In 2006 I interviewed Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny, Ukraine’s chief progressive rabbi, while researching an article for The Jerusalem Report. Here is the full unpublished version.
Where did you spend your childhood?
I grew up in Kiev, with secular Jewish parents. My mother came from a shtetl called Ruzhyn. She was a religious woman and introduced me to Judaism. I remember when I grew up there were thousands of Jews in Kiev, but no synagogue.
What are the main problems people in Ukraine face today?
First of all, Ukrainians are tired of all the political clashes. More and more people are very disappointed. The main problems are political instability and economic poverty. For example, the average pension is around $30 per month, but you will pay half or more for electricity, water and municipal taxes. The prices in Kiev are not much cheaper than UK. I actually go shopping in London in the sales!
Has President Yushchenko been good for your country?
Let me tell you that in 2004 I was the only rabbi among the other 50 rabbinic clergy (mostly ultra-Orthodox Chabad), who came to the main square in Kiev to support the democratic changes in Ukraine. Why? Because it matters to me where my country is going. I wasn’t there to support a particular candidate, but I supported the main democratic changes in Ukraine. That was my main prayer in 2004. Unfortunately, the President was unable for many reasons to bring Ukraine up to the European standard. I think the major problem was that there were more words than actions. One of the major slogans of the Orange Revolution was ‘Stop corruption’. Corruption is flourishing today. The majority of Ukrainians are still living in poverty.
How has life changed for the country’s Jewish population since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991?
It’s definitely better now for the Jewish population than under the Soviet Union. Under the Soviet Union all religions were forbidden. Now there is freedom of culture and freedom of speech. This is the biggest achievement of the Orange Revolution. During the elections we began to hear the real voices of Ukrainians and I think this is very important. The press is now free to comment, but now it’s not the President or Parliament that runs the newspapers, but private companies. So, every morning I start with my morning exercises at 6am and watch the BBC World Service. Then in the afternoon I can compare it to our media.
How is the relationship between Progressive Judaism and the ultra-orthodox Chabad movement in Ukraine?
Exactly the same as you have anywhere. We love them and they hate us. There are about 240 Jewish organisations in Ukraine and more than 100 belong to Chabad. Chabad is opposed to us because we accept all kinds of people that are rediscovering their Judaism. We teach them that the experience of Judaism is about human beings and not about rules. This is why our priority in Vinnitsa and other congregations is to educate people and give them the ability to make an intellectual choice. A rabbi once said ‘To change tradition you need to know it’. So we teach traditions to our congregation so that they can make an informed choice. We hope that they will choose the Yetza Ha-tov rather than Yetza-Hara, good inclination rather than bad inclination. This is what Liberal Progressive Judaism is all about, it’s not only a set of rules, it’s about who you are. So my first question to people is not ‘Do you believe in God?’ but ‘Do you believe in yourself?’
And what about other religious faiths?
This evening I attended a conference with Jews, Christians and Muslims in Kiev. The essence of Judaism is to be a personal example to other nations to be compassionate, just and how to build peace. The Jewish community in Ukraine is just beginning to discover its identity in full flourish. It has happened all over the world and now it is happening here. This is why we are teaching Christians and Muslims are our brothers.
How did the Jewish community in Ukraine rebuild after the Holocaust?
After World War II, everything was destroyed, lives were destroyed, very many people were moved from their homes and transferred, some were moved to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan. But over time some of them began to come back and resettle. It wasn’t until 1961, 20 years after the massacres, that people started to commemorate what happened.
Stalin’s regime was also anti-Semitic. Stalin wanted to melt all the nationalities in the Soviet Union – Kazaks, Uzbeks, Ukrainians – into one Soviet nation. After Stalin, people started to find out about all the people that were murdered in the camps. There followed a short period which we call the ‘Spring of Freedom’. This was a period when people were able to say what they wanted to say. This is what we have now in independent Ukraine. But the Spring of Freedom was a small hole in the window.
How are the horrific events of World War II commemorated in Vinnitsa?
Now we commemorate those Jewish people who were murdered in 1941 during the Nazi occupation in villages and halls, usually on Holocaust Memorial Day and Yom Ha-Shoa. We don’t commemorate what happened on Rosh Hashanah as we don’t want it to be a sad festival, instead on Yom Kippur, ten days later, we have the ability to commemorate. And we think this is a better way. The best monument to those Jews in Vinnitsa who were killed on Rosh Hashanah of 1941 is the present life of the Jewish community. And the LJS in London is a real participant of this Jewish renaissance by helping financially and by visiting. We feel the best way to commemorate is not to cry for the murdered people but to build a real Jewish presence in modern Ukraine. Do you agree?
How is the rebirth of Jewish culture being manifested in Ukraine today?
First of all, it is being manifested through prayers. In one of our congregations, we have a 26-year old woman who is writing new music for the Jewish liturgy. In Kiev there are dozens of Jewish schools, musical groups, theatres and art exhibitions preserving our Jewish heritage.
Do you think politics has a place in religion?
In ancient times when you said politics, you meant religion. Religion and politics are a simile. Real religion is spirituality. My surname Dukhovny in English means spiritual. So, in a way, I am Rabbi Spiritual.
What are your dreams for the future?
When my wife asked me that on a train in London, I said ‘I want to make sure that there is a Liberal movement in Ukraine.’ My dream is also to have a physical presence in Kiev. At present, there is no progressive synagogue in Kiev. I always say that unless you have a physical presence, then you will remain a marginal movement. I want us to have a property in Kiev that is a centre of acceptance, tolerance and pluralism.
Postscript: Much has changed in Ukraine since this interview was conducted. Earlier this year in 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused many to flee. Rabbi Alexander Dukhovney is now located in Israel and made headlines with a heartfelt and hopeful video he posted when the war broke out. Read more about it on Time magazine’s site.
A never-before published interview from 2004 with legendary music producer, Youth. Best known for post-punk band Killing Joke, he joined Paul McCartney in the Fireman and produced the Orb and the Verve.
You may not have heard of Youth, but you’ve probably heard some of his music. He’s produced so many artists he could be dubbed the ‘Granddaddy of psy-trance’, the ‘Godfather of dub’ or the ‘Archbishop of post-punk’. The producer and bassist simply known as Youth welcomes us into his South London home and studio.
Youth rarely gives interviews, so when he does he has lots to say. Sitting in his conservatory with his pet cats, overlooking a beautiful garden, it’s hard to imagine a more peaceful place. You almost forget that this married man, a father-of-two, is in fact one of the busiest producers in music.
For years, Youth (Martin Glover) has been the brains behind some magical music, but generously gives the limelight to others. His CV reads like an A-Z of innovative styles: ex-bassist from seminal post-punk band Killing Joke, producer of The Orb’s classic Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and Brit Award winner for The Verve’s Urban Hymns. However, dub is his home.
Youth in Dub “I’m fully dubbed up at the moment,” he says. At present he is putting the finishing touches to the follow-up to last year’s Youth in Dub album. This was only the second time he’d ever put a record out under the name Youth. Instead, he’s been using names like United States of Dub, Zion Youth and The Kumba Mela Experiment.
He explains why: “What I’ve done with my dub stuff over the last 10 years is put it out under different pseudonyms. I’ve always liked having a project to work behind, suddenly I feel a bit freer. I always felt that if I started doing music as Youth people would then type cast me with that kind of music.”
Youth in Dub opens with sitars and big beats and the pace gradually accelerates until the last track “Peace and Love”. During the course of the album all manner of effects, delays and ethnic vocal samples are used, whilst Youth plugs in and plays bass on most of the tracks.
Most of Youth’s recent work has come out of days and nights working in his home studio at the bottom of his garden. Conveniently, this allows Youth to work long hours and still spend time with his young family.
From the outside the studio itself looks like an ordinary wooden hut, but inside there is an array of keyboards, guitars and a huge Mackie 24/8 mixing desk. What is his favourite bit of gear? His bass, of course. He has an outstanding selection with two Hofner basses, a Bass pod, an Ampeg Bass Amp and two Gibson Les Paul basses. “This is a beautiful bass this one,” he says smiling as he holds one of the Gibsons.
On the way out you nearly trip over boxes of old gear, tablas and an Indian sitar. All in all, it is an extraordinary Tardis jammed with everything a music maker needs to create. The various pieces of equipment are all necessary for the variety of different projects he undertakes.
Recently, Youth has produced albums for Embrace, Howie Day, The String Cheese Incident and even Keith Flint from The Prodigy, which should be out later this year. Does he find these more commercial projects tedious?
He answers: “With Keith, it was a big project because he’s such a big artist, but it was punk, it was raw visceral rock n’ roll and I loved it.”
He continues: “All projects have their tedious moments. No matter how much fun they are you’ve got to sift through and edit but that’s part of the process and you have enough steel in your resolve to go to the depths you need to go sometimes. You have to find ways of bringing that renewal of yourself and one of those ways is to destroy yourself somehow, your point of view, who you are and push yourself into challenging situations. But I wouldn’t work with a rock band if I didn’t like the singer or his voice. I’d find that really difficult.”
Producing projects for bands like The Verve, Crowded House and Embrace has sometimes required using a string orchestra for accompaniments. This isn’t always fun, as Youth explains: “Doing classical music is really difficult. It’s lovely when you’ve got all the strings playing together, but when you have to edit individual violins and you’ve got 16 different solos that you’ve got to find and edit the best one out of them. And you’re sitting there pulling your hair out for eight hours in a dark dingy studio… that’s not fun! I mean what’s fun is the sense of achievement you get out of doing it, but while you’re doing it, it’s really fucking hard.”
Urban Hymns In 1998 he won the best producer award at the Brits for The Verve’s Urban Hymns. This project along with the hit singles “Bittersweet Symphony” and “The Drugs Don’t Work” mark his biggest commercial success to date. In the mid-nineties, The Verve were a notoriously hard band to work with, but Youth managed to assist them with their resurrection. Chris Potter who produced a few tracks on the album said at the time, “I think Youth helped bring a bit of discipline to the recording process for them.”
Youth went along to pick up his Brit, but what does he think of the awards now? “It’s an industry backslap. I saw a bit of the show this year (2004) and I thought it doesn’t look too bad, they’ve got tables and booze,” he says. “But because it’s very pop-oriented now it’s a bit banal, a bit puerile. There’s a really interesting article that I read by Alex James from Blur and his angle was that the most interesting music in pop today is production-led. I like the way in Britain that the artist is the centre of attention, but also in America the public perception of that is a bit more grown up and they understand that a producer is more like a film director.”
Not content with just being a producer/remixer, Youth also writes poetry and creates the artwork for his releases on his record label LSD (Liquid Sound Design). He continually wants to branch out into new mediums, and at present he is working on a visual project called LSD TV. This will begin by releasing a Kumba Mela DVD. The idea is to merge footage from India and live performances from around Europe with VJ graphics.
“There’s hours and hours of footage to trawl through. The whole issue of producing DVDs is a bit of an unknown quantity for us,” he continues. “Eventually it will be on the Internet but the technology is not quite there yet. We thought we’d just do a couple of DVDs which you can watch as a DVD film but you could also just put it on your laptop to work as a screensaver, sort of ambient TV really.”
The Kumba Mela Experiment was an ambitious collaboration with Suns of Arqua, Timmy B from Dreadzone, Dub Judah, Brother Culture and spoon bender Uri Geller! Like Bill Laswell in New York, every Youth album is a collaboration of some sort, but would he ever collaborate with him? “He’s a really pioneering artist,” he says, “I’d really like to collaborate with Jah Wobble as well, but we’re all bass players!”
Back in the Seventies he was inspired by two related genres of music – punk and dub.
Killing Joke “All these weird threads of the carpet weave together for me musically,” he explains. “When I was a teenager in the early days of punk rock in 1976, roots dub really resonated with me. The whole atmosphere of wall-to-wall PA stacks, blue smoke and the sound of this bass that just glued everyone together. I was one of the few white men in those clubs. But I never experienced any kind of bad vibes.”
It was in one of these clubs that Youth met Jaz Coleman and Geordie Walker, founders of Killing Joke, the band he joined in 1978. His first contribution to Killing Joke, at the age of 18, was “Turn to Red” – a dub influenced track with dark spacey undertones. Their experimental bass lines and ferocious vocals inspired the likes of Nirvana, Marilyn Manson and a host of imitators.
Youth left Killing Joke in 1983 to pursue a successful career as a remixer, but has rejoined the band for several comebacks. In a recent interview Jaz admitted he fell out with Youth after 1994’s Democracy, “It took us quite a few years to all get talking again.”
However, last year Killing Joke returned for a self-titled album produced by Andy Gill from Gang of Four with Dave Grohl on drums. Andy was brought in because he was an impartial outsider. “The problem with Youth, Geordie and myself is we’re all producers so we’re gonna bicker anyway,” says Jaz.
Youth enjoyed the experience and thinks it was the best album yet. He reassures fans “there will always be more Killing Joke action.”
Recently Negativland did a version of an LCD track called “Losing My Edge”, which sampled an old Killing Joke riff. Youth says that he couldn’t resist mucking around with both their versions for a laugh and “doing a bootleg of a bootleg of a bootleg version!”
“To me it’s great to see music I was making 25 years ago still relevant on an underground edge today,” he says. “That really inspires me to follow my intuition and gut feeling more. That’s why I’m putting records out as Youth and they’re very dub orientated.”
London and John Lydon Born in Nairobi in 1960, Youth left school at 15 to start touring with a punk band called Rage. He spent his teenage years living in squats in Ladbroke Grove. Was that a good experience?
“Yeah it was,” he laughs. “It was cheap. Those were the golden days when you had the dole. You’d get 20 quid to survive on and you’d have somewhere you could stay. To me squatting was not only convenient but it made sense because the houses were empty. We would hang out and get stoned together, exchange stories and live a mythical life, which is really hard to get today.”
One person Youth used to hangout with at this time was John Lydon. He recalls how one day he went with Lydon to meet Bob Marley at the Mayfair Hotel.
“All I remember really was John having an argument with Peter Tosh about an alcoholic milk drink,” he says. “Peter Tosh said ‘that’s not for you it’s a Rasta thing’. John rightly corrected him and said ‘that’s actually an Irish drink’. He stood up to him. John was such a big influence on me in terms of integrity and being honest.”
“I almost produced a solo album with him 10 years ago,” says Youth, “It didn’t work out for one reason or another. I was playing him a lot of trance and he was really getting into that, but he wouldn’t let me get involved in the music. He wanted to do it all himself.”
India not Ibiza A decade after punk exploded, the alternative trance scene in Goa gave Youth a new lease of life. After the initial rush of Acid House at the end of the 80s Youth was disappointed to see it suddenly being turned into what he calls “ketamine drongo music” and “high street cocktail music, which it is today.” He says that a lot of the people involved with the scene became hedonistic, money orientated and ultimately cynical.
“There was that whole Ibiza thing and what I found in India was the antithesis to that,” he says. “That whole scene was like the early squatters where people had the space to hang-out, connect, write and be artistic, experiment with society and how they wanted to live their lives.”
He casually adds: “I’m writing a book about that actually, called The Gentle Revolution. It’s like a No Logo in that it’s looking at emerging cultures and ones that are coming to the end of their life cycle. I think the whole way we live is going to change in the next five or ten years.”
Little Fluffy Clouds His experiences in India inspired him so much that he would come back to England and work like he was “on fire for six months”. He formed the Wau Mr Modo label with ex-Killing Joke roadie Alex Paterson to work on The Orb. The work produced by The Orb between 1989 and 1993 redefined ambient music by combining dub techniques and effects with almost progressive rock structures. He had no idea what effect this ambient dub trip would have on music.
“I thought it might make a dent on the underground,” he says, “but once ‘the Huge Ever-growing Brain’ came out and that did really well we thought ‘wait a minute we’re on to something’. The team was so good at that point creating the sleeves and the whole vision of it from Alex. That really inspired me to get ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ together, to get something that was really gonna raise the bar.”
The sprawling double albums Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and UFOrb spawned two unlikely hit singles – “Little Fluffy Clouds” (which featured a sample of Rickie Lee Jones talking about her childhood) and “The Blue Room” (the longest-ever single at 39 minutes 58 seconds).
However, like all great bands, The Orb lost momentum. Alex Paterson fell out with the management when he signed to Island and from that point on it took two or three albums to come back to the standards they got in the first two albums. “I do think Alex will pull it back,” says Youth, “he’ll make another album as good as the first one again.”
Since the early nineties production values have continually improved. Youth says that the whole sound cut-up technique of Aphex Twin and others at Warp records “makes The Orb sound like Abba.”
Dub Trees Youth left working with The Orb to set up his own Butterfly studios, now a publishing house. At Butterfly, he enjoyed the freedom to experiment further and founded the influential trance label Dragonfly. He recruited people like Greg Hunter and Brian Eno’s former engineer Ott, who remembers his time at Butterfly as “two years of total madness.”
In 2000, Youth put out a Dub Trees album borrowing the title from a Wordsworth poem “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” This album mixed heavy beats and guitars with an array of samples from around the world. “I felt we were really on a little spaceship going into uncharted territories and galaxies,” he says. “But it got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore, once we spent five days on a kick drum and I said ‘That’s it. I can’t go that deep. I can’t spend five days on a kick drum.’”
For the Dub Trees album Youth teamed up with Simon Posford, the man behind Sphongle and Hallucinogen. Youth played bass on the Hallucinogen in Dub gig at Glastonbury last year with Posford and Ott. “I got some incredible feedback about that,” he says, “The next thing I’m gonna do with Simon and Ott is another Celtic Cross album.”
Celtic Cross is a project that fuses electronic and traditional folk music, an area of music that Youth wishes to explore further. He reveals that he is writing and recording some traditional folk music with Simon Tong (guitarist from The Verve and now Blur).
He talks passionately about his love of early Seventies psychedelic folk and how he has been studying the roots of its tradition. “The verse-chorus, verse-chorus, middle-eight-bridge arrangement is kind of Celtic in that it is a poetic tradition. It came back to us via pop and country n’ western in America and it’s such a prevalent cultural force now. It intrigued me that its origins are so buried. Recently, I think there’s been a traditional folk revival, there’s a lot of alternative country music coming through and a lot of avante garde music using those influences.”
He continues: “I read this great interview with Joe Boyd the other day and he actually plugged Dylan into his first amp at the Newport Jazz festival when they all booed. To me that is the real tradition of folk, which is being contemporary, bringing it into the moment you’re in. I suppose that’s the spirit of all rock n’ roll and everything.”
Throughout his career, Youth has embraced new technologies to experiment with sound, but all of his work has a firm basis of organic live musicianship.
He says: “I like that whole sample culture of mixing it up. Paradoxically, music is a language and if you go too far from what people expect in any kind of genre they won’t get it. That’s why I like to DJ, you have to give people something they want to hear and also something they haven’t heard before.”
Youth has managed to live an almost bohemian lifestyle whether in London or India, and this ever-changing scenery resonates through his music that refuses to stick to a formula. “I’ve never been into ‘oh that’s it for the rest of my life,’” he says, “there’s no arrivals, they’re just different chapters in the book, aren’t they?”
After the interview, which lasts an-hour-and-a-half, Youth’s wife says: “He could talk all day.” The funny thing is, it only felt like 20 minutes had passed. Later, in his studio, he plays a snippet of his new track which features master Arabic drummer Roni Barak. The track is based on a Steve Hillage Stereo MCs remix from the Arabesque compilation. Youth flicks between Hillage’s version and his own.
“Listen to the hi-hat and bass,” he tells his young engineer Adam. “We’ve got to get ours sounding as phat as that.” He wastes no time in getting back to work.
I wrote this article in April 2004, when I was studying to be a journalist at Brighton. I pitched it to the Big Issue and then Sound on Sound magazine, but it never got published. I recall on the morning of the interview I had a hangover and arrived late at his home. I knocked on the door and no-one answered, so i just walked round the back to find Youth sitting in his conservatory having a cup of tea. After the interview, Youth showed me his studio in the back garden, we said bye and he watched me very slowly walk away, he probably thought I was homeless or a squatter, like he was in his twenties 🙂
A never-before published interview I had with British film industry legend Lord David Puttnam — producer of Chariots of Fire, Killing Fields, Midnight Express, and more.
You’ve been in films most of your life, what do you think of CGI effects? I have a great deal to thank the digital media for, it’s made me look perpetually 59.
How’s the British film industry doing today? Without doubt, British films are becoming more ambitious. I look back and it makes me laugh. I probably produced the very, very last non-digital film which was Memphis Belle, made literally with models and bits of string. It was unbelievably primitive. If we had made Memphis Belle just two years later it would have been made digitally and it would have been a different film, a better film. Yes, I’ve watched extraordinary changes take place.
You produced Killing Fields and Chariots of Fire, which won the Oscar for Best Film in 1982. Which film are you most proud of? This is a funny thing to say, but when Chariots of Fire won the Oscar I was a bit bothered because I thought it was a good film but I didn’t necessarily think it was a great film. And then two years later Killing Fields didn’t win. I always felt in my heart of hearts that Killing Fields was a better film than Chariots. I felt for the first time that I actually deserved the Oscar. Between the two movies, it probably deserved an Oscar. Killing Fields was a very important moment for me. It’s a remarkable piece of work on a very, very low budget. It also deals with something that’s not often dealt with — which is friendship, a relationship between men. The first Oscar could always be called a fluke, but when you get nominated a second time or third time… In my career I got four Oscar nominations, I definitely deserved one of them.
What makes a great film producer? Tenacity. Understanding the difference between a real talent and fake talent. Believing in someone. Sometimes you have to really, really believe in it. I remember when Bruce Robinson did his first draft of the screenplay for Killing Fields, I had a lot of people that wanted to buy it from me or wanted me to dump him and bring another writer in. But it was obvious to me that he got inside the story and it was a good story. So there was about a year of my life where I couldn’t move forward because I believed in the writer and I wouldn’t budge. Good producers do that. A good producer knows when he has got gold and sometimes it takes a long time for other people to recognise that gold is gold.
Do you need to get obsessed? Totally, totally. The reason for that is simple. The process of making a film can be so agonising that unless you are obsessed with it… I mean, for every film I’ve made, out of 30, I’ve probably realised three… and the difference between the ones I made and the ones I didn’t was obsession.
Anthony (Minghella) was a total believer. I didn’t like all of his films but Anthony believed in all of his films. I didn’t like Cold Mountain, but Anthony absolutely, absolutely believed in that movie. So it doesn’t matter what I thought.
What separates the great directors from other directors? Confidence, belief in what they’re doing. A lot of people are interested in filmmaking because they think they’ll make a lot of money. They don’t. There are much easier ways to make money. The reason a great director makes films is because they want to change the way that people live. Anthony (Minghella) and Steven Spielberg have always wanted to change the way people live. Anthony especially.
What are your hopes for the British film industry in the near future? I’d like to see us making films of such shining integrity about the potential of human beings that it becomes the most influential cinema. I don’t care whether it’s the biggest box-office cinema, I couldn’t care less. But I want it to be the most influential cinema. To me, the most influential cinema in the last couple of years was a German film The Lives of Others. It wasn’t a great success at the box-office, but it changed the way people thought about things. That’s what I’d like British cinema to do.
You’ve been trying to make the film industry more accessible. Please tell us about that. The Skillset program (now called Screenskills) offers people an opportunity outside, people who never dreamt of being in a film.
Let me put it another way, when I got into the film industry, most people in it were either the nephews or nieces, sons or daughters of people already in the industry. Extreme nepotism. What we did in recent years is help break that and make the film and television industry accessible to people who just had a dream. Twenty, thirty, or forty years ago the film industry was not accessible unless you had a route in. My uncle worked in the industry, without my uncle Charles I would never have got the interview and I thought that was wrong.
How can the film industry help tackle environmental issues? This afternoon I sat down with other MPs and other Lords on the impact of climate change. Why does that matter? It matters because we now have the tools to explain to a new generation whose lives are going to be completely dominated by these things. And we have the tools to illustrate to this new generation what that might mean. We can take them inside a melting glacier and show them what the results of glacier melt will be. We can take them inside flooded zones and show them the devastation. We can take them inside a disease and show them what a pandemic does. No other medium ever invented in the world can do that. So this new technology has arrived just in time, just in time to alert a generation of young people, my grandchildren, the nature of the world and the problems that they can address. And that gives them a fighting chance of being able to deal with it.
What’s your next project? I retired from the film industry ten years ago. I work for the Government and the last 4 years I have been concentrating completely on climate change and before that I was working in education for more than a decade. Next, I don’t know? You tell me.
What’s the biggest challenge for the British film industry? The post-production facilities we have now in Soho are better than most places in the world. Probably only LA matches them. But there’s a huge capital investment involved in keeping it that way, but there’s nothing to stop others doing the same. There’s nothing to stop Dubai or maybe India to create state of the art post-production facilities. So we mustn’t sit on our laurels and we mustn’t think we have some God-given right to have the best post-production houses in the world. We’ve got to keep at it.
What were your favourite films of the past year? The Lives of Others, I liked Juno a lot and I loved a film called In the Valley of Elah, which I couldn’t understand why it didn’t do better at the Oscars. Tommy Lee Jones’ performance in that film is unbelievable.
Cheesy question, but what’s the most important thing in life? Balance. The reason I’m leaving early is because I’m getting the first plane back to Ireland and my biggest challenge is making sure my life remains at an equilibrium — that my home life, my domestic life, my real life stays in balance with this life.
This article was written in 2008, when I was just starting out as a freelance journalist. I never got it published but recently found it, and Lord Puttnam’s comments on climate change and the British film industry seem somehow relevant for today.
“For all the yeledim, this sefer is just for you.”
Making Uga is a collection of fun rhymes for children written in Hebrish (Hebrew and English). From the excitement of making a birthday cake to taking off in a flying zoo, the rhymes make for a fun read for children of all ages and an introduction to some commonly-used Hebrew words.
“If words were the new currency, then Qwertex was the Royal Mint and God was the jewel in the crown.”
“Oh no, not me, we never lost control.
You’re face to face with the man who sold the world.”
‘The Man Who Sold the World”, David Bowie
And so in December 2034 the word ‘God’ is released for sale.
In the not-so-distant future, every word typed, swiped, copied or pasted on any device has a price. This is the world created by Zach Webman, CEO and founder of Qwertex – the global marketplace of words and successor to the internet.
When Qwertex releases the rights of ‘God’ for auction, the sale of this multi-billion dollar PKW (Premium Keyword) kicks off a bitter bidding war. The Saudi Prince Abdullah IV, US President Jimmy Chang, Pope Luke Johnson and media mogul Michael Mendelsohn will do whatever it takes to win ‘God’.
In the month leading up to the live ‘SuperBid’ finale in Hollywood, Zach discovers his wife, Chloe, his PA, Mariana, and his only son, Ben, have betrayed him. All this is set against the turmoil of rising anti-Qwertex protests and global terrorist attacks. God only knows what Zach – the man who sold the word – will do.
What they said about The QWERTY MAN
“A Godforsaken book that might just save humanity from technology.”
“Making people pay for words is not a bad thing. No-one reads better than me.”
• Population: 910,300 (804,400 in Jerusalem)
• Foreign visitors per year: 2.5 million
• Main town: Jerusalem
• Languages: Hebrew, Arabic and English
• Major industry: Tourism
• Unit of currency: New Israeli Shekel (NIS)
• Cost index: double room in B&B 350NIS (US$100), bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem 7NIS (US$2.20), bowl of hummus 20NIS (US$5.70), bowl of olives (Free)
Open Up Your Eyes
Jerusalem may hog the headlines but its surrounding hillside region, aside from Bethlehem, is virtually off the tourist map. Not for long. The new Open Skies agreement between the EU and Israel means that the number of cheap flights arriving from Europe is set for a rapid rise in the coming years. EasyJet, Wizz Air and others have already bumped up their flights to Ben Gurion Airport, 50km from Jerusalem, causing national airline El Al to recently launch its very own low-cost service called UP. This sudden influx of European travellers is sure to bring big changes to this rustic region.
With its high altitude, historic villages and lush forests of cypress, pine and olive trees, the Jerusalem Hills resembles a little Tuscany in the Middle East. Indeed, gourmet restaurants, boutique wineries and chic hotels such as the Cramim Spa Resort have been springing up in the ‘Judean Wine Region’. But here the cuisine is usually served with pita rather than pasta. And word is getting out that some of the best hummus in the world is served in towns like Abu Ghosh.
Geographically, the Jerusalem Hills includes the limestone Judean Mountains (Jibal al-Khalil in Arabic) that form part of Israel and the West Bank. But despite the bad PR, travel to the region has been generally safe in recent years and many are hoping that the tourism boom will bring a peace boom.
• Hike in the woodland hills of the Sataf Nature Reserve, home to orange groves, caves and two natural water springs, the size of swimming pools. Nearby, at the foot of Mount Eitan, picnic in style at a gourmet goat cheese farm run by an eccentric cheese maker who resembles Gandalf from The Hobbit.
• View Jerusalem as a giant at Mini-Israel in the village of Latrun, with its realistic replica models of Israel’s major sites, which are great fun for kids. Then sample some wine brewed by Trappist monks at the Latrun Monastery, with its 19th century Byzantine-style church draped in bougainvillea and surrounded by idyllic vineyards.
• Cycle one of the great routes of the world from the town of Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem along a 30km-long dry riverbed valley. The real reward for your efforts is ending the trail at the lofty Yad Kennedy memorial, near the biblical-era village of Ein Karem, offering unrivalled vistas of the seven hills of Jerusalem.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
• The forests around Jerusalem welcome people to plant saplings for the Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat, the New Year for Trees, from 4-6 February.
• The Jerusalem Light Festival juxtaposes the famous walls of the Old City with 3D laser shows, huge video projections and luminous installations in the first week of June.
• Bethlehem bursts into life on 24 December as thousands of wise men and women flock to the Church of Nativity to see the grotto where it is said Jesus was born. Whatever your beliefs, it’s a Christmas Eve you’ll never forget.
The seductive allure of peace in our time. The ongoing struggle between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the US to negotiate a peace deal continues to occupy the front pages. But in this region, peace is not just about words but actions. Volunteers can support a host of coexistence charities working in the Jerusalem Hills. Jews, Muslims and Christians already integrate on a daily basis in towns such as Abu Ghosh and the Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) Kibbutz, a cooperative village founded by Israelis and Palestinians.
• The Sorek Caves, a 5,000-square-metre underground network of stalactites, stalagmites and rock pillars, was only discovered in 1968 while quarrying with explosives.
• Bethlehem in Hebrew is written as Beit Lechem, meaning ‘House of Bread’ but in Arabic it is written as Bet Lahm, meaning ‘House of Meat’.
• The new mega mosque in Abu Ghosh, the second-biggest in Israel after Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, was donated by Chechnya, as many residents claim to have Chechen roots.
On the way to Jerusalem you may notice your ears pop. This is because the Old City is situated in an elevated position some 760 metres above sea level, meaning the Jerusalem Hills enjoys a slightly fresher climate than the rest of Israel. But don’t be fooled, 300 days of the year, this region still roasts.
Think hummus is just a dip? Well, not in the Jerusalem Hills, where hummus is considered as holy as the Western Wall or the Dome of Rock. No town worships this chickpea dish more than Abu Ghosh, dubbed as the ‘Capital of Hummus’ by the Guinness Book of Records (it once held the world record for the biggest portion of hummus, which weighed four tons). Here, hummus is usually served hot, like a bowl of thick soup, with tahini, herbs, pita bread, green olives, pickled cucumbers and finely chopped salads.