of side dishes was served.

                            "It wasn't really a feast," she told Livia. "But there were so many people there, it seemed like a larger meal than it was."

                            From her point of view, this was like Thanksgiving dinner. It was a large family gathering of people who probably do not see each other every day, there was special food not eaten every day, and they all ate dinner earlier than they would have ordinarily. After dinner, there were more prayers and everyone hung out and talked. And they did this every week. The biggest difference between this dinner and Thanksgiving was that no one watched football afterward. There was no TV anywhere.

                            "Can you even have Thanksgiving without TV?" Livia asked her.

                            "No," she answered. "But this was Shabbat, not Thanksgiving. Apparently, you can have Shabbat without TV. In fact, I think that's one of the rules."

                            After dinner, Harmony got a crash course in Jewish liturgy. Various people told her what the Shabbat was all about and why they all did all of the things they did that day. She was grateful for the explanations, but it was too much information to take in all at once.

                            There was a prayer before dinner and everyone had a glass of wine. Then they all washed their hands and Savta recited a blessing while they ate some exceptionally fresh challah. Harmony would have been surprised if it had not just come out of the oven.

                            A few songs were sung after dinner. They sounded interesting, but everything was in Hebrew. There was a wealth of philosophical and religious discussion, but there was also some family bickering and relatives just passing time. Most of the conversation was in Hebrew, but enough people spoke English for Harmony to get the general idea. Savta always spoke to her in English, and that encouraged others to use English around her as well.

                            "You can't learn four thousand years worth of history in one afternoon," she told Livia. "At least, I can't."

                            Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                              Chapter 6
                              Family Harmony

                              Sunday was the first day of principal photography. Harmony was the newest person involved in the movie, but would be there on the first day of shooting. Everyone else started rehearsals before she was even in the country. Most of the cast and crew were hired before she knew anything about the movie. Some of the crew, like Daniyel and Elior, had been working on it for over a year. Daniyel was also the writer, so he was thinking about this movie longer than anybody.

                              The first scene was where her character, Maria, meets her fianc?'s family. The location was someone's house, but she never knew if the owners were there. Most of the actors from the table read were already at the house when Harmony arrived. A few were on the way.

                              The mood on set was organized chaos. It was an average size middle class house with entirely too many people inside. There were electrical wires running across the floors and lights on tall stands huddled against a wall. The crew was setting up the equipment while Harmony was taken to one of the bedrooms that would be her dressing room for the day.

                              There were not enough bedrooms for everyone to have their own private dressing room, but Harmony never saw anyone throw a tantrum. The bigger stars had their own trailers parked outside, but the lesser known actors in smaller roles shared a few bedrooms. Harmony shared a dressing room bedroom with the actress who played Maria's future sister-in-law and the woman that Arus, Maria's fianc?, dated before Maria.

                              "It looks like we are the rivals today," Liat said to Harmony.

                              Harmony had met Liat at the table read. Even though they only had a few short scenes together, she was looking forward to the competition. Arus broke it off with her character before meeting Maria, but Liat wanted him back. The family wanted him to get back together with Liat. They already knew her and loved her and, most importantly, knew that she would not take him away.

                              These were only fictional characters. As the actors playing them, everyone was perfectly aware of that. But sharing a dressing room with the actress who played her rival was a little unsettling. Liat was more beautiful than anyone needs to be, and seeing her undressed did nothing for Harmony's self-esteem. In the real world, most men would choose Liat over Harmony any day.

                              "Maybe your fianc?'s an idiot," Livia suggested.

                              "Or just blind," Harmony replied.

                              The first order of the day for the cast was wardrobe. All of the Israeli actors changed from their upper middle class street clothes into their upper middle class movie clothes. Harmony could not spot the difference. Ravid, the costume designer, gave her "American" clothes. On the set of this movie, that meant short summer dresses from H&M and Castro. Since Maria is American, they wanted her style to be less modest and show more bare legs and arms than the Israeli characters. Ironically, Harmony had been one of the most modestly dressed people on set before the wardrobe change. The Israeli actresses showed up in far smaller and more fashionable clothing than Harmony ever wore off camera.

                              "That's how they see us," she told Livia. "Sheath dresses, circle skirts and a good deal of cleavage. I'll be wearing a lot of push up bras."

                              "At least it's not tank tops and denim shorts," Livia said. "That's how I see Americans."

                              Once they were all in wardrobe, and Harmony looked more American, they had their makeup done. In the modeling world, makeup is serious business. A model can easily spend a few hours in that chair while one person plays with her face and another does unnatural things to her hair. On the set of a movie that takes place in the present time and focuses mostly on character development, the makeup was only there to keep everyone from looking like they all had some infectious disease.

                              Most of the cast only had their hair fixed for continuity. The last thing the editor wanted was to see everybody with a different look in every shot. Harmony was set aside for special treatment. Daniyel wanted Maria, the only foreigner, to have a noticeably different hairstyle than any of the other female characters. So Noya, who was in charge of hair and makeup, gave Harmony what she called an "American" look. It was a simple wrapped ponytail. For more formal occasions, Noya gave Maria a French braid, which is little more than a fancy ponytail.

                              "I'm not sure what makes that American," Harmony told Livia.

                              After everyone was clothed, painted and groomed, they all went out to the living room. The rest of the cast had shown up while Harmony was in her dressing room bedroom and now almost everyone who was going to appear in this movie was on set.

                              It felt like a dress rehearsal to Harmony. There were no true rehearsals, at least not involving her, so this was the first time she saw the cast in wardrobe and the crew holding their equipment. She was used to having more room to move around, even on smaller stages in low budget productions. For this scene, the stage was someone's living room and none of the crew were working behind any curtains. Instead of an audience, she was facing a camera and most of the crew.

                              The clutter of equipment had been rearranged into a functional configuration. Compared to a modeling shoot, there was more of everything. There was only one camera, but several lights pointed in more than one direction rather than the standard one to three lights pointed at the model. A typical photo shoot, in Harmony's inexperience, had one hand held reflector. On the set of this movie, there was practically a reflector for each light, and everything had its own stand instead of a production assistant standing next to the photographer. There were also microphones and sound equipment that she never saw on a photo shoot. A still photographer can do everything himself, if necessary. A movie, even a character piece like this, requires a team of trained professionals.

                              Acting on stage, Harmony always had room to breathe. There were usually other actors with her, but the crew was out of sight and the audience was in the dark distance. On this movie set, Harmony was engulfed by actors, crew and equipment. There was nothing natural about doing a scene with microphones hanging from above and more tradespeople in street clothes than actors in wardrobe.

                              The first shot was everyone sitting around and talking. Maria has already been introduced to everyone and now they are having normal family conversations. Most of the dialogue was in Hebrew at this point, but Harmony knew what was going on, even though her character did not. From an acting point of view, she merely had to sit on a sofa and be uncomfortable. It was just like meeting the family of someone she started dating. Except that they were surrounded by bright lights, microphones and the people who control it all. And no one ever came over to touch up her makeup during dinner with a boyfriend's family.

                              The first take looked good to the cast, but Daniyel wanted to do it again. One of the actors tripped over his line in the second take. Harmony was the only one who never noticed. Since he was speaking Hebrew, he could have said literally anything and she would have no idea. Everyone else laughed while she just sat there.

                              Daniyel said something to the actor in Hebrew and then looked at Harmony. "I apologize for this," Daniyel said to her. "But this shot must be in Hebrew."

                              "I'm ok," she told him. "In fact, with everyone laughing and me just sitting here, it makes Maria look even more out of place."

                              Daniyel's eyes lit up and a light bulb almost appeared over his head. He conferred with Elior and the script supervisor before addressing the cast. There would be a slight change of plans.

                              The original idea was that the family was sitting around and talking while Maria was alone in a room full of people. Their native language, which was foreign to her, showed how alien she was. The new idea was for one of the characters to tell a joke in Hebrew. As everyone laughs, Maria sits there, not understanding a word. This version would make it even more obvious how isolated she is.

                              The next take was the new version. The spoiled take captured the mood perfectly, but anyone who speaks Hebrew, which would be most of this movie's intended audience, would understand that the actor flubbed his line. For this take, that same actor told a joke and everyone laughed. Except Maria.

                              One of the hardest things an actor can do is not laugh. Endless rolls of film have been wasted by actors laughing. In this case, it was easy for Harmony. She did not understand a single word of the joke. Even so, Daniyel was smart enough to get what he needed in one take. Shooting it repeatedly would have run the risk of Harmony laughing solely because everyone else was laughing. Sit in a room full of people laughing long enough and it will be funny, even if the actor has no idea what made them laugh in the first place.

                              With the first shot finished, the cast scattered and the crew set up the next shot. This has always been Harmony's least favorite aspect of the filmmaking process. Doing scenes is great fun, and even walking onto the set can be exciting, but sitting around for an hour or more while the crew moves heavy equipment is incredibly tedious. It can easily take an entire day to film a ten minute scene. Some of that can be attributed to actors making mistakes, but most of that time is for putting everything in the right place before anything can be shot.

                              Most of her acting experience was in theater, where all the boring parts were left at rehearsal. A live performance was nothing but action. She also got the immediacy of audience reactions. A movie set was a combination of live performance and tech rehearsal, with mostly downtime for the actors. It could be months or a year before they knew how the audience might react. Everyone knows if a play is going to flop while they are on stage. Working actors like Johnny Depp are on their next big budget disaster before they know how badly the last one bombed.

                              Someone Harmony had never met walked up to her while she was sitting in a corner, watching Daniyel and Elior set up the next shot. "Your first day and already you have an influence," he said to her.

                              "Excuse me?" Harmony said.

                              "You make a proposal and the director changes the day," he said. "I call that an influence."

                              Harmony was curious who this guy was. He was not one of the actors. He had not been at the table read and was nowhere near the camera during the first shot. Since he was talking to Harmony instead of actually doing anything, she decided that he had no important job on the crew. For all she knew, he was the owner of the house they were using. Whoever he was, an introduction would have been nice.

                              "Where are my manners?" he said, catching himself. "I am Hisham, the producer of this extravagant affair."

                              He reached his hand out and Harmony stood up and shook it.

                              "How many producers does this movie have?" Livia asked Harmony on the phone later that night.

                              "I have no idea," she answered. "Three or four. So far."

                              From what she could tell, Hisham was more of an executive producer than line producer. He was not on set every day and had little reason to be there. He was on set during the first day of shooting because it was the first day. He seemed to have little to no input into creative decisions, but everyone knew who he was and the director was always glad to see him.

                              After their brief introduction, Harmony was called onto the set.

                              The next several shots were Maria being introduced to the family, which takes place before the previous shots, but they were all the same scene. Harmony had some dialogue in these shots, but it was only some awkward introductions, much like what had just happened with the movie's executive producer. Harmony still felt a little claustrophobic with so much cast and crew in such a small space, but everyone on set presumed that she was acting uncomfortable for her character.

                              This was the scene where Savta meets Maria and immediately disapproves. This was fun to shoot since Savta had already met Harmony and welcomed her into the movie family. Harmony also thought it was great to watch Savta work. As friendly and humble as Savta was off camera, she could effortlessly play a domineering tyrant on screen. Her character was nothing like her, other than being the respected matriarch, and Harmony wanted to stay there all day and learn as much from her as she could. Harmony got the impression that every other actor on set felt the same way.

                              After a few takes of each shot, and a lot of waiting around in between shots, they were finally finished with the introduction scene. From there, everyone went back to wardrobe. The next scene would be near the end of the movie and take place a few years later.

                              "My wardrobe was the most complicated since I had to put on a fake pregnancy belly," Harmony told Livia.

                              "Spoiler alert," Livia said.

                              "Everything about making movies is a spoiler," she said. "Sometimes you film the last scene first. Even within a scene, you can film the end of it before the beginning. Nothing is ever in sequence. Besides, you read the script. You know how it ends."

                              Ravid, the costume designer, helped Harmony put a large rubber belly on under her American dress.

                              "I can honestly say that was the first time in my life I stood in the middle of a dressing room in my underwear while a woman I just met strapped a large silicone weight over my stomach," she told Livia.

                              Several of the women on set that day were mothers and everyone said that it looked realistic. Ravid herself was visibly pregnant, though not as far along as Maria, and standing side by side, no one could tell which one was fake. To Harmony, the glaring difference was that Ravid had the glow of a woman who was actually pregnant. It appeared to suit her with her short, round body and cropped hair. Harmony looked too thin and too well rested to be pregnant.

                              "People were gushing over me like I was really pregnant," she told Livia. "Everyone wanted to touch the belly. In this case, I think they wanted to see how it felt rather than feel if anything kicked."

                              "How did it feel?" Livia asked her.

                              "It felt like rubber to me," she answered. "And heavy. I don't know how anybody walks around like that for nine months."

                              "Well, it takes a while to get that big," Livia pointed out.

                              The scene was blocked and shot almost exactly like the introduction scene, which was why both were filmed on the same day. The major difference is that instead of meeting a family that does not want her around, Maria is welcomed back as one of them just before she brings a new member of the family into the world.

                              Arus and Maria get married in the United States, where they live and will continue to live. None of that is shown in the movie. In this scene, they have returned to Jerusalem so that their baby will be born there, surrounded by his family. In a sense, Maria wins. She gets what she wanted. In a broader sense, the family wins. With the marriage and baby, and any conceivable future babies, they grow. It is implied that Maria would like to live in Jerusalem after she retires from dancing.

                              Acting pregnant was instinctive with the fake belly. When Harmony sat down on the sofa, she had to move like a pregnant woman. It also provided special challenges.

                              "You can't just flop down when you have a large belly strapped on," she told Livia. "There's a reason you always see women sit down and stand up like that. That's the only way to do it. And with all the lights and all that rubber, I didn't have to act like I was having hot flashes. It really was hot."

                              Harmony ruined one take when she fell to the floor while trying to sit on a sofa. Daniyel sometimes kept the occasional fumbling of actors if it looked organic, but watching Harmony fall down on top of her pregnant belly looked horrifying. Some of the crew gasped, forgetting for a second that the baby was molded silicone.

                              The highlight for Harmony was watching Savta play her part. In the introduction scene, she wants the foreign intruder away from her family. In the pregnant scene, she is the loving grandmother who looks forward to holding her new great grandchild. The scenes are at opposite ends of the movie, so the audience gets to watch the character evolve gradually, but by shooting them at the same time, everyone on set got to watch Savta play an entire movie's worth of character development in one day.

                              When the scene was finished, they were done for the day. They only filmed two scenes, but with multiple shots and setups for each scene, not to mention the wardrobe change, it was a full day. Everyone said goodbye as if it was the last day of filming instead of the first. This was the only time almost all of the cast would be on set at the same time. There would be other group scenes, but not with everyone. Most of the scenes would only have a few characters at a time.

                              Ravid helped Harmony take off the fake belly and carefully packed it away. There were no other pregnant scenes, but Ravid borrowed it from a colleague and wanted to make sure that it was returned as good as new. Harmony damaged her ego while wearing it, but never hurt the belly itself.

                              Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                                Chapter 7
                                The Nude Scene

                                Harmony was picked up from the hotel before dawn and driven to the park by Omri, the oldest production assistant. He was old enough to have a more important job, and looked like he could be one of the producers, but he was satisfied just to be involved in making a movie, even if only on the periphery. That was Harmony's impression, at least. He could not speak a word of English, so their conversations were extremely limited. The park was close enough that she could have walked, but they were driving her to every set regardless of location.

                                "It's almost guaranteed that I would have gotten lost had I made my way there on my own," she told Livia.

                                The streets of Jerusalem were not exactly laid out in a grid pattern. Omri went to the park like he was driving to his local grocery store. He knew exactly where he was with every turn of the wheel. They twisted and turned so much that Harmony had no idea which direction she was facing when they arrived.

                                The park location was actually a series of parks. They were going to film in what were technically three different parks, but they were all connected.

                                "If you can't read the Hebrew signs, you can move from one park to another and not even know it," she told Livia.

                                The first park had a Hebrew name, just like everything else, but its English name was Liberty Bell Park. It was built in 1976 in honor of the American bicentennial. The American connection was not a coincidence. In the movie, Savta is taking Maria to this park after Arus asked her to be nicer to Maria and try to get to know her. For the sake of her grandson, Savta makes an effort. The park scenes expound each character's point of view, but it is not until the dance scene that Savta finally comes around.

                                Filming started as the sun was coming up, which is always a great time to shoot outdoors. Not only is the light ideal, but public places tend to be less crowded when most people are still asleep. This was not a hundred million dollar Tom Cruise production, so it was not like they could block off the entire park, but Harmony assumed that they were authorized to be there. She never saw any police or authority figures question anyone that day.

                                Hair and makeup were done by Noya in a single trailer. While Savta's hair changed subtly with each scene, Harmony always got the American ponytail. Despite Savta being a venerated institution in Israel and Harmony being completely unknown in any country, they shared the same trailer. Savta did not mind at all, and used the time to suggest a few places Harmony should visit while in her city.

                                On set, Elior was using larger HMI lights instead of the smaller tungsten lights they had for the interior scenes. That made the area around the actors brighter, as if they were always in a spotlight. The sound and camera equipment were the same, but there were more people operating more machinery for the exterior scenes. The park was much larger than a room in some house, but Harmony still felt cramped, surrounded by people with headphones and wires on their shoulders. She knew she was going to have to get used to it before everyone realized that she was more suited for the theater.

                                They did a lot of walking shots on stone paths with trees arched above, mostly with Savta and Maria walking side by side while Arus kept a few paces behind. The actors simply walked and talked for each shot, but the crew had to set up different camera positions each time. That meant more waiting around just to walk down a path and pretend to have a conversation. The characters were speaking, but there was no dialogue in any of the shots, so no sound was recorded. These were simple establishing shots.

                                The benefit to waiting around while the crew sets up is that the actors can go over their lines one last time. But that only works if they have lines. Savta and Harmony talked about food while the camera rolled, and Harmony picked up a few cooking tips.

                                "People who can read lips are going to get more out of that scene than anyone intended," she told Livia.

                                Despite the simplicity of the scene, some of the shots demanded multiple takes. There were the usual technical issues with a tracking camera on an exterior set, but they also had their share of human error. Harmony made Savta laugh during a story about her ex boyfriend thinking that all clothes had to be washed with only clothes of the same color. Savta was supposed to be openly judging Maria, so laughter was not appropriate.

                                Another take was ruined when Arus tripped and fell down while everyone was walking. Savta and Harmony were several paces ahead of him and never noticed. Daniyel kept the camera rolling because he thought about keeping it in. They finished the shot before he decided against it.

                                "Something I noticed right away about this crew is that they keep going until the director tells them to stop," Harmony told Livia. "Even when someone makes an obvious mistake, no one assumes they're going to do it over until he says so."

                                "Have they all worked together before?" Livia asked her.

                                "I think a lot of them have," she answered. "So they know that this director leaves in mistakes if it works."

                                Finished with the establishing shots, everyone moved to a shaded area of the park with no lack of stone seats surrounding rows of trees. This scene was not only easier to shoot from a technical standpoint, but it also gave Savta a chance to sit down while working. No one was about to push her too hard physically. She was free to call for breaks any time she wanted, and everyone on set was mindful of her age, even though she acted younger than she was.

                                "She isn't fragile," Harmony told Livia. "She seems stronger than a lot of people half her age. But everyone treats her like a priceless vase."

                                Most of the dialogue was shot around the trees. While Savta and Maria sit and talk, Elior and the boom operator moved around them, following the only path on the ground. Daniyel and the rest of the crew watched everything on monitors behind a wall of trees a few feet away. The trees also hid the stands for all the lights and reflectors, which were high enough to be out of the shot. That left the camera free to shoot from any angle without catching anyone else in the shot.

                                This was Harmony's first scene with any real dialogue, but she was less nervous about that than she would have been without Savta, who was always a generous actor to work with. Having Shabbat dinner with Savta and her family helped them get to know each other a lot better than merely seeing each other on set. Knowing how different Savta was from her character, Harmony was looking forward to arguing with her on camera.

                                The hardest part about acting this scene was sitting next to Savta and watching her in awe while Maria resents her controlling and manipulation. Harmony even spoiled a take when she smiled at the way Savta turned her head while delivering a line.

                                "You are becoming angry at her," Daniyel reminded her in between takes. "Not admiring."

                                Harmony always felt bad whenever she killed a shot. This might not have been a blockbuster production by Hollywood standards, but Daniyel had a lot of nervous people counting on him to deliver a finished movie on schedule and under budget. Harmony was nowhere near any budget meetings, but she knew that extra takes took extra time and money.

                                Savta was still at full speed and ready to go, but they had to take a break while the camera crew set up the next scene. Savta and Harmony talked with the actor playing Arus, whom Harmony did not know at all. She met him at the table read and they worked together during the introduction scenes at the house, but they had never spoken to each other off set. He was playing her fianc?, but she knew the actors playing her rival and nemesis better than she knew him. Harmony's impression was that he was more movie star than actor.

                                Savta and Arus knew all about each other. They had never worked together, but as celebrities in Israel, they were aware of each other's history. Behind Savta, Arus was actually the second lead of the movie and the most famous actor on set. He was never a pretty boy leading man, but he was handsome enough to have a few love scenes on his CV. In the parks, Harmony was working with this movie's two biggest movie stars. Before Jerusalem, she had never heard of them.

                                The cast got much bigger for the next scene. They were extras whom Harmony would never see again, but they played an important role, especially for the camera crew. Liberty Bell Park had three basketball courts lined up next to each other. In this scene, Arus and Maria are walking through the basketball courts to meet Savta. There are easier ways to get into the park, but Arus is mixed up and leading them in the hard way. This is one of several references throughout the movie that Arus has forgotten his home since moving to the United States.

                                Daniyel wanted Arus and Maria to walk through the courts while people were playing and a few balls flew past their heads without actually hitting anyone. This entailed some choreography, made more difficult by the fact that no one on set was a professional basketball player.

                                They did a few takes, mostly because the balls never wanted to go where Daniyel wanted them. A few balls almost hit the camera. Arus spoiled one take when he tripped over a stray ball and Harmony spoiled another when she let out an involuntary Sarah Jessica Parker scream as a ball bounced off of a pole and careened in her general direction. Other than that, all Arus and Maria had to do was walk across a basketball court.

                                After Daniyel got the closest thing to an action scene this movie was ever going to have, the extras were dismissed and the crew set up at a series of stone stairs leading from one park to another. There were enough flat surfaces on which to place the camera, and the different levels let Daniyel position the actors exactly where he wanted them.

                                In this scene, Maria is talking on the phone to people in the United States while Savta complains to Arus that Maria is too career oriented. Daniyel positioned Maria on a landing at the bottom of the stairs and put Savta and Arus at the top of the stairs above her. Maria is facing away from everyone and concentrating on her phone conversation. Arus is several steps below Savta, facing her with his back to Maria. Savta is above everyone, facing Maria and intermittently looking at her and Arus while talking to Arus. The position of each character tells the audience as much as the dialogue.

                                The first take was beautiful. Harmony was mostly concentrating on her character, but she was also listening to Savta. She knew that was a bad idea while it was happening, but she wanted to pay attention to Savta's performance as well as her own. Anyone who studied the Meisner technique knows that acting is about reacting, but in this scene, Maria is supposed to be oblivious to Savta's conversation.

                                None of that mattered since the microphones around Savta and Arus were not working properly. The cast had to wait around while the sound crew rewired everything for the second take. This time, Harmony mostly ignored the conversation behind her and focused on the pretend conversation on her phone. It was probably a better performance. At least on her part. Arus inverted his lines and they had to start over. By the final take, Harmony was as oblivious to the conversation as Maria was supposed to be. When Daniyel cut the shot, Harmony had no idea if it was good or not.

                                Alan Alda once said that some of the most difficult scenes on M*A*S*H were when they had to act only one side of a phone conversation. Part of that was because the actor is reacting to nothing. More often than not, there was no one on the other end of the phone. In his case, part of the problem was that there often was someone on the other end. Other actors and producers would try to make whoever was on camera laugh as much as possible.

                                Harmony did not have to worry about practical jokes during her scene. This was not a cast and crew who seemed to know anything about practical jokes. Maybe that was considered unprofessional in Israel. The cell phone she used was turned off. Reacting to silence was not all that difficult because she imagined the other end of the phone call. Maria is talking about career problems, and Harmony had enough of those conversations to wing it.

                                The last exterior scene of the day was next to the stairs at a place called Teddy Park, but everyone called it Mitchell Garden. Regardless of the name, it was a green slope on a hill with a large splash fountain in the middle. Daniyel wanted to shoot at this location while the water jets were turned on. That meant running the risk of other people in the park. Shooting early enough in the day that the park was empty would mean the fountain would be turned off. By the time the shoot got to Teddy Park/Mitchell Garden, the city had been wide awake for hours.

                                "These are the risks of filming on location," Hisham told Harmony.

                                Hisham seemed to appear out of nowhere, but he arrived on set while they were shooting the basketball scene. Despite being a high level producer, he had a way of coming and going without attracting any attention to himself.

                                "I found that odd," Harmony told Livia. "Most people in his position make a lot of noise when they walk in the room. They're here and they want everyone to know it. This guy is a lot more subtle."

                                They were set up in the park on a Monday morning, so it was not crowded, but there were some children playing in the water. They would not interfere with Daniyel's plans at all, but Hisham and a few crew members talked to their parents and got everyone to sign release forms. The people in the park would only appear in the background, at most, but it is always a good idea to get the legal issues out of the way.

                                Some of the parkgoers gathered around to watch as the crew set up all of the equipment, but the children quickly got bored and went back to the fountain. By the time the crew was ready to shoot, there was practically no audience at all.

                                This was another scene with the characters sitting around and talking. During an early take, Harmony was distracted by a few children taking off their clothes to go into the fountain.

                                "I didn't expect that," she told Livia. "Jerusalem is the last place I expected to see any public nudity. Even from small children."

                                Daniyel liked how Maria's attention wanders off during the conversation. It fit with the dialogue and Savta's perception that she is too disinterested in the importance of family. At the same time, it could be interpreted as Maria having more interest in children and the future than in what some future in-law wants to lecture her about. So they used that distraction for subsequent takes. The naked children would appear on film as little more than blurry figures in the distance.

                                "There are no nude scenes in the script," Harmony told Livia. "That one was completely improvised."

                                When they were done with the fountain scene, Harmony was finished until she had to be at the house where Arus and Maria were staying. The call sheet had her scheduled for later that night, so she had a long break. Hisham offered to take her out to lunch. She had no other plans or invitations, so she accepted. The production provided a few snacks on set and cases full of bottled water, but after shooting all morning, she was ready to eat.

                                When Harmony came out of her trailer, Hisham saw her as herself for the first time. Instead of the short but not too revealing dresses that she wore on set, she was in a long skirt that practically reached her ankles. She had absolutely no makeup on and had untied the American ponytail. Getting out of wardrobe on this movie was always uncomplicated, except after the pregnant scene, but putting her hair back to normal was the easiest thing in the world. As Maria, Harmony always looked like she was attending a new club opening. As herself, she looked more like one of Savta's relatives at Shabbat than a fashionable foreigner.

                                When Hisham saw her, he smiled. "This is the real you," he said.

                                That struck Harmony as a little ironic since it was not entirely the real her. She never wore Maria's clothes in the real world, but she was starting to dress more Israeli in Jerusalem than she would ever dress in the high humidity at home.

                                Hisham took her to Racha, a Georgian restaurant just off Jaffa Street. It was yet another place next to the hotel that she had never noticed. Whenever Harmony walked onto Jaffa Street from the hotel, she would either turn left or right. Had she merely kept going straight after crossing the street, this restaurant would have been directly in front of her.

                                When Hisham first mentioned going to a Georgian restaurant, Harmony was expecting grits, collards and corn bread.

                                "That would be great," she said. "I haven't had soul food in a long time."

                                Naturally, Hisham was talking about Georgia, the country. When they walked into the small restaurant that looked like a converted house somewhere in Eastern Europe, Harmony knew she would not be getting any mac and cheese.

                                "The best Georgian food in Israel," Hisham announced.

                                Since this was the only Georgian restaurant Harmony ever tried in Israel, or anywhere else in the world, she would have to take his word for it.

                                This was not the type of restaurant Harmony expected from Hisham. He was a movie producer who clearly had money. He knew everyone everywhere he went and knew how to schmooze a crowd. He almost never wore a suit, but neither did anyone else. It was usually too hot for a sport coat, but that seemed to be the standard business suit. Harmony could not remember seeing a single man walking the streets in a tie. When Hisham invited her to lunch, she pictured a bright space with lots of windows and white tables and people nibbling from large plates with tiny portions. She pictured M?lisse in Santa Monica.

                                Racha was a cozy restaurant that looked a little like a run down building from the outside. There was nothing trendy about the street, although it was very close to the main shopping boulevard. Instead of whatever restaurant was fashionable among the trendsetters that week, it was the kind of place that stayed in business for generations. Racha was one of those family owned restaurants where guests actually met the owners. The chef and hostess were brother and sister. Their father made the drinks, including a strong brandy/vodka called chacha that everyone wanted Harmony to try. It was lunch and she had to go to work later, so getting shickered was not on her schedule.

                                "Israel makes the best badrijani," Hisham told her while suggesting what she should order.

                                Harmony thought it was odd that a Georgian dish would be better in Israel than in Georgia, but Israel turned out to be the name of the chef.

                                "That's just asking for confusion," Livia submitted. "That's like a stripper in China named China. People say you need a visa to enter China, but I know a guy who got in China for twenty bucks."

                                Badrijani turned out to be stuffed eggplant with walnut paste and pomegranate seeds. Harmony could not say if it was better in Georgia or Israel, but what Israel made for them in Israel was pretty good. Fortunately, no one at the restaurant was named Georgia.

                                Just like any other cuisine, it was the spices that made the food unique. This restaurant was especially fond of thyme, mint, dill, marjoram, and assorted herbs that Harmony could not identify.

                                Their lunch would have taken an hour, but Hisham and Harmony were not at a loss for words. They talked about the movie, which was a more interesting conversation since he was almost an outsider. He had read the script and helped finance the production, but he knew less about how the director and actors were planning on making everything work. She liked not being the least knowledgeable person on set for once.

                                They talked about food in Israel and food in various countries to which they had each traveled. Hisham had plenty to say about Israeli food since he lived there. Harmony was still trying to find it. Every time someone took her out to eat, it was always at anything but an Israeli restaurant. Hisham pointed out that she had the most authentic Israeli meal she could ever possibly have when she ate Shabbat dinner at Savta's house. He was also a little jealous that Harmony knew Savta for five minutes and got invited to her house while he knew her for years and had no idea where she lived.

                                They talked about life in their chosen countries. He lived in Jerusalem forever and was born a few miles from his house. She moved abroad several years ago and was born seven thousand miles from her apartment. He thought Israel was a great place to live and raise a family. It was a beacon of freedom and democracy where every religion and race could live together in perfect harmony side by side like a piano keyboard. She lived in China, a communist dictatorship where people had to fight for their right to live in freedom.

                                "How do you leave America for a place like China?" Hisham asked her. "It is a very different place."

                                "It's a very different place," she answered. "That's what I like about it. It's nothing like where I grew up."

                                Hisham was in his late forties and old enough to have a family of his own, but he had never been married. He was shorter than Harmony expected of a movie producer, but comparable to most of the men walking around Jerusalem. He was not fat, but broader than men half his age. Also unlike most younger men, he was bald.

                                "He's gay," Livia decided.

                                "Not every unmarried person is gay," Harmony pointed out.

                                "At that age, it's far more likely," Livia said.

                                Harmony had to admit that when Hisham told her he had never been married, the thought briefly crossed her mind. It made no difference to her either way, but he seemed too heterosexual to be gay. He was the sort of producer who used his position and influence to bed models and movie stars.

                                "There are no women in Jerusalem which are approved by both my family and me," Hisham explained, even though he owed her no explanation.

                                "How does he know?" Livia asked Harmony. "Has he tried them all?"

                                "Probably," she answered. "He's a rich movie producer in his forties without a beer belly. I don't think he's a virgin."

                                When the subject of relationships came up, Harmony mentioned that she ended one that lasted a third of her life. Hisham was bewitched that she could stay with one person for so long, but bewildered that they never bothered to get married.

                                Harmony was surprised by how much she opened up about her last boyfriend to a man who was practically a stranger. She was learning a great deal about him during this conversation, but they had only met the day before. She got the impression that he was surprised by how much he was opening up to her as well. They were evidently both comfortable talking to each other about a wide range of subjects.

                                Harmony's last scene of the day was at a house they were using for Arus and Maria. Early in the movie, Arus and his mother get in an argument over where he and Maria should stay while they are in Jerusalem. His mother wants them to stay at her house, but Arus wants more privacy with his fianc?e. Instead of coming out and saying that he is on vacation and wants as much boning time as possible, he lets his family believe that Maria is the one who wants to be away from them. That only amplifies their belief that Maria is taking him away.

                                The set was a small two story house in the French Hill neighborhood. It was made of the same white stone as every other building in Jerusalem, but it was unmistakably newer than most. It had two floors, but it was barely big enough for two people. With all of the equipment and crew packed inside, it felt even smaller. It was almost like a cottage on a street surrounded by similar cottages. It was on a quiet residential street with only a few cars parked outside and little noise. Until the crew showed up.

                                The scene that night was Arus and Maria getting into a big argument and breaking up. Arus is torn between wanting to continue with the new life he made for himself in the United States and reuniting with his family in their homeland. Maria wants to stick with the plan they had all along and not completely uproot her entire life and move to an alien part of the world. The movie, for its part, makes no judgment. The family undeniably wants Arus to return to them, but that is not shown as the correct or only option.

                                This was one of Harmony's favorite scenes to shoot in the entire movie. Daniyel, as the movie's screenwriter, fully admitted to her that he was undecided what Maria should say. As an Israeli man, writing dialogue for an American woman was foreign to him. That was never an issue most of the time since Maria is only a supporting character and most of her dialogue is reactive. In this scene, she helps drive the action.

                                They filmed the scene as written for the first take of the first shot, but then Daniyel told Harmony to improvise. He was generally good at letting his actors go off script, but there were always limits. When the director is also the writer, he is usually married to his words. For this scene, he let her loose.

                                Everyone knew what the scene was about, and Harmony had a better idea of how an American woman might react in this situation than anyone else on set. She broke up with her real world boyfriend over roughly similar circumstances. They moved to a foreign country together. Among other problems, he wanted to go back home and she wanted to stay. Harmony could easily relate to Maria's need to stick with their original plan and the fact that her career was better served by staying where she was.

                                Free to do pretty much whatever she wanted, Harmony used the second take to say to Arus a few things she never got the opportunity to tell her boyfriend. As an actor, that was fun. As an emotional human being, it was cathartic. The best performances always come when the actor fully exposes herself to the character. With all of the crew and so much equipment surrounding her in such a tight space, she used the claustrophobic setting to her emotional advantage. Unfortunately, they could not use that take. Daniyel's opinion was that Harmony spoke too quickly at some points and was drowning the audience with too much information. The script supervisor spoke English, but was lost after a few sentences.

                                This movie was mostly in Hebrew and most of the people in the theaters would only have a passing acquaintance with English. The English scenes would have Hebrew subtitles and, according to Daniyel, the subtitles would never be able to follow everything Harmony said in the time and space constraints on screen. Knowing how Chinese subtitles cut out large patches of English dialogue, often to the point of altering the tenor of the scene, she could see what he meant. Reading the Chinese subtitles of Aaron Sorkin dialogue is like reading the Reader's Digest version of The Brothers Karamazov.

                                Daniyel did not want Harmony to dumb anything down, but rather keep in mind that she was speaking in a foreign language to the audience.

                                For the next take, she changed the pace, but tore into Arus. Since she did not know Arus personally, he was essentially an analogue of her former boyfriend. They had to stop while Harmony felt she was only getting started because the microphones picked up too much laughter from the crew. The scene was not intended to be funny, but when Maria implies that Arus is not particularly well endowed, some of the crew were highly amused.

                                Harmony was told some time later that the actor was infamous for having a small penis. There was some kind of celebrity scandal a year or two earlier with a bachelor party stripper describing him in intimate detail. Harmony knew absolutely nothing about it at the time, but it was a sensitive enough subject that Daniyel asked her to steer clear of anything about genitalia. Maria could question how much of a man he is for how easily he is willing to acquiesce to his family's demands, but she should not mention his tiny manhood. Harmony's movement around the small room was already restricted by the lights and camera. The more they shot, the more restrictions there were on the dialogue.

                                More than a few takes of several shots later, they were finished with the argument portion of the evening. The one scene required multiple shots and each shot required multiple takes. That was the downside to improvisation. It can be exhilarating as an actor to let the character decide what to say, but it is not always what the director wants them to say. Mix in two actors with different native languages and a scene can quickly veer off the cliff.

                                The rest of the scene was establishing shots and Arus and Maria sitting in silence after they have both accepted the fact that their relationship is no more.

                                "They get back together, don't they?" Livia asked Harmony.

                                "Of course they do," she answered. "You read the script. We already shot the scene where they come back from the United States and she's pregnant. This is just the part where all the family issues are too much for them."

                                Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                                  Chapter 8
                                  Four Quarters

                                  Despite the late night adventure on the dark streets of Jerusalem, Harmony woke up early the next day. Her body had clearly adjusted to Israel time and she was going to wake up early no matter what. She had the day off, but a leisurely stroll around town was out of the question. There was simply too much to do.

                                  Hisham offered to show her around town during the day. He had even more days off from shooting than she did, and he was bound to know more about his city than she would have accidentally discovered from wandering around.

                                  "But you like just wandering around a new city," Livia pointed out.

                                  "That's true," she agreed. "But I also like seeing things I'd miss on my own. When a local offers to play tour guide, you accept."

                                  Harmony thought about taking a guided tour of the Old City. She knew that she might stumble onto something interesting while looking around by herself, but the guides already knew where everything was, the easiest ways to get there and how to look around without getting into trouble. Hisham was not an official tour guide, but he lived in Jerusalem his entire life.

                                  "Choose your religion," Hisham said to Harmony as they walked through the widest opening to the city.

                                  "I'd rather not," she replied.

                                  "The Old City is divided into four religions," Hisham said. "Which would you like to first visit?"

                                  "We're in Israel," Harmony said. "Let's go Jewish."

                                  Hisham led them straight to the Western Wall. Harmony had already been there, but they went into the plaza from a different entrance. There was a much longer line and far more security checking everyone's bags, and everything took longer. This was the second busiest way to get in, after the unfortunately named Dung Gate. She previously entered from the smallest side entrance with no line and relatively little security, even though the plaza itself was busier on that day.

                                  At the Western Wall, Hisham explained what everyone was doing. Harmony already knew what the wall was and that actually touching it required going to either the male or female side. On Independence Day, it was party time and there were flags everywhere. Today was prayer day with only one large flag at the center of the plaza and a few smaller flags atop some of the Jewish Quarter buildings.

                                  Hisham let Harmony in on the dress code and gave a few helpful tips. He said that she could go to the women's side without offending anyone or changing clothes. Harmony did not ordinarily dress like a street prostitute or Walmart shopper, so she already looked "modest" enough for most religious sites. The first time she went to the Western Wall, she wore her usual walking around clothes. This time, she had a long skirt and long sleeve shirt. Harmony was starting to embrace Jerusalem's hot and dry fashion.

                                  Hisham said that only men and married women had to wear hats at the wall. Harmony had a sun hat on, but contemplated how anyone could possibly know if she was married or not. She decided not to ask. That could have easily led to a long religious conversation that she did not want to have. Hisham wore his usual business casual suit without anything covering his bald head. He could not have gone to the wall without getting some kind of hat. Harmony marveled at how he kept that dome from getting sunburned.

                                  Hisham waited for Harmony in the plaza while she walked up to the wall. The women's side was not empty, but it was far from crowded. She could walk right up to the wall without getting in anyone's way. When she touched the wall, Harmony almost expected some kind of electrical shock. This was the single holiest site in the oldest Abrahamic religion in the world. It has drawn countless people from all over the world to revere, pray and photograph. Harmony wanted something magical to happen when she touched it.

                                  "Maybe not have all the secrets of the universe revealed to me," she told Livia. "That might be asking too much. But something."

                                  The white stone was a little cold despite being out in the open sun, but all in all, it was just another brick in the wall. She wrote a message down on a small piece of paper and crammed it in the cracks, as people do. Like a wish before blowing out candles, no one is supposed to tell people what they wrote. So that will have to be a secret between her and the stone.

                                  Finished looking at a big wall, Harmony wanted to go up the ramp to the Temple Mount. Hisham said that would have to wait until later in the day. He seemed certain, but she had no idea how he knew. She decided to take his word for it. It might have been because there was absolutely no one on the ramp or waiting in line to get in.

                                  Instead, he took her on a short tour of the Jewish Quarter. Harmony wanted to be blown away by Hisham's knowledge of the area's ancient history and archeology, but he kept pointing out how new everything was.

                                  "When I was here earlier, I saw all kinds of ancient looking buildings," she told him. "Why is everything in the Jewish Quarter so new?"

                                  "The old buildings were destroyed when Jordan invaded in 1948," Hisham told her.

                                  "They only destroyed the Jewish Quarter?" she asked.

                                  "That is correct," he answered. "The Jewish residents were expelled. The Christian residents were forced to allow Muslim prayer in their churches."

                                  "That's not very nice," she said.

                                  Hisham laughed.

                                  Crossing the border into the Christian Quarter was more than conspicuous. They went from clean, wide streets with buildings from a few decades ago to narrow alleys with buildings from a few millennia ago. Even without the sudden crucifixes in the shop windows, it would have been indisputable that a different religion occupied this land.

                                  Hisham led Harmony straight to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. She had stumbled onto it by accident last time. Hisham knew exactly where it was.

                                  "The most sacred site of another Middle East religion," Hisham announced at the small parvis outside the church.

                                  "This is a Christian church," she pointed out, amazed that he thought it was from a Middle Eastern religion.

                                  "Precisely," he agreed. "The Christians are equally Middle East as the Muslims and the Jews."

                                  Harmony had to take a step back, but that was a good point. They all started in the same place. But as an American, she thought of Islam as Middle Eastern and Christianity and Judaism as Western. Roman Catholics are Italy. Irish Catholics are Ireland. The Protestant Reformation started in Germany. But Jesus was as Middle Eastern as falafel. He might be white in movies, but it seems unlikely that he ever spoke with a British accent.

                                  The dress code was even more strict than at the Western Wall, but Harmony was covered enough. The biggest difference was the hats. Men were supposed to wear them at the wall but take them off in the church. Harmony was initially worried that she might look too Jewish for Christianity's holiest site. Then she noticed that a number of perceptibly Christian women also wore long skirts and long sleeves. What she thought of as Jewish clothing was actually Jerusalem clothing. The only noticeable difference between the Jewish women at the wall and the Christian women at the church was the head coverings. With her less than traditional sun hat, Harmony looked like neither.

                                  As soon as they stepped inside the church, Hisham transformed into a learned scholar. He took Harmony to the Stone of Anointing, Calvary, the Aedicule and Catholicon, describing everything along the way in hushed tones. He could identify most, if not all, of the assorted Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Ethiopian Orthodox chapels. They were in a large building with at least two hundred other people, but it was never noisy. Hisham made sure to speak softly, as did all of the other tour guides. Unlike the outdoor Western Wall, this was a subdued environment.

                                  When Harmony was in the church earlier, she understood the basic architecture of altar, transept, ambulatory and nave, and the Stone of Anointing and Sepulchre were pretty unmistakable once she saw them, but she had no idea what any of the chapels were about. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was nothing like any church or cathedral she had ever seen. She would need a map or tour guide to see most of it. There was no simple cruciform floor plan here.

                                  Harmony saw less than a third of the church when she went on her own. Hisham took her upstairs, downstairs, around corners and through doors she never knew existed. He took her to the chapels of Adam, Mary Magdalene, Saint Helena, everything else east of the Catholicon and the Greek Orthodox chapels south of the Aedicule.

                                  He took her upstairs to Calvary and illustrated how where they stood might have been outside the city walls at the time. Harmony already knew that there was a lot of controversy around that. If Calvary was outside the city walls then there was a hill giving any potential invaders an advantage and pretty much rendering the wall useless. But if Calvary was inside the city walls then no one would have been executed there. She could sense that Hisham knew all about the controversies while he talked. They were surrounded by Christians praying and taking pictures, so he was careful not to start a riot.

                                  He took her to the ornate Catholicon, with high ceiling murals and architecture as impressive as any grand European cathedral. They saw what looked like a flower pot marking the center of the world.

                                  "This is the third center of the world I've seen," Harmony pointed out.

                                  When Hisham looked at her like she might have dropped a few marbles somewhere along the way, Harmony explained that the name China literally means "Middle Kingdom"; their belief that China is the center of the world.

                                  The first time she went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she saw the Aedicule. It was impossible to miss. Stevie Wonder could find it. But she never went inside. She was unsure if she should, and it was a little crowded.

                                  "Today is reasonable," Hisham declared.

                                  There was a line of people waiting to get in, but it was far shorter than the other day. People waited patiently beside the Aedicule. Earlier, they were wrapped around and twisting in all directions like it was a roller coaster line.

                                  When it was their turn, Hisham and Harmony walked to the Angel's Stone, which may or may not have been part of the stone that sealed the tomb. They were supposed to touch it, but once again, Harmony felt nothing. Countless Christians from all over the world come to touch this stone, but it did nothing for her. It was colder than the Western Wall, probably because it was entirely indoors twenty four hours a day.

                                  They practically crawled to get into the Sepulchre. It was designed that way on purpose. The room was far too small for any security personnel to ensure that people bowed when entering, but the doorway was little more than four feet high. Most adults had no choice but to bow.

                                  Harmony appreciated the architecture and history of all the holy sites she visited in Jerusalem, but none of them were having any effect on her. When she kneeled at the tomb, she had a hard time focusing on anything. Her eyes were watering and tears trickled down her face. There was no electrical shock as she hoped to feel at the Western Wall, mostly because it was impossible to touch the tomb itself, but she definitely felt something.

                                  When they left the tomb, Harmony wanted to apologize to Hisham, or explain what happened. She wanted to say something.

                                  "This is your culture," he said to her.

                                  Nothing in this church meant anything to Hisham other than from a historical perspective, but he intuitively knew how Harmony was feeling. It occurred to her that she never saw him go to the men's side of the Western Wall, but that could have more to do with the fact that he was showing her around and that he lived there. He could touch the wall any time.

                                  They took a break and sat down outside the nave of the Catholicon, near the Chapel of Mary Magdalene. From there, they had a good view of several different architectural styles controlled by a few different churches.

                                  "I'm not usually a crier," she said to him.

                                  "This is the emotional place," he said to her. "This is where Jesus was killed, buried and resurrected."

                                  "But you don't believe in any of that," she said.

                                  "Why does it matter what I believe?" he asked. "Those who come here believe many important things occurred here. This is a great deal to experience under one roof."

                                  "I don't even think of myself as a Christian," she told him.

                                  "You grew up in Christianism, did you not?" he asked her.

                                  "Very much so," she answered.

                                  "That is why this place is emotional for you," he said. "You can remove yourself from the customs and traditions of your culture, but they will always be within you. I could move to America and become the banker or the stock broker, but Jerusalem would always be within me. Your soul does not care where you are living."

                                  There were more tiny rooms to see, but Hisham led Harmony outside for some fresh air. This parvis was not nearly as elaborate as Notre Dame or St. Peter's Basilica, but it screamed its history loud and clear.

                                  "It's impossible not to be impressed when you walk into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre," she told Livia.

                                  "Why is it impossible to touch the tomb?" Livia asked her.

                                  "They put a large marble slab over it a few hundred years ago," she answered. "It's there to protect the stone from millions of visitors, but it was like touching a slab of marble. What you feel when you're in there isn't anything physical."

                                  "Are you saying it's spiritual?" Livia asked.

                                  "I don't know," she answered. "Maybe it's psychological. You hear about something for a long enough time and actually seeing it in person can do something to you."

                                  Hisham turned out to be the perfect tour guide. He was not only well educated on the religious and cultural history of his city, but he was more than patient when all of that history started to drown Harmony. Rather than rush her to get through a programmed tour, he was happy to move at her pace. They were there for her to see things he had already seen many times before.

                                  Crossing from the Christian Quarter into the Muslim Quarter was far less telling on the back alleys. There were no shops selling religious souvenirs and all of the streets pretty much looked the same. Looking at the people did not help since few were walking around in the traditional uniforms of their faith. Someone with a crucifix around their neck could pass one second and someone wearing a taqiyah the next second. Then there would be an old man in a kippah. Looking at hats said nothing about where they were.

                                  "It's great that all these people can live so close to each other," Harmony said to Hisham. "But how do you know where you are?"

                                  "Street signs," he answered, pointing to a plaque on a wall in Hebrew and Arabic.

                                  To Harmony, the Old City of Jerusalem was an exotic realm of legend and ancient mystery. To Hisham, the Old City was downtown.

                                  They were soon at the first Station of the Cross, where Pontius Pilate turned fifteen minutes of fame into immortality. From there, they walked west, more or less, down the most crowded street in the Old City. Harmony suspected that it was crowded because they were on the famous Via Dolorosa. Hisham told her that it was so crowded because they were in the Muslim Quarter, which was more crowded in general. Most of the people seemed to be where they wanted to be and not walking west with them.

                                  Hisham pointed out each subsequent station along the way until they were back at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, home to the last few. Harmony pondered how anyone could be sure that each station was in the right location, but since they were now mostly churches, no one was ever going to change them. The stations were all clearly marked. The markers could be moved, but the churches were staying put.

                                  Having heard about all of this throughout her childhood, it was nice to walk in the actual place. Or at least where most experts agree might be the actual place. The locations might not be exact, but it was a great walk through history either way.

                                  "I can say I'm not a Christian all I want," Harmony told Livia. "But walking down that short street meant more to me than it should have."

                                  From the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, they walked through the Jewish Quarter and practically out of the Old City. They walked around the Western Wall Plaza to an entrance next to the plaza entrance where they waited in a long line. The lines to enter the plaza moved quickly while their line stood still.

                                  "This is not yet open," Hisham told her. "We will advance quickly as it opens."

                                  While waiting, they talked about all of the Christian history they had just seen. Hisham was most definitely not a Christian, but he knew it from an anthropological point of view more than Harmony ever could. She knew the lyrics to "Jesus Loves Me" and "Bringing In the Sheaves". He knew where all the bodies were buried.

                                  Harmony thought about how a few people warned her not to talk about anything Jewish on or near the Temple Mount, and here they were talking about the life and death of the most famous Jew in the world.

                                  "Talk of the Christians is acceptable," Hisham told her. "It is best do not mention the other religion here."

                                  Harmony did not mind at all if people inferred she was Jewish because of her new clothes, but she did not want to be turned away from the Temple Mount. This was most likely her only opportunity to get in. Walking around the Old City showed her how common her style of dress was, but no one was going to mistake her for a Muslim. In Hisham's business clothes, he could have been anything.

                                  When the line started to move, it moved quickly. Some of the people waiting in line were refused entry and had to turn around. At a guard shack, Hisham spoke to a few security personnel in either Hebrew or Arabic. Other men in line were talking to other men in uniforms. The women in line, like Harmony, waited patiently while the men talked to male security guards.

                                  This was looking like the most difficult place in Jerusalem to get into. Each religion controlled their own sites in the Old City. She had to go through Jewish armed security to get to the Western Wall and Christian priests to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. She walked up to both places, no questions asked. A few pilgrims were asked to take off their hats at the church, but everyone was allowed inside. Getting onto the ramp that took them to the Temple Mount was a palpably different atmosphere.

                                  Harmony was bracing herself for the bad news that they could not go in. Muslims were more strict about their security, at least for outsiders. Everyone of every religion or race got into the Western Wall Plaza and Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the same entrances. The Temple Mount was segregated. Muslims could get in from an easier path on the other end of the Western Wall. The rest of the world had to go through the security checkpoint and walk up a narrow cattle ramp. Even wearing an unadorned crucifix necklace would keep someone out. The Jewish and Christian sites never checked anyone's jewelry. Their chief concern was hats.

                                  Harmony knew that this was her only chance. If she could not get in with Hisham, it would be almost inconceivable alone. She had her passport in hand, hoping that the American coat of arms would work as well here as it did at airports around the world.

                                  "We give you billions of dollars every year," she wanted to say, knowing that never persuades anybody. But no one ever asked to see her passport. Hisham's identification was apparently good enough.

                                  After a lot of talking in a short amount of time, their bags went through an x-ray machine and they were walking up the wooden ramp to the Temple Mount. She knew this was a place she was probably only going to see once in her lifetime. The rebel in her sang a Jewish song in her head.

                                  "Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay," Harmony sang to herself. "And when it's something something, with dreidel I will play."

                                  From the ramp, they walked onto an open plaza. It almost looked like a garden. There were cypress trees all over the place and a couple of pretty famous buildings. It could have been a nice quiet garden in the middle of the cramped Old City if not for all the people walking around and taking pictures. This plaza was more demonstrably Muslim with everyone in their religious uniforms. Women of all ages wore head scarves and long robes. Older men wore long robes over matching pants, most with small hats. Younger men wore tight jeans and tighter t-shirts. But there was no lack of nondenominational visitors with backpacks and cameras. Most of the people did not have their heads covered at all.

                                  "We are outdoors," Hisham told Harmony. "It is not obligatory."

                                  She had her sun hat, more for the sun than any idea of propriety. With all of the different rules for when to cover indoors and when to cover outdoors, a nice sun hat proved convenient.

                                  From the only entrance anyone can take if they are not Muslim, the first thing she saw was the al Aqsa Mosque.

                                  "The third most sacred site to another Middle East religion," Hisham said.

                                  "What are the first two?" Harmony asked him.

                                  "Masjid al Haram in Mecca and Masjid an Nabawi in Medina," he answered.

                                  "Can non-Muslims go there?" she asked.

                                  "No," he answered.

                                  "So anyone can go to the holiest Jewish site, as long as you wear a hat," she said. "And anyone can go to the holiest Christian site, as long as you don't wear a hat. But you have to be Muslim to go to any of the holiest Muslim sites."

                                  "We are not at the ideal location for discussing this," Hisham told her.

                                  His tone was as calm and friendly as usual, but it was essentially a warning. Anyone can say whatever they want in Jerusalem, just like any city in any other democracy. But the Temple Mount was almost like being in Soviet Russia. Some thoughts were better left unspoken and outsiders were always watched.

                                  "I bet it's beautiful inside," Harmony said, looking at the mosque.

                                  "You could convert," Hisham joked.

                                  "How hard is that?" she asked him.

                                  She knew that he was not serious, but she was curious, and discussing details of Islam seemed like a safe conversation at this location.

                                  "Up until it wasn't," she told Livia. "We were talking about the pillars of Islam when some young guy in jeans and a child's t-shirt came up to us and wanted to correct everything Hisham was telling me. Our conversation was none of this guy's business, and we were nowhere near anyone else, so it's not like we were disturbing anybody. He just wanted to contradict Hisham for no reason."

                                  "Maybe he wanted to make sure you got accurate information," Livia speculated.

                                  "Maybe," she said. "But what difference does it make? Hisham wasn't lecturing an impressionable group of students. He was just talking to me, one person. I don't know if everything Hisham told me was correct, but I'm sure I've seen far more misinformation online. And it really doesn't matter either way. If I overheard a random stranger tell someone on the street that Jesus had a monkey tail and could bark the Star Spangled Banner, I wouldn't force myself into their conversation. It wouldn't be any of my business."

                                  "Maybe this guy just didn't like infidels on his turf," Livia suggested.

                                  "That's more what it felt like," she said. "We were trespassers and he wanted us to know it."

                                  "I'm sure that happens a lot in Jerusalem," Livia said.

                                  "I've never seen it," she told Livia. "Only at this one place. Everyone else seems pretty friendly. We were pretty much surrounded by Muslims on the Temple Mount. If they wanted to give us a hard time, they easily could have. Maybe tour groups are a harder target, but it was just two of us. We were more vulnerable than anyone. The old guys in robes mostly smiled at me. I didn't talk to them, but they didn't seem to have a problem with me on their mount. It was only the younger twenty somethings in jeans and t-shirts two sizes too small who seemed like they had a chip on their shoulders. Most of the women ignored me, regardless of their age."

                                  Across from the mosque was the Dome of the Rock. They could not go in, but they were allowed to look around the outside. Most of the plaza looked like a garden, but the dome was on a raised stone platform with smaller stone structures and no vegetation. And people sauntering around taking pictures.

                                  "No one prays at the dome," she told Livia. "Muslims pray at the mosque and Jews are not allowed to pray anywhere near the dome."

                                  "What about Christians?" Livia asked her.

                                  "Why would Christians want to pray there?" she asked Livia. "Besides, you can pray Christian style without anyone noticing. When Muslims and Jews pray, it's pretty obvious."

                                  "Why would Jews want to pray there?" Livia asked her. "They have their wall. Maybe it's not a temple, but it's better than nothing."

                                  "The dome is on top of what used to be their temple," she told Livia. "Under that is the rock where Adam was created and Abraham almost killed Isaac and Jacob had his ladder dream and David did some things and all kinds of biblical stories happened. It's the single most important piece of Earth in Judaism. It's also where Christians say Jesus will come back. If he comes back today, he has to appear inside a Muslim shrine. Imagine how that would play in Mississippi."

                                  "Why did Muslims build a mosque on such an important Jewish site?" Livia asked.

                                  "The Dome of the Rock isn't a mosque," she answered. "The mosque is a little farther away. The rock is where Muslims say Mohammed ascended to Heaven."

                                  "Jesus," Livia said. "Do all these religions do this on purpose? They could have easily coexisted if they simply put their stories in different places. You never hear about Buddhists and Jews fighting each other. Why? Because none of their important things are anywhere near each other."

                                  "It's too late now," Harmony said. "They've been fighting over Jerusalem forever. Mostly because of this one rock. It's under Muslim control now, but a lot of people want that to change."

                                  Other than the real estate issue, the Dome of the Rock was a beautiful structure. The people who built it undoubtedly took pride in their work.

                                  "This reminds me of China," Harmony told Hisham, who was visibly confused until she explained herself. "Things made hundreds of years ago look great. They took the time to do it right. Things made today are all about doing it as quickly and cheaply as possible. If this dome were made today, would it have a million hand painted tiles?"

                                  "Perhaps not," Hisham answered.

                                  From the Dome of the Rock, they walked out the only exit available to people who were not Muslim. Harmony heard a group of young men in the distance shouting things like, "We are closed" and "Go away now", as well as Arabic phrases that she was never meant to understand. Harmony did not turn around, but she could picture them in jeans and tiny t-shirts.

                                  "Is it closing time already?" she asked Hisham.

                                  "No," he laughed.

                                  From the exit, they were immediately in a market in the Muslim Quarter. Most of the stands on the narrow street sold plastic toys and souvenir trinkets, no doubt made in China.

                                  "If I were Muslim," she said quietly to Hisham. "I'd be more upset by people selling all this cheap crap right next to my holy site than about other religions wanting to pray where I pray. I think prayer should be more welcome than Chinese plastic."

                                  "This is sold to the tourists," Hisham told her. "This is the tourist exit."

                                  They crossed into the Armenian Quarter and everything changed. The t-shirt shops turned to religious shops with crucifixes and holy grail bookends. The atmosphere also changed.

                                  "No one stared at me in the Armenian Quarter," she told Livia.

                                  "Aren't they Christian?" Livia asked her.

                                  "Overwhelmingly," she answered. "Something like ninety nine percent."

                                  "So why aren't they in the Christian Quarter?" Livia asked.

                                  "Hisham said they consider their quarter part of the Christian Quarter," she told Livia. "But the UN considers them Palestinian since they're not Jewish. They're Armenian, so they have to have a separate area. Maybe they don't want it, but if the UN does, what can they do?"

                                  "That's crazy," Livia decided. "If they're Christian and want to be part of the Christian Quarter, why not let them?"

                                  "Mostly because they're not Jewish," she told Livia. "It's very important for the UN to divide the people in Israel as much as possible. Also, they're Armenian Christian while most of the Christian Quarter is Greek Orthodox. It's like putting Shia Muslims in the Muslim Quarter. That would be a bloodbath."

                                  "Is the Jewish Quarter like that?" Livia asked. "Orthodox Street over here and Reform Avenue over there?"

                                  "No," she answered. "They seem to all live side by side. But you have to keep in mind that they were kicked out of the Old City for a long time. By the time they were allowed back in, they knew what they were getting themselves into. The Christian groups have been there forever, so they all think it's their rightful place. And only one branch of Muslims was ever allowed, so division isn't an issue."

                                  "So if the Armenian part is in the Christian Quarter then there aren't four quarters," Livia said.

                                  "That would change things," Harmony agreed. "Maybe that's one reason they're separated. People around here aren't big fans of change. It would also make the Christian Quarter, or Christian Third, the largest quarter in the Old City. That would only anger some people."

                                  "Wouldn't that make the Jewish Quarter the smallest part?" Livia asked.

                                  "It already is," she said. "It's the same size as the Armenian Quarter, so they're both the smallest, but if you put Armenia with Christian then it's easily the smallest and Muslim isn't the largest anymore. Odds are, that would start World War III."

                                  "I'm starting to like Buddhists more and more," Livia said.

                                  Hisham and Harmony left the Armenian Quarter through the Zion Gate and walked to the Cenacle, the site of the Last Supper and where Mary and some apostles lived. It was essentially the world's first Christian church, but looked nothing like it did in Jesus' time. It was renovated by the Romans, destroyed in a Persian invasion, rebuilt by Greek Orthodox Christians, destroyed by a Muslim caliph, rebuilt by Crusaders, turned into a mosque by the Ottomans and returned to the Christians after Israel took over.

                                  "Whatever religion you choose, it's an interesting place," Harmony told Livia. "You can see two thousand years of architectural history in a few small rooms."

                                  Hisham took her to David's Tomb, but warned her that it was most likely not the actual site of David's Tomb. Most experts think it is farther east on a different mountain ridge. That site was looted long ago, so it might be impossible to ever know. The official David's Tomb site only became important when Jews were not allowed in the Old City. This was as close to the Western Wall as they could get at the time.

                                  Harmony went and took a look at the tomb anyway. It was absolutely nothing like kneeling at Jesus' tomb. She felt no emotional connection. Not only did King David have less of an impact on her childhood than Jesus, but this was almost certainly not his tomb. And the room it was in was far less impressive. It looked more like a public school library in desperate need of renovation than a grand tomb.

                                  From all the churches and tombs, they went to the Chamber of the Holocaust, a tiny museum notable as Israel's first memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

                                  "This is not the happy place," Hisham warned her.

                                  She was glad that it was so small. Every wall and display was depressing. Around every corner was even more depressing.

                                  "People suck," she told Hisham as they stood in the small courtyard covered in tombstones.

                                  "You are looking to it with the wrong perspective," Hisham told her. "This place is not about man's inhumanity to man. It is about man's ability for surviving even the most horrific atrocities."

                                  Harmony could appreciate his optimism, but she was glad to leave the museum. King David is probably not buried at David's Tomb just as no one is buried at the Chamber of the Holocaust, but David died an old man in his bed. These people were murdered in the name of bigotry.

                                  Hisham recommended going to the cemeteries on Mount Zion, but Harmony had enough death at that point.

                                  "I'd rather look at the houses of people I never knew than their graves," she told him. "I like the history and I want to see how they lived. I don't need to know where they're buried."

                                  Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                                    Chapter 9
                                    Hisham's Taste Test

                                    "The first thing I noticed was his English," she told Livia, describing Hisham. "It's better than everyone else's around here. I think that's why he volunteered to play tour guide. Or maybe he was assigned. I don't know."

                                    "I thought most people spoke English there," Livia said.

                                    "They do," she confirmed. "But there are different levels of fluency. Some people probably went to school in Europe, while others have to struggle to put a sentence together."

                                    "Sounds like here," Livia said.

                                    "Not that I'm complaining," she continued. "Their English is a hundred percent better than my Hebrew."

                                    "What do you know in Hebrew?" Livia asked her.

                                    "I know toda," she answered.

                                    "What's that?" Livia asked.

                                    "It means thank you," she told Livia.

                                    "That figures," Livia said. "The first thing you learn is how to thank people."

                                    "Good manners don't cost nothing," Harmony quoted.

                                    "You should learn how to say where's the bacon," Livia suggested.

                                    "And mazel tov," she added, ignoring Livia's joke. "I know how to say that."

                                    "Do people really say that there?" Livia asked.

                                    "I assume they do," she answered. "I've never heard anyone say it, but why wouldn't they?"

                                    "So back to this guy, your tour guide," Livia changed the subject, or rather returned to the original subject.

                                    "He's actually one of the producers," she corrected Livia. "He doesn't have to show me around. He's doing it out of the kindness in his heart."

                                    "More like the throbbing in his pants," Livia speculated.

                                    "Not everyone has an ulterior motive," she pointed out.

                                    "Most people do," Livia said.

                                    "What kind of cookies are you eating?" she asked Livia.

                                    Livia never said anything about the cookies, but Harmony could hear something crunchy, and they were obviously not potato chips.

                                    "Those small chocolate chips in the bag from that place," Livia answered.

                                    "And not every motive is sexual," Harmony added.

                                    "Most are," Livia said. "Is he cute?"

                                    "Yes," she answered. "Well, more handsome than cute. He's older."

                                    "How old?" Livia asked, sounding a little concerned.

                                    "He has to be forty something," she answered.

                                    "That's not too old," Livia decided. "I was worried you were going to say he's sixty. That would break all the rules."

                                    "What rules?" she asked Livia. "People aren't allowed to show you their city when they're sixty?"

                                    "The rule is, a guy can be older than you up to the age of your father," Livia told her. "Beyond that, it's borderline. If he's your grandfather's age, that's just creepy."

                                    "He's just helping me see the sights," she told Livia. "His age doesn't matter, as long as he can walk up and down all those steps."

                                    "Is he married?" Livia asked.

                                    "No," she answered.

                                    "Divorced?" Livia asked.

                                    "He's never been married," she answered.

                                    "He's gay," Livia decided.

                                    "That's what you said the first time," she told Livia.

                                    "What first time?" Livia asked her, rustling around in the cookie bag.

                                    "The first time I told you about this guy," she said. "He's the same producer I had that really long lunch with. I told you about that."

                                    "That's right," Livia remembered. "The gay movie producer. I guess his age really doesn't matter. Not to you, anyway."

                                    "He's not gay," Harmony insisted.

                                    "Ok," Livia said. "I believe you. But let me ask you this. Why does it bother you if I think he's gay? You don't have a homophobic bone in your body, so it's not an insult as far as you're concerned. What difference does it make what I think about your tour guide?"

                                    "You just shouldn't go around calling everyone gay," she said.

                                    "Or maybe he's more than just your tour guide," Livia implied. "Maybe there's more there, or you want there to be more there, and you want me to see him the way you do."

                                    "That's crazy," she said. "I've known him for two days."

                                    "So?" Livia said. "You're single, he's single, he likes you, you like him. Who cares how long you've known each other?"

                                    "You're making a lot of assumptions," she told Livia.

                                    "Am I?" Livia asked. "I know he likes you because he spent his entire day showing you around a bunch of things he's in all likelihood already seen a million times. He's a movie producer. I'm sure he has other things to do. So what's in it for him?"

                                    "I'm a stranger in his city," she said. "He's making me feel welcome."

                                    "He could have sent a flunky to drive you around," Livia said. "Or even hired a professional tour guide. But no, he did it himself. What does that tell you?"

                                    "That he's a nice guy who had the day off," she answered.

                                    Livia laughed, which was the best thing for her diet at this point.

                                    "You don't see it?" Livia asked. "Or maybe you do, but you don't want to admit it. That whole knowing each other two days is getting in your way."

                                    "My second night here I had Shabbat dinner with one of the cast," she pointed out. "Was she just trying to get into my pants, too?"

                                    "That really was to make you feel welcome in a strange country," Livia decided. "That's a Jewish thing. You're supposed to invite weary travelers to dinner. I've never heard of any tradition that says you're supposed to show them around the tourist sights."

                                    "Even if your crazy theory is true, so what?" she said. "Some old guy has the hots for me. That doesn't mean anything's going to happen."

                                    "Why not?" Livia asked. "You clearly like him. I can tell because you can't stop talking about him. Remember that guy in Paris with the old car? He wanted to jump your bones and you wouldn't even give him the time of day."

                                    When Livia and Harmony worked in Paris, they met a stock broker/investor type who asked Harmony out on a date. Livia knew as soon as they met him that he wanted Harmony, and now she was trying to make Hisham the Jerusalem version.

                                    "I had a boyfriend at the time," Harmony pointed out.

                                    "But even if you didn't, you weren't interested," Livia said. "You even forgot his name. You definitely weren't talking about him all the time."

                                    "This is a completely different situation," she said.

                                    "Exactly," Livia said. "You like this one. So why not act on it?"

                                    "He's almost twice as old as me," she answered

                                    "Who cares?" Livia asked. "You're not going to marry him. I'm just talking about a little bump and grind in a hotel room or in a limousine or wherever movie producers do it. Your boyfriend's gone. It's time to move on. You have to get laid before you explode. Have a vacation romance. I know you're not on vacation, but it's almost the same."

                                    "I don't do one night stands," she declared.

                                    "It doesn't have to be one night," Livia said. "You're there two weeks. You can have a fourteen night stand."

                                    "That's just not me," she pointed out. "I don't do summer flings. I do long term relationships."

                                    "So have a relationship with this guy," Livia advocated. "Why not?"

                                    "We live on different sides of the planet," she answered. "I'm not doing another long distance relationship. That was too hard. And it wasn't even that much of a distance. Jerusalem is pretty far."

                                    "Women always bitch and moan that they can't find the right guy," Livia said. "You accidentally find guys everywhere you go. The one thing that always stops it from going anywhere is you."

                                    "None of this matters anyway," she said. "Nothing's going to happen. He's probably gay."

                                    "He's not gay," Livia insisted.

                                    "You didn't see the way he was eyeing those rabbis at the Western Wall," Harmony joked.

                                    "Those hats are pretty hot," Livia said. "Does he have a beard?"

                                    "I think beards are for married men," she said. "He's single, so no beard. Also, he's a movie producer, so he can't go to meetings looking like the Unabomber. People who make movies tend to be less traditional no matter what country they're in."

                                    "So are you going to let him grow a beard after you're married?" Livia asked her.

                                    "Speaking of marriage, when are you getting married?" she asked Livia.

                                    Livia and her boyfriend were together longer than anyone could remember. Harmony knew that they were both sensitive to any talk of marriage. In their minds, they had the perfect relationship, and getting married could change everything. Asking Livia when she would get married was always a great way to change the subject, but it rarely came up as easily as it did here. In teasing Harmony about some man she just met, Livia carelessly opened the door for Harmony to turn it around on her. They were talking about Middle Eastern food in seconds. Livia especially wanted to know about the cookies.

                                    Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                                      This is getting good, Hailey (started out pretty good, too), if you don't mind my saying seems to me there's a certain fun, amusing "chick lit" aspect to this which is interesting meshed with the political relevance and the Middle East setting. Gives a vivid sense of Israel. It hurts my heart what they go through, what they live under, the constant threats from all sides

                                        Thank you. I'm always ready for criticism, but it's nice to hear good things. Who doesn't like compliments?

                                        The story is mostly about someone who goes to Jerusalem to act in an independent film. I'm not posting most of the behind the scenes parts or what happens in the story within a story. Since I'm mostly posting the stranger in a strange land storyline, all of the travel guide scenes are here. Since it's a Jerusalem travel guide, there's a little bit about politics. The next chapter excerpt I'm going to post is easily the most political.

                                          Chapter 10
                                          Yad Vashem

                                          From the Hall of Remembrance, Harmony walked back down to Warsaw Ghetto Square and doubled back to the Holocaust History Museum, the largest building in the entire complex. It was a museum with paintings, sculptures, photographs and artifacts, but it was a museum that told a single story. The long building forced her to walk from one end to the other, hearing the story chronologically.

                                          Harmony loves art museums. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is one of her favorite places in the world. The Louvre and Minneapolis Institute of Art are not too shabby, either. But those tell thousands of different stories from a wide variety of artists over a span of several centuries. The Holocaust History Museum told the story of a race of people who refused to die.

                                          "The overall message is positive," she told Livia. "Humans can be horrendously evil, but they can also persevere and help each other out. The museum is talking about genocide, but also how there is always hope for the future. It's kind of an optimistic place. But depressing as hell."

                                          The story begins before the war, when Jews live all over Europe, both in their own communities and fully integrated within the societies and cultures where their ancestors immigrated. As soon as the Nazi Party forces its way into power, antisemitism is the major talking point. Newspapers tell the German people that the Jews are the cause of all their problems. Unable to work? That is because the Jews took all the jobs. In poor health? All the doctors are Jews.

                                          It was a frightening display. Not only because Harmony knew what was coming next, but also because she has seen the same thing from her country's politicians. Not against Jews, but against immigrants, communists and whichever scapegoat is convenient at the time. Jews in Germany, once citizens of a country in which many were born, are now foreigners in their own homes.

                                          Nothing gets better as Germany begins invading Europe. German leaders segregate Jews, forcing them from their homes and jobs, stealing their property and making them easier to identify and abuse on the streets by forcing everyone to wear a Star of David on their clothes. All of this is perfectly legal because German politicians passed laws making it legal. Discrimination is always easier for the general public to accept if it is on the books. This is a pretty terrible time for most of the people in Europe, but this story is entirely from a Jewish perspective.

                                          As soon as Germany invades Poland, Europe is at war. If you have a group of people you want to persecute, nothing is more expedient than war. Jews are now the cause of this war, according to newspapers and propaganda films. If your son has to go fight the barbarian French, it is the Jews' fault. War is the quickest way for the Nazis to expand their base, but it also provides a convenient excuse to move Jews into the ghettos. The newspaper phrases "for your safety" and "in the national interest" are especially chilling.

                                          Looking at the newspapers and news reels, it is hard to believe that the German people were so deftly manipulated by their leaders. Then Harmony thought about the American people and their own media.

                                          Daily life in Eastern European ghettos is vividly displayed. As the war progresses, families from Germany and Poland are joined by families from Holland and France. Apartments designed to house a family of four now hold at least four different families. Living conditions are intolerable, especially to people who were middle class or even wealthy only a year or two ago. To German Jews, the hatred and violence against them is nothing new, but to people from Holland, the kidnapping and forced labor one thousand miles from home must have seemed unreal.

                                          Letters and diaries show that the adults know what is happening. Some go along with the slave labor hoping that it will save them from being murdered. Others know that they will all be killed as soon as they are no longer useful. Remarkably, almost everyone of faith is determined to practice it and make sure their children are educated. Photographs show children smiling, playing games and studying while every adult face is aged far beyond their years. Children also have to work, of course, but they find the time to go to makeshift schools.

                                          What German leaders never could have anticipated was how many Jewish people who were previously ambivalent about their religion are now becoming more involved in their community and religious services. Making Judaism illegal only makes countless Jews embrace their faith. In the ghettos, lapsed Jews return to Judaism.

                                          Life gets worse when Germany invades Russia. Part of Germany's strategy to defeat the Russians is to destroy entire towns, burning down buildings and killing every last human being. Since Germany keeps detailed records of all their horrendous inhumanity, and Russia keeps detailed records of German atrocities in Ukraine and Romania, there is more than enough evidence on display.

                                          Harmony stared at a large photograph for what felt like days. The photograph showed a German soldier about to shoot a mother holding her baby. Try as she might, Harmony could not imagine what was going through that soldier's mind. Hearing propaganda against Jews for years almost certainly made him hate them. That was easy enough to understand. Just read Youtube comments today and you can see the same abject hatred of total strangers. But somehow this soldier thought that this mother and baby were a threat to his country. Not murdering them would harm Germany in some inexplicable way. Nothing is good about the situation, but making it even worse is the smile on the soldier's face as he is about to pull the trigger. He is about to murder an unarmed woman and baby, and he loves it.

                                          Killing leads to more killing, as it always does, and German leaders come up with their final solution to the Jewish problem. The solution is organized, efficient and nothing short of evil.

                                          The largest section of the museum tells the most horrific part of the story. The ghettos are emptied, killing an unknown number of people in the process. Those who survive will only find their circumstances unimaginably worse.

                                          The Warsaw Ghetto uprising is only one of many armed resistance movements. It is the most famous because it is the most successful. Private letters show that those involved are not trying to rescue anyone. They see rescue as impossible at this point. The uprising, to them, is a matter of honor. The main theme of the letters is that if they are going to die, they are going to die standing up.

                                          Segregating Jews into the ghettos is not enough for the master race. With German efficiency, they find a way to kill as many human beings as possible while still using them as slave labor. In the ghettos, prisoners have to walk or be shipped to the factories where they work all day for no pay only to go back to the ghettos at night. Going back and forth between places wastes time and resources. By putting everyone in camps, they can sleep right next to the factories and mines where they can be worked to death without any of the local populations having to witness forced marches and transport. The prisons also open the door for medical experiments and an inhuman level of torture that would have been difficult in the ghettos.

                                          Most concentration camps have a specific purpose. Some are for slave labor, like Dachau and Buchenwald, where prisoners are worked to death making weapons or mining quarries. Anyone too sick or injured to work is killed. Some camps are for political prisoners and prisoners of war, like Grini. Enemy soldiers are used as slave labor in factories and fields, depending on rank. Some, like Treblinka and Belzec, are extermination camps, whose sole purpose is to kill everyone. The Auschwitz camps are for slave labor and murder. Germany builds over one thousand prisons across Northern and Eastern Europe. By the end of the war, they are all death camps.

                                          The vast scope of this operation is impossible to ignore. Men have been rounding up and killing the people they fear since the dawn of time, but the Nazis do it on such an enormous scale. It is hard to comprehend how the rest of the world can simply ignore what is happening. Other countries, like Spain, Japan and the United States, killed entire tribes of indigenous people in the name of progress. The British Empire killed an incalculable number of locals in their quest to colonize the world. All of that killing took place over numerous generations, even hundreds of years. With remarkable efficiency and modern weapons, the Germans murder sixteen million men, women and children in less than a decade.

                                          Harmony had to take a break after the display on children murdered in the concentration camps. It was getting harder to look at everything, both in her soul and through her watering eyes. Children are worked to death and murdered as soon as they are shipped into the camps just like adults. They are also subjected to medical experiments that make the most twisted horror movies look like Warner Brothers cartoons.

                                          Twins are injected with diseases to test if the other twin develops symptoms. Whenever one twin dies, there is an autopsy on the dead twin and vivisection of the live twin to compare results. Limbs are amputated for the sole purpose of watching for any signs of pain from the sibling. In several cases, one twin is killed and all of the blood is drained from the other to see if the transfusion can restore life. Any child regarded as useless is murdered, so as soon as one twin dies for any reason, the other twin is killed. Almost all of the children used for medical experiments are killed for the autopsy even if they survive the torture of the experiments.

                                          None of the medical experiments serve any useful medical or scientific purpose. Some were always too absurd to ever survive any form of peer review, had such a thing existed in the camps, such as sewing children together to create conjoined twins or giving them brain transplants. There have been ethical debates for the last seventy years about using the results of these experiments, but the scientific methodology was too flawed to survive scrutiny. The doctors at the death camps claimed to torture children in the name of science, but their sadistic racism switched off whatever science their minds might have imagined possible.

                                          The Holocaust History Museum wants visitors to walk all the way through from beginning to end. They want the horror to slap you in the face. But they were also nice enough to provide a few benches on the side. The museum sees a lot of elderly visitors who need a place to rest. The benches also provide welcome relief for those who cannot make it from one end to the other despite being physically fit.

                                          As Harmony sat, trying not to cry like a colicky baby, she was grateful that Hisham was not there. He undoubtedly would have been an excellent tour guide, but he already saw her cry at Jesus' tomb. That was more of an involuntary display of buried emotion. Her eyes were wet, but she was fully functional. This time, at the museum, she felt it deep in her chest. It was more painful and wounded her naturally optimistic attitude about people. Had she not sat down, she might have fallen down. She wanted to go outside for some fresh air, but she would have to pass through the rest of the museum to get out of the building. She knew she had to stay and finish. People actually lived through all of this madness. The absolute least she could do was walk through a museum.

                                          As the German infestation spreads across Europe, more and more Jews are imprisoned and worked to death or simply killed outright. Many are tortured in the name of science and sadism. Adults are subjected to different experiments, including torture to test the effects of extreme cold, heat and pain. Organ transplants are performed on conscious prisoners and women are sterilized by the hundreds of thousands. The experiments on pregnant women are indescribably evil. With more than enough Russian soldiers, homosexuals, Romani, political prisoners, artists and intellectuals for slave labor, the camps can afford to murder Jews at will.

                                          Resistance movements throughout Europe include an untold number of Jewish members. Thousands of forgotten battles are fought in every country that Germany invades. Jewish and Christian civilians fight side by side against well trained and heavily armed German soldiers.

                                          Some resistance fighters take a less violent, though no less dangerous role. People with little or no connection to Judaism risk their lives to shelter and evacuate Jews. The entire town of Nieuwlande, Holland becomes a secret haven. Their plan is simple but brilliant. Every single house hides someone from the Germans, making it difficult for anyone to rat out their neighbors without also incriminating themselves. Ho Feng Shan, the Chinese ambassador to Austria, ignores his bosses and issues thousands of visas to China. Priests and ministers all over Europe hide Jews in their churches. Oskar Schindler rescues a thousand people right under Nazi noses.

                                          As the war starts to end, Germany closes and consolidates camps, transferring prisoners across Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people are killed on forced death marches. Many are simply killed in the closed camps. When it is clear that Germany cannot win the war, camp commanders are ordered to kill everybody. Some do a better job than others. Most camps are destroyed to hide evidence. Some are abandoned intact. Most commanders only kill a fraction of their prisoners since running away and self-preservation are a higher priority.

                                          When the concentration camps are liberated by mostly American and Russian armies, the story is far from over. Now the survivors have to figure out what to do next. Their homes are long gone. Some entire cities are no more. Germany is defeated, but no one feels safe returning there. Poland becomes a hotbed of antisemitism. Just as Germany blamed Jews for defeat in World War I, Poland is now blaming Jews for World War II. The Holocaust might be officially dead, but bigotry against Jews lives on. Half of Europe is under Soviet control. Beacons of freedom like the United States and Great Britain are closing their doors to Jewish immigrants.

                                          Europe is essentially a refugee zone. No country is unaffected by the war. The master race managed to murder about 2 million Russian prisoners of war, 2 million Polish civilians, 1 million undesirable Christians, half a million Romani, another half million physically and mentally disabled people of assorted nationalities, at least 20,000 homosexuals and somewhere around 6 million Jews. Not to mention the death toll from actual war combat. Most of the Jewish populations of Czechoslovakia, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Ukraine, Belgium and Yugoslavia are gone. Ninety percent of the Jews in Germany, Austria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are murdered. Poland had about 3.3 million Jews before the war. At least 3 million are murdered.

                                          Life gradually carries on. Families attempt to find each other. Millions of people mourn. Adjusting to the aftermath of war takes years. Some never recover. Eventually, monuments and memorials are built. Some want to forget it all and move forward. But enough people understand the importance of remembering the past. As time passes, fewer witnesses are alive to remind us. Soon, there will be no one who was there.

                                          Most of the people Harmony meets in East Asia are already ignorant of what happened. It is simply not something taught in their schools. Hitler is an advertising icon in Thailand and Indonesia, selling soap, comic books and fast food. These people are hardly white supremacists or admirers of Nazi ideology. Hitler means as much to them as Ronald McDonald. Genghis Khan killed millions to build his empire, but is nothing more than a page in history books in most of the world today. Sooner or later, the Holocaust will be remembered just as much.

                                          When Harmony was outdoors again, she walked around the grounds, passing monuments and memorials to individual people and groups. When she reached the Children's Memorial, she knew she had to go in. She also knew that this was going to be nothing like the Youth Wing at the Israel Museum. That was a happy place, full of interactive exhibits for children.

                                          The Children's Memorial let her know right away that it was not a happy place. The entrance was like walking into a cave. The room or rooms were too dark to see anything but a dot of light for each of the almost two million murdered children. The dark walls were made of some kind of material where digital photographs of some of the children could be intermittently displayed. In the dark, the only sounds were recorded voices calling out the names, ages and nationalities of the children. The space was very dark and very quiet, and one of the most graphic displays for the senses Harmony had ever seen in a memorial. It was both awe inspiring and physically painful.

                                          The overall message of Yad Vashem was hope, but there was nothing positive in a room full of children who were murdered because their ancestry was impure. The lessons of history are supposed to teach the world how to do better in the future. Hopefully, they will some day. The only good thing about stories of genocide is that they always include stories of hope and survival. Some men are truly evil, but most will do the right thing. A select few will even risk their own lives to help out complete strangers.

                                          Harmony walked around the grounds a little before she left, but the garden setting was not likely to change her mood. She could have walked back to the tram stop, but she was too drained. There were taxis waiting at the main entrance, so she took one back to the hotel. Mount Herzl would have to wait for another day.

                                          "It's one of the most impressive museums I've ever seen," she told Livia. "And I never want to go back."

                                          Copyright (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved, international copyright law, etc.

                                            Chapter 11
                                            Rose in Bloom

                                            Finished at the botanical gardens, she had just enough time to go back to the hotel and get ready for her night on the town. Liat soon came to pick her up and immediately disapproved.

                                            "We are not going to the church service," Liat said, scrutinizing Harmony's clothes.

                                            Harmony took to the Jerusalem fashion of long skirts and long sleeve shirts right away. She liked how it looked and found the light layers of fabric comfortable in the constant sun. Most days at home were covered by clouds and/or smog and ever present humidity. The sky was bright, clear and dry every day she was in Jerusalem. She was never going to dress the same way in both places.

                                            Liat was wearing a short red dress that might have been an additional layer of skin. It was not the kind of modest clothing any of Jerusalem's religions talk about so often.

                                            Harmony thought they were going out to dinner, which they did, but Liat had plans for afterward. Liat took Harmony to a generic Asian restaurant called Station 9, where they met Liat's model friends. It was exactly the kind of place where she imagined to find young actors and models. The d?cor was fashionable and the food was exactly like an American restaurant that claimed to be Chinese or Thai but never had any Chinese or Thai customers. It had egg rolls that were actually spring rolls and steamed buns used as hamburger buns, which would appall any Chinese grandmother.

                                            Harmony usually avoided Chinese restaurants whenever she traveled outside of China. When she went somewhere different, she wanted to eat something different. But the food here was so far removed from what she saw in China that it never felt like a Chinese restaurant. It was not bad. There was too much soy sauce all over everything and too many dishes were stir fried, but that was typical of any restaurant outside of East Asia trying to be Asian. Every American Chinese restaurant smells like soy sauce. Harmony had never been to a Chinese restaurant in China that did.

                                            "The irony is that Israel is in Asia," Harmony told Livia. "Israeli food is, by definition, Asian food."

                                            "But when people say Asian, they mean East Asian," Livia said.

                                            The most interesting thing about the restaurant was that it was in a complex that used to be a train station. The main building of the station was preserved and the surrounding area was transformed into an indoor/outdoor entertainment and food mall. The train tracks were converted into a lovely green walking path and there were bicycle rentals for those energetic enough to brave the hills of Jerusalem. In the daytime, there were a few dozen structured activities for children, ranging from educational to artistic to just plain fun.

                                            "It's not a shopping mall," Harmony told Livia. "It's more like a cultural mall. It's a great place for children."

                                            Neither Liat nor any of her model friends were interested in getting a pottery lesson or building with Tinkertoys. They wanted to go dancing at a club that was definitely not designed for children. They were all dressed more for a club with drinks than dinner with chopsticks. Unfortunately, Harmony was dressed for church on the prairie. Liat had a solution to that.

                                            Her model friends went to the club while Liat took Harmony shopping.

                                            "We don't have time for this," Harmony told Liat.

                                            "There is always the time to look good," Liat replied.

                                            "Aren't we going to be late?" Harmony asked.

                                            "This is not your dentist meeting," Liat answered. "There is no late."

                                            Liat wanted Harmony to get a black dress that was as short and tight as her red dress. Harmony had no problem with black. She knew they were going somewhere dark, so black was preferable to anything noticeable. She was in all likelihood the only person there who did not want to stand out.

                                            She had a problem with the short and tight part. Given a choice, she would generally prefer not to dress like a prostitute. Short was one thing as long as she could sit down without giving everyone around her a free show. Tight was definitely not her style. She liked to breathe on a regular basis.

                                            Harmony picked a dress that was far shorter than the skirt she wore to dinner, but not short enough for anyone to know that she was wearing one hundred percent more underwear than Liat. It was also loose enough that she could walk more gracefully than a mermaid, but form fitting enough for Liat's crowd.

                                            "I'll never wear this again," she told Livia.

                                            "Is it slutty enough for me to borrow?" Livia asked her.

                                            "You'll love it," she answered.

                                            When they drove to the club, Harmony had no idea where they were. Dinner was just south of the Old City. Shopping was south of the Israel Museum and Botanical Gardens. The club was nowhere near anything she recognized in a part of town she was never meant to recognize. She could not even tell which direction they were heading as Liat raced around countless corners and drove as though they were late for a dentist appointment.

                                            Harmony's impression was not that they were late, but that Liat was finally in an area where she could drive like a lunatic. Downtown Jerusalem was not the ideal place for her sports car. Some of the streets were built before cars existed and none of them were designed for the volume of traffic the city saw every day. The streets were far emptier wherever they were, so Liat could let her car go meshuga.

                                            The club itself was the kind of place no one ever accidentally stumbled upon. It was in a building behind a wall that looked like any other stone wall from the outside. The street had an abundance of nothing interesting. There was no sign anywhere on the exterior wall or on the building itself indicating the name of this club. If the club had a name, Harmony never knew it. No one ever mentioned it and she never read it anywhere.

                                            Unlike most popular dance clubs, there was no long line of people waiting to get in. Harmony was never worried about it since she was with a relatively well known model/actress who looked like a model or actress. If the place had a bouncer, Harmony would have had to wait, but Liat was always getting in right away, no questions asked.

                                            Instead of a velvet rope to keep out the undesirables, this club was at the dizzying end of a maze. Walking in was like the Copacabana tracking shot in Goodfellas. Even if someone knew that the club existed, they would have to know how to get in. That was something Google maps could never tell them.

                                            Once inside, Harmony was surrounded by the most famous entertainment industry insiders under thirty that Jerusalem had to offer. This club was a paparazzi money shot. It was paradise for people who obsess over celebrity gossip. Harmony did not recognize anyone.

                                            There were always a few things she could expect from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They were mostly religious and dressed and composed themselves modestly. Jaffa Street looked nothing like Hollywood Boulevard. Harmony never saw anyone walking down the street in a pronounced state of intoxication. Everyone was generally quiet and reserved outside of markets. The people of Jerusalem might disagree with her. Some considered their city too loud, too crowded and too modern. But those who lived in the cacophony of China knew what a loud city truly was. Jerusalemites were cloistered nuns by comparison.

                                            This club was not standard Jerusalem. Harmony never took a religious survey inside, but modesty was not on anyone's dance card. Women's dresses were too short. Men's shirts were too unbuttoned. Expensive alcohol flowed freely, and she might have witnessed some furtive drug use. The music was blaring, which only made the patrons use their outdoor voices. She wondered if the place was so hard to find because they only wanted select people inside or because it was hiding from the establishment. Probably both.

                                            Harmony was not entirely excited about noisy and overcrowded places where people got hammered. She went to a few clubs here and there and never really liked any of them. The people she was with and complete strangers always wanted her to drink too much. Men on the prowl especially wanted her to drink too much. And there were always too many men who were only there to get laid, oblivious to the fact that most of the women were there to spend time with their friends and do a little dancing.

                                            This club was different. It was loud, but not especially crowded. Perhaps because it was so hard to find. Or because it was still early in the night by dance club standards. Many of the patrons already knew each other, so there were far fewer men hitting on women. There was no lack of flirting, but not as many of the bad pickup lines that someone decided was a requirement of modern day awkward courtship. Harmony was new, so she would have been a prime target at most clubs. But in a club full of models, actresses and jet setters, she was never in anyone's spotlight.

                                            Harmony was there to get to know Liat a little better. Talking was out of the question in the din of a Thursday night, so they danced. The music could have been better, but it could have been far worse. It was anyone's guess whether it was techno, trance, house or bitsonic funky chunky. It all sounded like disco to Harmony.

                                            Surprisingly, she recognized one of the songs. While Liat and Harmony were moving to the grooving on the dance floor, the speakers played Paul McCartney's "Temporary Secretary". Harmony never heard it coming. A club full of the young and stylish were dancing to a song that fit in perfectly with the biggest dance hits of the hour but was recorded years before any of them were born. Paul was ahead of his time.

                                            It was unusual for Harmony to be in a club full of men who had no interest in seeing her naked. It would have been less unsettling had she known at the time just how many of the women at the club the men had already seen naked. Jerusalem had a relatively small celebrity scene. Most of the rich and famous in that club had already made the rounds. Everyone wanted her to drink too much anyway. She was briefly presented some type of illicit narcotic, but no one asked her again after she sternly declined. The alcohol, however, was viewed as an offer she could not refuse. Even though no man in that building expressed any interest in jumping her bones, several wanted to buy drinks.

                                            "I always assumed that guys buy drinks to get your guard down," she told Livia.

                                            "They do," Livia confirmed.

                                            "These guys were buying drinks just because I was there," she said.

                                            It did not bother Harmony in the least that she was never the center of attention. In any given situation, she rarely wanted to be. Whenever she went out with Livia, she was always the last person everyone noticed when they walked into a room.

                                            Harmony was not at all jealous of Liat, who was essentially her Livia surrogate for the night. She understood that people always notice the most beautiful and elegant women first. She appreciated that she was not burdened with that responsibility. Harmony was just hoping Liat never got too popular. Liat was her ride home.

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