Gaza Mon Amor – Nasser’s charming love story

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St. Isidore Catholic Church in Los Alamitos is set to become an American landmark after the state’s Historical Resources Commission voted Friday to nominate the historical property, and 12 others, to be given “federal historic designation.” St. Isidore was one of 13 properties approved by the commission Friday in a virtual meeting, state historical officials announced on their website. Accordingly, “the property is associated with the early development of Los Alamitos as an agricultural community, specifically the Mexican immigrants who worked on the town’s farms and at the factory,” the Commission said. Now, barring some unforeseen development, federal officials will likely approve the state’s nominees for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. “Placement on the National Register can help bring positive attention to a historic place and affords a property the honor of inclusion in the nation’s list of cultural resources worthy of preservation, state officials said. “This can provide a degree of protection from adverse effects resulting from federally funded or licensed projects,” it adds. “Registration also provides a number of incentives for preservation of historic properties, including special building codes to facilitate the restoration of historic structures, and certain tax advantages,” the commission said in the announcement. In its historical description of the St. Isidore Catholic Church, the state said, “the chapel was rebuilt in 1933 after the original 1926 building suffered major earthquake damage.” “The property is associated with the early development of Los Alamitos as an agricultural community organized around a large sugar beet processing factory and with the Latino community living in Los Alamitos, specifically the Mexican immigrants who worked on the town’s farms and at the factory,” it continued. “As a religious property, St. Isidore meets the registration requirements for property types associated with Religion and Spirituality in Latino Culture in the ‘Latinos in Twentieth Century California Multiple Property Submission’,” the commission said. According to local historian Larry Strawther, “I think it’s got to be very rewarding for the many people who have worked on this a long time. The St. Isidore’s parish was a vibrant center of local Catholic life for many years,” he said. Strawther said in 1959 and 1960, issues of The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, noted that the St. Isidore mission was “established in 1921 to serve workers on the Western Orange County farms, primarily owned by Belgians.” It added that the original church, which opened in early 1926, was “erected entirely by volunteer labor of its Belgian and Mexican parishioners,” said Strawther, and that the first parish priests were “refugees from religious persecution in Mexico.” In addition, he said there have been numerous newspaper articles that tell of the parish-sponsored events –socials welcoming new parish priests, celebrations of weddings, anniversaries, confirmations and first communions, and other events from Altar Society potluck dinners, fiestas, to Knights of Columbus Family Hours, held at the St. Isidore historical plaza. There were twelve other properties added by the Commission. Here’s a brief review of those properties: Christiansen and Grow Filling Station Orange, Orange County The 1928 filling station, built in a vernacular style that resembles Storybook Revival, is considered an example of programmatic architecture. The station is significant for its role in local transportation history, due to its location on Highway 101, and represents a significant example of a “house-type” gas station, designed to express a domestic quality and attract customers via its charming, whimsical appearance. Commercial Club Los Angeles, Los Angeles County The 13-story Renaissance Revival style hotel building was completed in 1926 in downtown Los Angeles. The property is nominated for its association with the Commercial Club, the social arm of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and as a significant example of the work of the architectural firm Curlett and Beelman. Floral Park Historic District Santa Ana, Orange County The district includes over 673 buildings in the Floral Park neighborhood of Santa Ana. These principally one-story single-family homes are designed in a mixture of early 20th century revival styles and midcentury styles. As a popular neighborhood among Santa Ana’s early political and business leaders, the district was home to many significant individuals, including some whose significance is directly associated with their Floral Park home. Inspiration Heights Historic District San Diego, San Diego County The district is composed almost entirely of single-family residential buildings, located in the San Diego neighborhood of Mission Hills. Three stucco entrance pillars on Sunset Boulevard announce the district’s northern entrance and are original to the neighborhood’s 1909 subdivision. The district reflects city planning and urban design principles that prevailed at the turn of the 20th century and is an excellent, intact concentration of early 20th century Prairie School, Craftsman, and Period Revival architectural styles. Marin Art and Garden Center Ross, Marin County The property is associated with the conservation legacy of the women’s garden club movement and is also an excellent example of the Bay Region Modern–Second Bay Tradition. The buildings retain the original modern lines, exposed structure, glass walls and wood panels characteristic of this period. Simple and low cost, they embody the modernist goals regarding informality, streamlined aesthetics and affordability, an approach particularly well suited to the limited means and public purpose of this center. Arthur C. and Judith Mathews House Atherton, San Mateo County Constructed in 1952, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed, Usonian one-story house displays many of the elements common to Wright’s Usonian houses, laid out on a planning grid, or unit system. At the Mathews House, the unit system is based on an equilateral parallelogram, 4 feet on each side. The Mathews House exemplifies the Usonian houses Wright designed for the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the main regional areas of the architect’s work and is a fine example of the innovative construction systems Wright created for those houses. Murer House and Gardens Folsom, Sacramento County Designed and built by Giuseppe “Joe” Murer as his personal residence between 1925 and 1927, the Murer House is a vernacular example of the Italian Renaissance Revival style of architecture, a miniature of the Italian Renaissance villas in the northern Italian countryside. As an informal gathering place and social center, the Murer House and associated gardens were integral to Folsom’s Italian community. People’s Park Berkeley, Alameda County The former parking lot off Telegraph Avenue is where a community effort to turn the lot into a park became one of the most significant acts of public protest in the United States associated with student protests and countercultural activity. While most of the original features of the park were destroyed, the site became a symbol of 1960s counterculture. The recreated park, principally developed between 1969 and 1979, includes deliberate elements of landscape architecture intended to symbolize the different natural environments of California. Northern California Doghole Ports Maritime Cultural Landscape Multiple Property Submission (MPS) Multiple Locations, Mendocino and Sonoma Counties The MPS documents the maritime landscape of the mid to late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Transporting coastal redwood timber by land to the San Francisco market could not be accomplished by land due to the lack of adequate roads and railroads. Although the rough northern coast featured few navigable ports, enterprising men engineered a unique solution of chutes and cable systems extending from the Sonoma and Mendocino Counties’ bluffs down into small coves, allowing lumber and produce to be transferred from cliffs above to waiting ships moored some distance from the rocky shore. Known regionally and colloquially as doghole ports, these remote ports were key to the logging industry for over 70 years. Salt Point Landing Historical and Archaeological District (Doghole Ports MPS) Jenner (vicinity), Sonoma County The district encompasses 769 acres along the Sonoma County coast within Salt Point State Park and adjacent waters within the park, Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve, and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The district includes the coastal terrace to the west, headlands surrounding Gerstle Cove, waters of Gerstle Cove and a portion of the forested slope heading east up to the ridgetop. The interrelated components of the timber industry and Salt Point community were dependent on the doghole port’s location and means to load vessels safely and efficiently. The district is associated with the California timber trade and maritime commerce through the use of the area as a doghole port and has yielded information important to the understanding of the doghole port network and its role in maritime trade. San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Amendment San Francisco, San Francisco County; Oakland, Alameda County Documentation amends the existing 2003 National Register nomination for the Bay Bridge following removal and replacement of the western span of the bridge, confirming that the bridge retains National Register eligibility and updating the resource count and other elements of the 2003 nomination. Strand Theater Merced, Merced County Located in the central business district of downtown Merced, the theater was constructed in 1938. Known as the Mainzer Theater since 2001, the art deco and art moderne style theater and commercial building has been attributed to San Francisco architect Virgil W. Jorgensen and the Saleh Brothers construction company. With its planarity, symmetry, repetition and use of stepped forms, the building expresses its art deco style through its massing and treatment of volume. The art moderne influence—a style increasingly popular in late 1930s’ architecture, arts and graphic design—is expressed through the incorporation of rounded forms, flat massings and horizontal elements. Notices and agendas for Commission meetings are available online 10 days before a meeting at www.parks.ca.gov/Commission. Inquiries and written comments on the agenda may also be emailed to the Office of Historic Preservation at calshpo@ohp.parks.ca.gov or submitted via mail to Julianne Polanco, State Historic Preservation Officer at Office of Historic Preservation, P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento, CA 94296-0001. General inquiries to the Commission are handled by Twila Willis-Hunter. She may be contacted via phone at (916) 445-7052 or at the same mailing address listed above.

By Lady Beverly Cohn

Amidst the daily challenges facing Palestinians in Gaza – including millions living in poverty, lack of potable water, access to electricity for only four to eight hours a day, and high unemployment, the twin brothers Tarzan and Arab Nasser co-wrote and directed GAZA MON AMOR, a tender romantic comedy in the age of lack.

The film, inspired by a true story that took place in 2014, revolves around a whimsical fisherman named Issa, perfectly portrayed by Salim Daw. Although 60 years old, and living under rather harsh conditions, he retains his sense of humor and responds to authority with a playful demeanor. Forbidden to fish in the three-mile strip of sea as mandated by Israel, Issa is not one to play by the rules and trolls those waters sans a license, often pulling up a net overflowing with fish which he sells at an open-air market. He is single and is constantly being berated by his meddling, yenta sister Manal, played by Manal Awad, who insists he must get married.

In one really funny scene, she lines up about a half-dozen single women as potential wives. He takes one look at them and storms out of the room. Meanwhile, we meet Siham, skillfully played by Hiam Abbass, and her typical rebellious teenage daughter Leila, played by Maisa Abd Elhadi.

The electricity is turned off at the moment so each of them carries a flashlight in their humble apartment searching for Leila’s passport. Mom is a dressmaker and works in a small shop where she does alterations on women’s clothing. The directors illuminate poverty in a very subtle way and takes us inside Issa’s home where he is showering, except there is no water flow.

Instead he fills a pot with water dousing himself with the precious liquid. One day, he sees Siham waiting at a bus stop and is immediately smitten. He casually lights a cigarette and asks if she is going to the market. She is not talkative. A private car pulls up and offers them a ride, which they accept. He sees her again at the same bus stop on a rainy day and in a most gallant manner, offers her his umbrella. They begin to converse and when he finds out she’s a seamstress, asks if she could fix his pants. At first she is reluctant saying that she only works on women’s clothing, but his innate charm impresses her and she consents to altering his trousers.

Meanwhile, while fishing one night, he hauls in his catch and finds a giant statue stuck in the net, which becomes a sub-plot of the story. It is clearly ancient and very heavy. He somehow manages to get it into his boat, which is attached to his motorcycle and passes inspection by the Hamas authority. Our fisherman brings the statue to his extremely modest home where he ensconces it in his closet. Unfortunately, but good for the storyline, the male appendage snaps off which Issa bring to a local jeweler, who tells him it’s not worth very much but he would be willing to buy it.

Our protagonist says no and before you know it, the local Hamas police arrive at his home and begin to tear it apart looking for the source of the dislocated male member. Well, they do find the statue and throw the fisherman in the clink where he asks if he’s going to receive a reward. Considering he’s in jail on unspecified charges, the irony of that question will not be lost on you. Illuminating how prayer is integrated into everyday life, the officer in charge of the interrogation prays before beginning the questioning. Protesting that he’s done nothing wrong, he is locked in a cell where he has a dream of making love to Siham with an embarrassing morning result.

To get out of jail, he reluctantly agrees to signing a “confession” and to pay 5,000 shekels, after which he is free to go. Eventually, the mysterious statue is authenticated as the Greek god Apollo* with ensuing discussions by the authorities on how to best profit from this historic discovery.

Now out of jail, in short order, our smitten Issa immediately brings his trousers to the woman of his dreams for alteration. She asks what he needs done and he replies “they need shortening,” which eventually turns into a sight gag. Siham’s daughter, who wants to leave Gaza, observes her mother’s interaction with this gentleman and concludes that they are smitten with each other.

Our hero is ready to propose and goes to her home but freezes and doesn’t knock on the door. Eventually, however, he musters up enough nerve to try again and after dousing himself with cologne, and dressing up with his finest clothes, he returns to her house and this time knocks on the door. She lets him in and he blurts out “will you marry me?” They do marry and as they are about to kiss we hear a news flash about the Israeli Defense Forces.

To the brothers Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s credit, they do not take a strong anti-Israel position, but very subtly illuminate hostilities between Gaza and Israel through either radio or television news programs playing softly in the background such as hearing the sound of approaching aircraft. In one scene they show the Palestinians getting their first huge rocket which is being offloaded from a ship with a proud bystander murmuring, “An eye for an eye.” That moment speaks volumes about the ongoing hostilities, but remember, this is a love story, not a political statement.

Gaza Mon Amor – Nasser’s charming love story