Sharp as a razor, overflowing with humor and fearless to her last breath, in a series of talks that the artists’ agent Arik Kneller held with the playwright Anat Gov a number of days before her death this week, she spoke with astounding openness about her life, her work, her cancer treatment and even about the arrangements for her funeral. What has happened to the innocent country she loves so much hurt her more than her expected death.


 

Two and a half years ago, Anat made an appointment with me in a café and asked me to represent her estate. She explained to me that she was ill and that it was important for her to “clear her desk”. I came away from the conversation moved and overwhelmed by the sincerity, openness and clarity with which she expressed herself about her cancer and death. I felt that people had to listen to her, that it was important. I began to film our conversations.

At that time she was not sure that she would manage to write “Happy Ending”, her last play. But she did manage and I was fortunate enough to represent her for this excellent production that Edna Mazya directed at the Cameri Theatre. At Anat’s suggestion, we applied to Ayana Elon., a mutual friend, who documented the rehearsals for “Happy Ending” And it was in this way, in fact, that we began to collect material for a documentary film about Anat, to be broadcast at some future date on Channel 8.

About a month ago I wanted to come and film Anat for the documentary. This time she preferred me only to record her. We sat in her garden over a cup of coffee that she insisted on preparing. We held a long conversation and afterwards we went over the recording.  Anat herself revised the text, editing, shortening, sharpening; here she added something, there she removed something else. Ten days ago she sent me the final version.

In the email that she attached with it she recommended that I pass the conversation on to Ron Yaron, the editor of “Yediot Aharonot”. She suggested that it should appear in the paper after her death. She had only one condition: that they should not touch the text and not even change one letter, as she put it.

It is rare to meet a person for whom what he thinks feels and says are one and the same. Anat was such a person. Until the last Sabbath, the day before she died, we still exchanged quite a few emails and text messages. Even the last email that reached me on that Sabbath was clear-headed, full of humor and containing much warmth and love. It is hard for me to absorb, in more ways than one, that I will not be receiving another such one.

Arik Kneller talks to Anat Gov – 15/11/2012 –transcript of recording (final version 4.12.12).

Arik Good morning. What’s this? What have you got in your hand?
Anat A morphine lollipop
Arik I must hear more. What does it do?
Anat It takes away the pain in a second
Arik In a second?
Anat Don’t stand over me with a stop watch
Arik Is it terribly strong? Does it make you want to sleep? What is it like?
Anat I can have a whole conversation with you with my eyes shut for example
Arik You can, you can
Anat No no. Let’s start.
Arik So how are you these days?
Anat These days I’m Happy Alexander
Arik Happy Alexander?
Anat I am now on the way to the Happy Ending. I am being cared for by the Sabar home hospice
Arik What’s that?
Anat It’s one of the wonderful things that exist in Israel. That really enables you to have a good end. Simply that. Really amazing grace.
Arik Just a minute. But what exactly does it mean – home hospice?
Anat The principle of a hospice. It’s only to alleviate. We’re not talking here of curing. And the fact that it is at home, that a person can get all the treatment he gets in hospital, only in his home – surrounded by his family until the last minute-it’s simply something fantastic. It’s something people don’t know about. It’s important that they should know. That there is such a thing as a good death. A hospital is a good place to save lives but when we are talking of alleviating …then it’s best at home. And it is financed, by the way, by all the sick funds. From the medical point of view we are really a wonderful country.
Arik  What does the treatment consist of
Anat

 

Mainly painkillers …and a pleasant high. To keep you as contented as possible. You know…
Arik And it is pleasant for you. Relatively?
Anat  Completely. I am surrounded by love…and pampering. There can’t be a better end…in one hand a morphine lollipop and in the other hand a cigarette. What could be better?
Arik You know…when we met the first time…two years ago I think, and you told me about the cancer…first of all you told me you were going to write a play on the subject
Anat A musical
Arik You told me about “Happy Ending”. You had the general idea that it was about someone who had the courage to do what you did not have the courage for, and that is not to have any treatment at all.
Anat Right
Arik And it wasn’t clear that you would manage to write this play then…you were so practical and so businesslike …to clear your desk and talk about your estate…and you weren’t even sure that you would manage to write the play
Anat Absolutely not.
Arik You believed then in fact that you had a few months
Anat Because I am living much longer than they expected me to. I was supposed to die many years ago.
Arik I wanted to ask you about that. How does one live with the thought of time? How much time have I left?
Anat I didn’t occupy myself with it. I live the day. I don’t keep accounts. That’s to say I knew the statistics; that I have, let’s say, another two years left, and since then five and a half years have passed so I’m in any case a sort of a medical miracle…
Arik So you wanted to write about a woman who refuses to have treatment.
Anat Right. But it’s very important to me to say, a propos the play, that there is a mix-up or lack of clarity that is perhaps my fault. I wrote a play about a woman who decides not to have treatment. I, on the other hand, took all the possible treatments. It is very important for me to clarify this. I did not write a play about myself but about someone I would have liked to be. That is why I called it a musical fantasy. Because that was my fantasy. And I thought that if I didn’t realize it in life I would at least write about it in a play.
Arik So you did have treatment.
Anat Like a good girl. I did everything. But staying in charge of things.
  That is to say – I had free choice all along. If a certain substance made me feel bad, I stopped it. If I wanted to take a holiday from the treatment – I took a holiday. But – I did everything: chemo, biotherapy, radiology – everything! The moment I decided to go for it, after a discussion of course with the family,
  in which they asked me to at least try…  I went for it. The fact that I have lived so many years is also thanks to the treatment. It is important for me to say that. The play talks less about whether or not to have treatment than about free choice. About the fact that we have free choice until our last breath. Including about death. How to die, for example to die at home and not in hospital, how long to draw out the dying. These things are all in our hands and that is what it was important for me to say. So it should not appear as if the play is a recommendation not to have treatment, It’s very much dependent on what state you are in, physically and also family-wise and also the age of your children.  But what is important is having the choice.
Arik That is to say there is no sweeping recommendation:  “don’t have treatment”
Anat Absolutely not. There is a sweeping recommendation – to take charge of things
Arik To take charge of things
Anat Because when you enter the world of cancer you enter a sort of meat machine like in a Pink Floyd clip. There’s a process that is written in some book and everyone goes through it. But it is important to know that there is a choice even in this. And this feeling that you control the situation helps very much. Even when you are taking the treatment the knowledge that at any moment you can stop if you feel it is too much, this knowledge gives strength.
Arik So you did choose to try and have treatment.
Anat Yes. And it was far less terrible than I had thought. During the period of the treatment I did three productions and I was present at the births of my two granddaughters
Arik And why did you stop in the end?
Anat I stopped because the treatments did not work any more. Not out of any ideology. But just a minute. I have something else important to say. Whoever reaches the age of fifty and doesn’t have a colonoscopy is an idiot, three exclamation marks. Because colon cancer is the only cancer that, if it is found in time, it’s as if it never was and you can live two hundred years afterwards. And this is an examination with no suffering. You get a nice drug….you don’t remember anything afterwards. So it’s really…I was an idiot. Every doctor who met me asked …” How can a woman who considers herself intelligent be so stupid?” That was the first sentence I heard from them all.
Arik Was there no doctor, in passing, when you were ever examined, who told you that? who recommended that?
Anat Of course. All of them.
Arik But you didn’t do it?
Anat No. And not out of fear, by the way.
Arik But?
Anat Out of conceit. Not to be dealing with things of the body and doctors and examinations all my life. It interested me more to be dealing with the intellect.
Arik So let’s get back to the play. That was one of your aims, that you wanted to bring up for discussion first of all, even before the matter of choice. The two main subjects…

 

Anat The word – cancer. Because that is a word that one doesn’t speak about. It is forbidden to say that word. I’ve now got a granddaughter of four and I asked for some advice what to tell her. Because she’s little and she sees me ill. And I was told to tell her “cancer“, that there is a bad illness called cancer, because otherwise she will think that whoever has a bit of a cold is going to die, if you just say “grandma’s ill”.
Arik It was also important to you to say the word death. For you that is not a word it is forbidden to mention.
Anat My first play was called “Love of Death” which, it is true, was written as a result of my parents’ cancers but also out of some clear decision that I was going to cope with this thing called death. To understand that one dies and to live with this knowledge that every day I can die. So every decision that I make is made of course with this knowledge that there isn’t another day. I think that life is much more powerful when you live it this way than when you are frightened by everything.
Arik Why?
Anat Because when you are afraid, you are afraid to fly, you are afraid to walk, you are afraid of cockroaches, you’re afraid of this…because it is all fear of death. All the fears. When you are not afraid to die you are not afraid to live because what have you got to lose?
Arik You know, I thought at one time that when you reached … what you now call “the last lap” then suddenly perhaps it would be harder to talk about these things  because it’s closer, because…
Anat What nonsense! We talk about everything
Arik …About everything?
Anat I have bought Gidi and me a lovely grave for us both  in a charming spot with bougainvillea, in a civil cemetery
Arik Civil? It was important for you…?
Anat       No, it wasn’t important for me. In fact to start with, because my grandmother and grandfather on both sides were ultra-orthodox, I thought of going for an ordinary burial…I haven’t anything against Judaism, I have a lot against the orthodoxy that has taken control of Judaism in Israel and that, to my mind, is a cult and not religion I don’t want the Chevra Kadisha*  to conduct my funeral but I am going to have a Jewish funeral.
Arik Oh yes, a Jewish one?
Anat That will be conducted by a rabbi who is a friend of mine.
Arik So it is important to you that there is a rabbi?
Anat But without laws invented by the Chevra Kadisha
Arik Like what?
Anat For example, Chevra Kadisha does not allow being buried in a coffin. I am going to be buried in a coffin.
Arik You are?
Anat Yes, because it is not written in the ten commandments that it is forbidden to be buried in a coffin. But the funeral will be conducted by a rabbi who is a friend of mine, who officiated at my daughter’s wedding and who was my teacher at “Kolot” and it will have Jewish elements that we have chosen together in advance.
Arik One minute, excuse me, you met with the rabbi and talked with him about the funeral?
Anat Of course
Arik I’m trying hard to be cool and it’s very difficult for me because you say it with such composure …let me tell you something…Lately I am greatly affected by how you speak of death, relate to death and I have apparently become accustomed to it because I have heard you already a few times speak
  about the funeral but when I tell people who are close to both of us that Anat talks about the funeral then the reaction is so…
Anat I know.
Arik Like, they turn their heads away, stop up their ears and look at me as if I’m making it up, as if it is unbelievable. How did it arise at all?
Anat It seemed to me the most natural thing in the world. First of all I spoke to him, to this friend of mine, and asked him if he would be prepared to conduct my funeral because, in my opinion, he was the most suitable person. I don’t like this secularization of …I don’t want to mention names but celebrities who perform weddings. So he said certainly and suggested that if it is already so open let’s meet and you tell me exactly what you want there should be and so I met with him. Before that, I also met with people from the religious council and checked out the cemetery of Ramat Hasharon and they were very nice but I understood that there were all sorts of laws and limitations…I said thank you, I will go to the civil cemetery and there I will have the funeral I want, that will have whatever Jewish elements I choose, because it is important for me , I am Jewish, I was born Jewish and I will die Jewish, but in my way, not in the way of some rabbi who woke up one morning and decided coffins were forbidden.
Arik That is something you did, you and the Rabbi alone. You didn’t involve the family?
Anat Certainly I did
Arik …certainly you did?
Anat Obviously. Gidi sat with us and the children. The children are altogether  partners here in everything, we speak here about everything, everything, everything…
Arik You told me once…that that was law number one from the moment you discovered…
Anat From the first moment, clearly. We talk all the time …about death… I want them to draw me a smiley on the grave…
Arik I feel that I am altogether in a play…I don’t believe that a conversation like this is taking place in reality.
Anat Despite it being the sanest thing to do, what is saner than that? Tell me? It is important to me that my funeral too should leave something of me.
Arik That it should be in your spirit…
Anat Yes
Arik What things did you talk about concerning the funeral?
Anat I don’t really want to go into such details. But I told the rabbi that the only thing that is important for me is that people should know that I am leaving in a good way. That is all. How he will do things, what he will do, that I will already leave to him. I am a control freak up to a certain point. That is to say, the general message is important to me. I don’t want people to be sad. I want them to remember me with a smile not with sorrow, as far as possible. Obviously I have no control over that.
Arik At the time you said that your family was coping with humor. Now too? At this stage?
Anat Of course. All the time. The code from the moment I got ill was humor. In general the code for life in my opinion is humor. Look, I didn’t need this cancer in order to know what a family I have, but there is no doubt that extreme situations unite and bring out the best in everyone. The pampering that I get from Gidi and my children, I don’t know how many people are privileged to get it. To see my son, when I was hospitalized for three months, arriving every day with fresh schnitzels that he prepared for me, just to see me put on another 200 grams, well of course it warms the heart and soul. My daughters look after me like a preemie, there are days when I am overflowing with contentment and gratitude.
Arik What are your days like now? You are simply at home…
Anat Very pleasant. Everyone would dream of such a period in life… I don’t do anything… they spoil me…all the time they ask me “what do you want?”…people only want to cook for me from morning till evening. They send me food and pastries. Because I let it be spoken about, people allow themselves to tell me that they love me, they take leave of me. Not only the close family, lots of people. I don’t even speak about Edna Mazya who will cross half the world on foot in order to bring me something even before I have finished saying what I want…Most of the time I am on a legally permitted, pleasant high, not bad, is it ?
Arik I understand that it is very different from what it was with your parents. There they didn’t talk…
Anat They didn’t talk. And when you don’t talk it is impossible to say goodbye properly. You are left in the end with a sense of something missed.
Arik You once said a very compelling sentence to me that I can’t forget and that is that when you are told someone has ‘flu you don’t tell him that you love him.
ANat True. A few days before my mother died they drained her lungs and she said to me , “no, it’s nothing, it’s flu”.. So what should I say to her “Mother, thank you for everything you’ve done for me, I love you”? ‘Flu… you don’t say goodbye
Arik I think of that sentence all the time. So you say not to wait until the moment you are ill to say it but in our day to day…
Anat Of course. Because in any case we are going to die. You understand you are going to die and you are going to die Arik. Everyone will die. Everybody is going to die. This sweet dog of mine is going to die, everyone will die. The moment you internalize that, you not only don’t postpone saying “I love you”
  You also don’t postpone realizing dreams, you don’t postpone anything. Because tomorrow, not tomorrow, in another five minutes, you can die. I think that cancer has this tremendous advantage that it allows you to say goodbye. The very knowledge that you are going to die gives a lot of possibilities that people don’t exploit out of fear.
Arik Most people will tell you that they would prefer to die in one go
Anat Of course
Arik To go to sleep, to get into bed.. and not to know about anything. That is not your preferred way.
Anat Absolutely not. And that is why, maybe, in some unconscious way I chose cancer, because for me it is suitable. I think that knowing already for five years that I am going to die also enabled me to settle a lot of technical matters that, when people don’t, it leaves a terrible mess afterwards. And also to settle emotional matters. Not to leave anything open. Not to mention journeys, like seeing whales in South Africa. I invented dreams for myself that I didn’t even have.
Arik That’s a beautiful sentence.
Anat Therefore from that point of view I am very satisfied and feel that I have made the most of everything. I am sad for those left but for myself, really not. I don’t feel sorry for myself for a minute
Arik Not even a minute
Anat Not even a second
Arik By the way, what about the herbal medicine you and Ron Nachman got?
Anat That medicine gave me some very nice, unexpected months. I was already without treatment and pretty weak and suddenly this chap, Chanan, came to me and persuaded me to try and I agreed because it is just plants and has no side effects. And so suddenly there was a recovery for some months which was very nice. In the end my cancer overcame this too but I really came to him in a state of total loss. Now lots of people are being treated with this medicine and from what I hear most of them are very satisfied so now it will be possible to investigate it at length and that is good.
Arik A few months ago you had an idea to write a new play…It started budding in…
Anat Yes, because suddenly I saw that I wasn’t dying yet  so I said – OK so I must do something and I very much wanted to write a political play because I am in total despair from what is happening in the country – which, by the way, helps me very much to die.
Arik What does that mean?
Anat That I don’t fancy being here any more.I’m in terrible, terrible despair
Arik Why?
Anat Because I am in love with this country and I was brought up by parents who founded the state. They met in the Hagana*. I am the seventh generation in this country and I had the hope that there would be a good state here, a humane one that would be a light unto the nations,  that would behave well towards the weak, the minorities, foreign workers, refugees. I open a newspaper and each item depresses me more that the previous one. The racism, violence , bestiality, the humiliation that old people and the disabled undergo at the National Insurance, terrible…wherever you look… about the word “peace’ nobody has been speaking already for a long time. So I wanted to write a play called “The Zionist Creation”, which would be a reality show in which whoever is the most Zionist gets the million . And to my sorrow, the one who is the most Zionist – for I always considered myself a Zionist and till today I consider myself a Zionist, at least according to Herzl or Ahad Ha’am or Buber! – but today the one who is the most Zionist is the one who most hates Arabs, who is most in favor of expelling the refugees from here, the one who will behave as disgustingly as possible to everything that is not Jewish and even if one is Jewish he should preferably be white because if he is Ethiopian that’s also not the greatest pleasure. Therefore those who are dropped from this reality show are of course those who are, Heaven forbid, on the left or sympathetic to the distress of others. That was my fantasy, to write such a play. But I won’t be writing it any more. Real life will write it`
Arik It’s terribly sad to hear what you say because I know how much you love this place and how important it is to you.
Anat Very very much. So in this sense I think, whoever says to me “Aren’t you afraid to die?” I say “I?  Afraid? You are staying here. I am going to a better place”.
Arik One night I switched on the television and saw you in the Nachal Troupe* in “Palanchnik” and it was funny to see you there dancing and singing…
Anat Dancing dreadfully
Arik Not true
Anat Stop it. I’m like a plank
Arik You are so beautiful with that long hair, you were stunning there…one sees you and Gidi so young… so there’s something in it, really, a propos what you say now about the state… that there was still a feeling of innocence. It was before ’73, wasn’t it?
Anat A minute before ’73, straight after that the Yom Kippur War broke out that changed my whole world.
Arik So this program of yours was still at the end of the euphoria of…
Anat Innocence, Yes, the end of the age of innocence.
Arik I am interested to know, because I don’t know your history, when were you disillusioned? When was it? ’73?
Anat My whole generation, in my opinion, got the shock of its life on Yom Kippur, from every point of view. Suddenly you understood the arrogance, the intoxication of power. Look, not long ago in “Uvda”* there was a program about Ze’elim Bet* , Leave aside all the megalomania, I am sitting and watching it and I don’t believe – the arrogance with which those people speak , as if soldiers weren’t killed there , you look at all those generals and you say…the group of men who lead this world …they are playing at “bang bang” (pistol shots) . Wars and more wars. And there’s no end to it because they simply love it.
Arik Amazing, it’s amazing.. While we are talking, the Song of Peace is playing on the radio.
Anat Which, you understand, it was forbidden to sing.
Arik What does that mean, it was forbidden to sing it? Anat!
Anat What does it mean?  Gandhi* didn’t allow it to be performed. Don’t you know?
Arik No, you’re pulling my leg
Anat Are you serious, tell me?
Arik But the consensus about this song is one of the strongest there is
Anat Tell me, are you a child? When the Song of Peace came out it was forbidden to sing it in the whole Central Command. Gandhi gave an order.
Arik I didn’t know that… I’m shocked.
Anat Yes, because it lowered morale, the word peace.
Arik From what you are telling me, we have reached the same state a bit today. Because you began telling me a few minutes ago that there are perhaps three members of the Knesset who dare to say the word ‘peace’ at all.
Anat Exactly
Arik So we’ve reached the point that today too ‘peace’ is a form of demoralization.
Anat Peace is treason. That is what I wanted to say in this play called “The Zionist Creation”; that whoever is not a racist, an aggressor and a hater…is a traitor.
Arik What has to happen here Anat, in your opinion?
Anat First of all, it is not possible that three million people live here under occupation with no rights. What do you talk to me about? About social justice? About how much cottage cheese costs? 20 minutes from here, people have no rights. To reach a hospital … cancer patients have to stand six hours at a check post, not to speak of all the permits they have to get beforehand. We can’t imagine what it is. Look, if we stand in line for a quarter of an hour we get into a state . Do you know what it is to stand for four hours every morning at a check post?
Arik How is it that nobody talks about this now? There are elections.
Anat It’s forbidden, forbidden. Whoever talks about it is a traitor. We’re finished. Whoever is on the left, that’s treason. Now what is the thing that hurts me most?  The rate of voting in Israel is 64 percent. It is a scandal in a country like this that people don’t go to vote. After all we’re not Switzerland, where the question is whether it is allowed to flush the toilet between 14-16. And in my opinion, those who don’t go to vote are the left, because the ultra-orthodox go one hundred percent if not two hundred, the settlers go one hundred percent, Shas… they are all committed
Arik Very much committed. And why doesn’t the left go to vote?
Anat I don’t know. That is the question of the elections… where is all the millions who came out for the social protest? Where are they on election day?
Arik So who will you vote for?
Anat I have no idea if I’ll still be here at all, but I certainly won’t vote for those who
  suck up to the settlers. Now, I have nothing personal against the settlers, let that be clear.
Arik You haven’t?
Anat For years I spent time in meetings with the settlers in an attempt to reach a dialogue. I think that the settlers, most of them, are in principle people with values. In general, people whose lives don’t revolve only round their own ass are people I appreciate. But there is here a contradiction and I don’t understand how they live with it, that they don’t see that a meter from them immoral things are taking place in their name, that their freedom comes at the expense of someone else’s freedom. I don’t understand how they live with it. So when people come and say that the occupation is not the problem, then I have a problem. Of course it is the problem. It corrupts every good part of us. How can one sit and drink coffee in Tel Aviv when twenty minutes from here there are people who are under military control, in the twenty first century. I don’t understand it.
Arik So what has happened to the people? We’ve got used to it?
Anat It’s a lot a matter of education.. Look who our Minister of Education is. Look what he is doing.
Arik What is he doing
Anat He is giving incentives to schools according to the numbers enlisting in the army. He’s turning us into Sparta. This has become the index of Israel – strength instead of spirit; this is what has happened to the State, admiration of power. You see these generals, how they talk and you are shocked…so we have become admirers of power and truly we have a strong army and that is important, but appearances are not everything. The strongest empires in history fell and it was the Jews who survived two thousand years in exile without any strength, just because of spirit, as the song says…and what exactly is the difference between us and Iran? There is power and there is religion. These are the two things that have taken control here. Now even the Jews of the US are disgusted by us, both because of the occupation and because of the fanaticism that has taken over Judaism here. So soon there won’t even be that, this support that we build on from America. I don’t know what will be here, it makes me really despair and I have here children and grandchildren and my daughter is married to a man with an American passport, he is a doctor, he can get up tomorrow morning and go…she won’t hear of it. She loves the country… but when I think of my sweet granddaughters…what state will there be here? Lieberman will be Prime Minister. Frightening to die? It’s really not frightening. It’s frightening to stay here.
Arik It frightens you?
Anat It doesn’t frighten. It depresses.
Arik So you are not optimistic at the moment Anat?
Anat I can’t not be optimistic because it is built into my personality. .Because whoever is not optimistic, in my opinion, has nothing to live for. Simply nothing. So I am always optimistic that some miracle will happen and something will suddenly come …or that we will be forced or I don’t know what. Look. Abu Mazen comes, says “let’s talk”, everyone yells at him liar…where are we living? There is a Saudi initiative. Come on, go back to ’67 and we’ll all be at peace with you, nobody believed them … the main thing is they say “there’s no partner’ as if we – our hand is outstretched…where is this hand? Our hand is outstretched with a rude finger – that’s what our hand is
Arik Is there something we should be doing?
Anat What, will I begin to say what to do?
Arik Not to the politicians…more to us
Anat To see the other. To see the weak, the Eritrean who washes dishes in a restaurant. To see him and think how he lives, how he sleeps at night, how he gets up in the morning, what he does, how he is afraid to walk in the street, Think about the Ethiopian, how afraid he is to walk in the street in case they think he is an Eritrean, does anyone think of that? God is found in the attitude to the other, to the weak, that is what I believe, that is my God, that is the God I believe in.
Arik What does that mean?
Anat How you relate to the weak, there is God. Empathy? Compassion? Where are all these qualities? They are qualities that are supposed to be Jewish. Forget it …human, universal…where.. where…? One of the things that drive me most mad are these rabbis who presume to speak in the name of God. Where is that chuzpa from? A rabbi is only a go-between. Who are you to rule absolutely what God wants? Some rabbi gets up one morning, hears a little girl singing and it stimulates him sexually, so he rules “a woman’s voice is indecent” and stops up the mouths of whole generations of women. What is this? Who is he altogether? A rabbi is a person like me and you. His excretions are not made of gold. You know, I have been married for thirty five years to a person whose profession offers him temptations from morning to night. And I’m not talking only of groupies. I am talking about a person who has acted in films with the most beautiful and sexiest actresses in the country, a person who not only heard a woman singing but even, Heaven forfend, sang together with them.on the stage and even love songs. And in spite
  of all the temptations he chose, of his own free will, to remain faithful to me for thirty five years. So who did the hardest work on himself? My secular rocker or “his honor the rabbi” who simply covered all the women with sacks, shaved their heads and stopped up their mouths so as not to be tempted. Who here is the hero who really controlled his urges?
Arik It’s quite amazing that you talk about things that are not at all simple, like death and cancer, calmly and tranquilly  and when you talk about the State you get all excited
Anat My cancer is a trifle compared to the cancer of the State, believe me. I open the paper…all the racism and hatred and arrogance and religious coercion and all those things…about them I want to cry… about my cancer I didn’t cry once, not once did I cry. But the situation in the country, that affects me far far more…and badly.
Arik One sees, one sees when you talk about it. And death – nothing…
Anat This period now, when I am going towards death  has about it, in fact, something exalting
Arik Really? How?
Anat I am going towards an adventure, I am going to something that intrigues me in some place, if there is or is not something there…if there isn’t, there isn’t. We’ll sleep well, which is also pleasant. But if there is, that’s terribly interesting. What can be bad? If there is no body, there is no suffering.
Arik You don’t hold on
Anat No
Arik You don’t hold on to life either
Anat One of the fine things in Judaism, by the way, is this thing called “Shmitta”*-  to know how to let go, which in my opinion , by the way, differentiates it from Buddhism, which says don’t get attached in advance to anything so then you will have no trouble parting. No, Judaism says get attached, but know how to let go. Nothing is yours; we are guests here for a moment. Everything we have is a short term deposit and when you are told “time’s up” …the ability to let go is in my eyes the highest spiritual level
Arik And that  is truly interesting, that it is different from Buddhism in the sense that you don’t come and say don’t hold on to anything in life… on the contrary, hold on
Anat Hold on to family, to love, to work, to friendship, to everything…
Arik Can it be that now, the more you are into the stage of the last lap you believe more in God?
Anat No, not belief of that sort. I have a relationship with God. I like the idea of God very much because first of all the thought that there is something above us leads me not to think that I am God and that already seems to me a good reason to think there is a God, it imparts a certain modesty. Now it is clear to me that there are forces that we don’t understand but does it seem to you that he checks whether you cut the toilet paper on the Sabbath? What is this stupidity? And the whole Christian world. Do you really believe that she got pregnant from God? Are you joking? How can you believe such stupid things? And that’s the three religions and look, that’s not God, that’s God’s agents, it’s the interpretation of God. Therefore the film “Life of  Brian” is a film of genius, because it doesn’t laugh at Jesus, it laughs at the interpretation. Jesus was all in all a good Jew. Whenever I am abroad and see them wailing about the cross I want to laugh “but he was a Jew…what are you carrying on about”?
Arik Do you still smoke?
Anat Don’t you see?
Arik And you still enjoy each and every cigarette?
Anat Today even more… what’s already left for me? How many pleasures are still left me? And the doctors who treat me go with it
Arik They don’t ask you to stop?
Anat What should I stop for now. That’s really a joke.
Arik That really was an almost stupid question. …You know every week I have a new phase with you… So one phase is “not to be afraid”. If Anat is capable of inviting a rabbi home, summoning the family and talking about her funeral, so who am I to be afraid to tell somebody something because perhaps he will be hurt or perhaps he’ll be offended.
Anat No, not to offend, that’s a very important thing.
Arik No, but to communicate. Many times because we feel awkward we get stuck, don’t express ourselves and then it comes out even worse, it bursts out . Not to be afraid to express yourself, to communicate, to speak
Anat To speak
Arik To speak about everything to everyone
Anat Right. Alon’s song: “to speak, to speak, to speak”. To speak in the simplest way, about frightening things, about everything. To be sincere
Arik And to say I love you also for ‘flu, not to wait for cancer.
Anat Yes, but to remember that love is not butterflies and birds and excitement. Love is commitment. If you get up every morning and ask “where’s my happiness? What about me? When is it my turn? Am I entitled? Am I not entitled? Me and me and me” then most of the chances are that you will be very unhappy. But if you get up in the morning and ask “how can I make the other person happy?’ then perhaps you have a chance of a stub of happiness. I tell you that I am now getting text messages from people just saying that they love me. That’s all. Without anything else, no “be well” and all that nonsense. It’s ever so lovely in my opinion that it is sincere and there isn’t this lie that perhaps a miracle will happen, perhaps you will get well. There isn’t. I received a text from someone who worked with me once who wrote “If on the way out you are collecting old loves, then take mine too.” Charming, isn’t it?
Arik What did you answer him?
Anat Of course I’ll take it. On love you don’t pay overweight
Arik Does it give you strength?
Anat It gives me spirit. I don’t need strength, I’ve got enough. I am being carried out from here floating on waves of love, that’s what it gives me.
Arik You told me once that you believe that life is actually a collection of experiences.
Anat Yes, a collection of memories, a collection of experiences. That is why it is very important to improve memories, so that you have more good memories than bad ones. Before you die. It’s in our hands.
Arik It’s in our hands from the aspect of our point of view or from the aspect of what we do day by day?
Anat You create your memories
Arik From what we do
Anat Exactly. What did you do today? Did you do something good for somebody? Did you do something good for yourself? Before you go to sleep: “What did I do today?”
Arik Did you ask yourself this question?
Anat Every day
Aril Every day, till today?
Anat Until my last breath.
 
 
 
 
 
  *Chevra Kadisha:  the Jewish religious burial society
  *Kolot:                   a pluralistic seminar for the study of Judaism
  *Hagana:                Jewish paramilitary organization in mandatory Palestine
  *Nahal:                   an IDF infantry brigade
  *Palanchnik            name of a show of the Nahal entertainment troupe
  *Uvda:                    a TV investigative program
  *Zeelim bet:            an IDF base where 5 soldiers of an elite unit were killed in
                                  a training accident Nov.5, 1992
  *Gandhi :                 nickname of General Rehavam Ze’evi
  *Shmitta:                 the fallow year, year of remission in Jewish law
 

 

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