"LIKE MANOLETE ON THE EVE OF HIS DEATH"

Jerusalem, 1948. On the night of the fifth of January, just a few weeks after the partition vote of the colonial British palestine, the Semiramis hotel was bombed. It was a small family hotel in the area of Qatamon. The attack was carried out by the zionist militia group called Haganah, suspecting that the hotel may hide Palestinian commanders. And in spite of enfearing the locals to vacate their homes so they could be occupied. The inteligence of the Haganah was proven wrong as many civilians were killed in the act, including the Spanish vice-consul Manuel Allende Salazar, my grand uncle.

"Like Manolete on the eve of his death" was ironically among the last phrases he spoke that are known of.

 

In june 2015 I was invited to the Tel Aviv Studient Film festival. They toured us all around the "Holy Land" for a week. Leading to a very complex scheme of perceptions that developed as a mosaic throughout three visits between 2015 and 2017.

Through different techniques, mixed-media and formats, this project explores the personal experience in trying to understand what led to the killing of Manuel, the creation of the state of Israel and the Palestinian struggle in a post-colonial process. Combining present and past. My travel experience merges with the last days of Manuel and how that history could be seen from todays new media.

 



 

PART I
"This land Is Your Land"


What makes this piece of land Holy and promised? I wonder rhetorically. My eyes see with that question for a lens. "This Land was made for you and me" -as from the song by Woody Guthrie.

 

Visions from the Tel Aviv university "The Film Bus Project". It got me an overview from Tel-Aviv to small Arab villages, Galilee, the Negev desert and the Dead Sea. By chance I was given Arab hosts who shared their thoughts.

HD video and 16mm frame stills. Flat objects and documents.
The images and documents are set in a chaotic array within a frame. It is a complex mosaic on a subjective vision of modern Israel. This pieces are accompanied by ambient sounds and recorded conversations. Palestinian and Israeli youth share their opinion. Audio to be integrated in small speakers within the frame.

 


On the first ride to the old Jaffa Rola spoke:

-"Here the army is an obligation. After becoming 18 it is very hard not to be political"-

 

Just a land

In 2016 my Palestinian host called me in to work as the cinematographer for his movie. On those days withIn the experience of using the popular Tinder app, I was shocked and disgusted. Many of the profiles displayed pictures of the users in their military uniform and holding their guns, sometimes relaxed, sometimes in service, with sexy poses. I realized how the mandatory military service acts on the Israeli youth. It is part of their youth, like if it was the first part of the college years. Therefore this experience becomes romantic and machines made for killing become mundane and sexy. Along with the will to erase the old idea promoted by the Nazi Germany in which Jews were portrayed as small and weak.




 

Swiping profiles.





 

PART II
"The Journey to Absurdity"




 

The hotel Villa Semiramis was a small family bussines in the heart of Qatamon, a quiet neighbourhood populated by middle class Arabs, Greeks and Armenians. It was run by the Lorenzo and Abu Suwan families, arab christian. It was the social center of the area. Its bar would fill with locals and visitors and they would host small concerts and live music. Right by the building was the bus terminus for rout .4 to the Old City of Jerusalem.
 

The Allendesalazar brothers and sisters. Manuel (22) on the right, my grand mother Amparo (18) to his right. Photograoh from civil-war exile in Lisbon, 1940.




 

Manuel would share his room with journalist Juan Ramón Masoliver and their dog "Döbban". In December 1947 there had been a vote for the Partition of the British Mandatory Palestine. Great Britain had set the date to May 15th, 1948 to abandon the country. In the coming weeks violence sprouted in the city of Jerusalem with riots. In the 1949 published issue of "Destino" magazine, Masoliver describes the last days of Manuel in Jerusalem.
 

To many the bombing of the Semiramis ment the begining of the Nakba for the arabs (Disaster in arabic) or the Independence Day, for the Jewish. Many enfeared families started vacating the neighborhood. Soon Qatamon was occupied by jeweish families.

Thanks to Marina Parisnou, check her new media documentary "Jerusalem, we are here" https://jerusalemwearehere.com/#/

 

Not known is that the Spanish Franco regime used the killing of Manuel as anti semitic propaganda. Opposing the creation of Israel not for other real reason than to be against the Jews, even after Hitler had been defeated. He sent crews of "Legionarios" to train the armies of the surrounding Arab countries as well as munitions and fighter planes.





 

In this process I learned that the Haganah, that bombed the Semiramis Hotel, later became the regular Israeli army, (IDF). Therefore I imagined that if you could use Tinder in 1948, I may have been able to find and match the Haganah militants that bombed the Semiramis Hotel within the app. Israel first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion took part in the Haganah.





 

Haganah militia patrolling the Katamon area by the rubble of the Semiramis




 

PART III
"Back and forth"




 

Ahmed Sayed was a studient at the Jerusalem Teaching School. He worked as a waiter at the Semiramis to pay his studies. He survived the bombing. His grand Abbas al-Sayed recruited and trained Adbel Basset Odeh. On March 27th 2002, Abdel suicide bombed the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing thirty civilians. When Abbas was caught and emprissioned he claimed that attack was to avenge the killing at the Semiramis. History sadly repeats itself.
 

The part of the building that stood after the bomb was left abandoned until the 70s. In the 80s a house was build using the original part and addig a terrace. In 2018 the "Semiramis" was demolished for the second time for a new building. It hosts an office for a company named "Scopex International LTD". Among the many companies with Scopex for a name, there is one that manifactures accesories for weapons, anti-bomb suits and bomb defusing robots.
 

Shortly after the first visit I had a dream. I was on a warm beach. Far ahead by the water there was a figure. I approached to find it was a castaway in templar knight rags. He suddenly woke spiting water and coughing. Then rised his gaze to find a girl picking something from the sand. I looked closer  believing she was collecting sea shells. To my surprise it was not sea shells, but bullet shells. My subconscious had made up a word play. Then I wondered how a crusader would feel upon arrival to the contemporary Holy Land.





 

PART IV
"The Dream"




 

DISPLAY MOCKUPS




 

Source materials:
HD Video Stills

16mm Film Stills
Archive photography
Mobile device screenshots
Object and document scans
Pencil illustrations
MP3 sound recordings

Intended In room display:
Photographic prints

Smartphone and tablet devices
Real life objets and documents
Sound with ambient speakers
HD video projections
 





 

​© Álvaro Gómez Pidal 2020

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