Michael is a true cosmopolitan Israeli citizen. I’ve met him the day I arrived in Tel Aviv, he asked me what was I doing and when I showed him the LEGO bricks he asked me to be interviewed. I returned to Tel Aviv to meet him. I’ve found him on a very bad day, yet he engaged with the bricks. The first question was about Israel and we had a long and intense conversation about it. Then it was the turn of Palestine. ‘What is Palestine?’ I ask him. He doesn’t say a word, he has understood the process, he doesn’t ask, he builds.
As soon as he finished with LEGO I ask him to tell me about it. He stares at the bricks for a while, thinking. ‘You see… It doesn’t have a bottom. It’s not based on anything – he says by showing me the hole and the lack of any base – because they haven’t succeeded in creating a State; they have a State now but it’s not solid. Also all these Arab countries, in all these more than 60 years… All the Arab countries crying Oh Palestine!‘ – he grows acrimonious – ‘but ask them to do something for them! They didn’t do anything for them. Nothing! Palestinians know that, Arabs like Syrians, Lebanese, use Palestine as propaganda at the UN and in Europe. But they don’t help them. Arafat… Europe sent 900 million euros to Palestine to help them, they could have done a lot with that but Arafat put that money in his pocket and now his wife is pampering around Tunis or wherever…’
‘And these black and yellow bases… what are they?’ I ask, looking at his model. ‘It’s buildings and sand … kind of hope…’ he says calming down now ‘Hope for establishing themselves. To establish their State… They have a window here, where they can look through, but it has like a grid in front of it…’ he shows me the grey bridge on the top of the blue bricks whose arch has bars. ‘So they can’t go out of the window. But now that they can go out through Egypt, which they couldn’t do before, because Egypt changed, Mubarak failed, so it’s more open… but still, you know, even if the Arabs call them the ‘Jews of the Arabs’ – he says bitterly – ‘because they are pretty smart. Not the people, I mean the people … I feel for the people, I pity the people… I went to Arab towns in the boundaries of Israel’ he tells me ‘I was an engineer and I used to go to Arab villages and they used to welcome me, not because I was the expert, but because it was me. They accepted me, welcome me, had coffee and beers together, we laughed together, hugged each other… And I pity them, but their leaders are not good, they are quite corrupted and people are suffering…’ I get back to the model: ‘ What are those blue bricks?’ ‘You know, the sea is close to them. Nothing can come from the sea, that’s a barrier. Now the barrier of the sea is half of the problem. Now they have opened the door toward Egypt and that’s the other half and there’s anything that we can do about it. And we know that they are bringing in weapons. We know it. We see it. We have information about it.’
‘How can we fill this gap…?’ I ask looking at the model and at the hole, to that void in the middle. ‘I don’t know if it’d be ever be filled. We have to do it, the world has to do it… We want to be sure that nobody is gonna attack us. In the meantime we don’t have lots of proofs of that, but they want love, peace and harmony… But you see, when we are attacked, we attack back. When we are not attacked, we don’t attack.’ he talks and shares his views with me, spontaneously. ‘But how could it work with a government like that with Lieberman and Netanyahu and all those people… they are very intelligent but they are very right wing, I don’t like right wing. And I don’t like left anymore either. In the first Lebanese war one of my friends was killed … A women come out of the house with 10 kids but behind her there was a man with a kalashnikov and he killed my friend… I am not naive anymore. Most of the world is naive…’
‘Why do you think the world is so naive?’ ‘It’s much more convenient… Look at what they did about the veil in Paris. They almost burned Paris. And the Swiss, who refused to build the minaret. It’s not against Islam, it’s for the Swiss people. Stay Swiss and don’t melt with them. But there’s the tendency to melt. Years ago I’ve met a gentleman who every time he said the word Arab was whispering. I asked him why he did it. He said I give you an example. Sunday morning in Paris – I live in a street with Muslim friends and one of the neighbours was washing his car and put very loud music. So I went out and kindly asked him to take down the volume… and he was accused not to like Arab music! Can you see how are they eating you? They are eating the people up. Because that’s the mentality and then the left supports that.’
We’ve been interrupted. When Micheal returns he looks to the model and sadly sighs: ‘…I don’t know how to fill this…’ ‘And these 2 bases…’ I ask pointing at the long thin bricks on the base. ‘Yeah, they are a little support, so that they don’t fall completely. But it’s very very thin…’ That thin support, despite the void, makes the model kind of stable. Were the LEGO suggesting that Palestinian stability was depending on external support? I ask that to Micheal, who simply nods: ‘Exactly!’
‘And the red bricks?…’ ‘They can be blood, they can be anything… when we’ve built that terrible wall… The first day they started building it, the main title in the newspaper was This is the day Israel is closing itself in – not out. In. We are closing them out and we are closing ourselves in, because it’s a wall… This wall will fall eventually, I hope, but it has prevented many many violent things… Because they built it during the time when all the buses blew up… you know… So they built a wall. The wall is for that, not for Apartheid! Come on… Apartheid!’ Michael gets emotional, after all, he is not telling me stories, he is talking about life. His life. ‘The wall is there to keep the violence out. And we’ve said Ok, let’s open the doors and let Palestinians come and work in Israel. And then they blew up other things. So why should I welcome Palestinians if the blew up everything? 9 out of 10 won’t do it, but one will, and that’s enough! One person can blow up a whole bus. One. And another Palestinian blew up himself on Purim when all the kids were in the streets. So what are we talking about? Peace, peace… And I hope with all my heart – he says resigned and looking at his model – that this void will be filled and the model will get stable and the flag will wave, that they will be protected, that they will have grass and water and everything, that they will be able to go anywhere… ‘
In Michael’s model of Israel, weapons played a central role, but there are no weapons in his Palestine. ‘No no, there are weapons…. the ones that we give them! And the people of the right say Don’t give weapons to them because they will shot us and that’s what happened. It’s so complicated! The right wings always say Do not give them weapons! They will use them against us… but then the left people say Come on, give them a chance! And we gave them weapons, and we gave them money and we gave them everything and they’ve attacked us. So why should we? It’s not what they show on TV, they don’t show anything on TV. Nothing! Nothing…’ – adds sadly – ‘In the famous Gaza war, when we reacted after 8 years that they were bombing us everyday – 8 years! What would have Paris do after 2 days? Let alone 8 years. What would have London do? Any other country, what would they have done? But… Oh Israel! Oh that’s bad!’ he says.
And he goes on talking ‘The houses there [in Gaza] were booby-trapped from the bottom to the top. In private houses – because Hamas terrorises its own people If you don’t give me your house you get in trouble! so they put down the munitions… a lot! Now the house goes like this: on the bottom you have munitions, on the first floor: Hamas – that’s where they live. On top of Hamas, the family and on top of the family the roof. That’s what the Israeli army said In 10 minutes we are going to blow up the house, people, please, go out. They said it to the family… And we’ve send pictures and films to media to show how Hamas houses are booby-trapped all over – under civilians, under Palestinian civilians. If they do something wrong, they blow themselves up! And then schools… they are bombing from schools, from hospitals while sick people are there, not when they are empty… So I know the tricks. I am not generalising against Islam, I am not at all! I am against the extremists: Jews, Catholics, Muslims… Because extremists control everybody. The small number controls the big number. That’s why the world is in dire straits… Because the small controls the big, the crowd…’
Michael talks freely. We sit with the model in front of us, he looks at the model while he talks, like to get inspired. The bricks have done their job – they have put Michael at ease.
‘And the world is turning around Israel and Palestine… Why? Don’t you have problems also? Deal with your own problems…’ he says. ‘Why do you think everybody is dealing with Israel and Palestine?’ I ask. ‘Because they don’t want to deal with their own problems as much… this is good for them! It’s money, it’s politics, it’s propaganda, it’s radio, it’s TV, it’s media… it’s everything! It’s livelihood for everybody. That’s why I left this like that’ – he says showing me the hole in the model – ‘and I won’t change it now and I hope it will be filled. I do hope. You know, it’s sad…’.
I know. It’s sad. This was the last of my LegoViews there – I took apart the bricks while still talking with Micheal. After my journey in Palestine, after talking to dozen of different people from all positions and all sides, I had the same questions he had. I wanted answers, but had found more questions.