Children laugh at cancer patients, which is why 11-year-old survivor Shira Peled decided to write her book “The Bravest Girl in Kindergarten.”
“Kids don’t understand cancer patients’ pain, so it was important for me to make it clear that (they) can be hurtful,” Peled said.
When she was three years old, Peled’s parents noticed a large mark on her bottom. “The next day, we got up early and went to Tel Hashomer, where they did a bone marrow exam,” she remembers.
The results came in that evening – Shira was suffering from a type of leukemia called APL, a diagnosis that would have been fatal two years earlier. However, a new medicine had recently been discovered.
In her book, Peled writes about how the chemotherapy treatments weakened her body, raised her temperature and made it hard for her to eat and breathe.
“I didn’t eat anything for almost five days straight,” she says. When she finally did feel hungry, the first thing she asked for was “pastrami and a pickle.”
Peled’s book also describes the pain of losing her hair, which prior to her disease hadn’t ever been cut. Her long blonde locks were replaced by a “cute pink hat.” But within a year, her hair started growing back and when she started first grade she already had a ponytail.
“The treatments took six months and that’s it, I was saved. I went back to kindergarten and I’d sit in the doll corner – I was the doctor and they were the patients,” she says.
“Today, I’m almost 12, a happy girl. I didn’t let the disease affect me. So what if I was sick? It doesn’t mean I’m defective. I’m different from you. I’m special.”
Peled’s book won a great deal of attention during Hebrew Book Week’s primary school reading campaign, including a prize in the “Especially Exciting” category.
Haya Shitai, director of the Education Ministry’s Tel Aviv District, praised Peled at the prize ceremony. “It’s important that as many children as possible read this book – some will find strength to deal with a disease or other difficulties, and others will understand how important friendship is and how important it is to support a sick friend,” she told the young author.
Peled’s book will be distributed at hospitals throughout Israel.
by Ryan Kelly
One hundred and fifty miles east of Los Angeles, a desert ghost-town on the edge of the Salton Sea gave filmmaker Alma Har’el the inspiration for her first documentary. In the fifties Bombay Beach was a luxury playground rivalling Palm Springs. The West Coast jet set raced speedboats on the lake and Frank Sinatra built a summerhouse on its shores. After an ecological disaster the money disappeared, and today it’s better known for its meth labs, rusting car-skeletons and dying fish. Har’el was at Coachella shooting a music video for Beirut when she discovered the desolate stretch of desert, and began documenting the lives of its community caught somewhere between the American Dream and nightmare in the 120-degree heat. “It was post-apocalyptic; a place forgotten by society,” says the Tel Aviv–born filmmaker. Her visceral documentary illuminates the lives of a handful of characters from the town — an over-medicated young boy, a teenage football hopeful escaping South Central LA’s gang violence, and an ancient former oil-field worker — and weaves them together with loosely choreographed dance sequences that create a woozy, dreamlike atmosphere. “They’re resilient characters trying to make the best with what they’ve got — which is not a lot.”
She felt an immediate kinship with the area, which stemmed from her childhood growing up in Israel. “It was the idea that the place you were born used to be a kind of promise, a hope, and yet the reality of it was so violent and unresolved.” Har’el started out as a TV presenter before moving into directing via a stint of VJing in clubs. “I never studied film, so that was my film school,” she recalls. “I wanted to feel as though I was playing videos like a musical instrument — editing them live, with people reacting. That still has a big impact on me to this day. I really look for a certain energy and the feeling that it evokes.” After marrying fellow director Boaz Yakin, Har’el moved to LA and began making music videos for Beirut and Jack Peñate, among others — the weekend I spoke to her she was shooting a short for Sigur Rós with Shia LaBeouf, after the actor saw Bombay Beach and suggested to Har’el that they work together. Meanwhile she has plans for a new documentary — a meditation on love that will take a similarly fluid, experimental approach to her subjects — as well as a fictional feature. “You know when you dream at night, not everything makes sense, but it’s still your own? I hope to achieve that: something scripted, but also personal and dreamy.”
The rumors of the duet spread on Israel’s radio stations for weeks, and now that the song is finally out, it is no wonder that it topped Israel’s Radio Airplay Chart on the same day of its release. The song was written by Yoav Ginai (who wrote Dana’s winning Eurovision song in 1998) and composed by Israeli veteran and acclaimed musician Yehuda Poliker. The song was produced by Dor Dekel, who masterfully inserted a sample from Poliker’s 1992 hit “Le’Eynaich Hakchulot” (‘For Your Blue Eyes’).