Si trova quel che non si cerca, ma quello che si vuole scoprire.

Perché poi il vero problema non è non riuscire a trovare quello che cercavi, ma goderti la ricerca e pian pianino scoprire cos’era che andavi così tanto cercando e perché.

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La sommità dei problemi della nostra vita viene forse dal fatto che ci inganniamo spesso da soli. Crediamo a menzogne che ci raccontiamo perché ci sentiamo da esse protette o, semplicemente, corazzati, così tanto da essere immuni ai sentimenti veri, quelli che fanno male sul serio e che se ci sfiorano ci lasciano un graffio tagliente come quello di un coltello affilato a nuovo.

Però la forza dell`abitudine e l’essersi tarati su queste bugie protettrici ci protegge si, ma anche dal bene che il sentirsi vivo con anche i dolori più dolorosi ci potrebbe portare.

Però via, dai, non si può mica passare tutta una vita a ‘provare di vivere’ si ci deve scagliare petto in fuori ed arpioni puntanti, guardando la gente che ci sta davanti, dal di dentro del loro più temibile difetto e ci si deve metter tempo nel farlo, accuratamente e gentilmente come quando si apre un dono. Senza strapparlo via tutto d`un fiato, ma scartandone pezzo, pezzo tutti i nastri e gli strati di carta.

Un tempo spesso irrisorio e lunghissimo e forse dannatamente noioso se poi non si scopre altro che ancora più carta dentro di esso, ma pur sempre tempo ben speso perché tempo percorso per conoscere ciò che alla fine non si cercava affatto o forse, a volte, ciò che si è sempre cercato.

Ma partire ferrati sul voler trovare, delimita già un territorio pietroso e scosceso dove non può che intuirsi solo come un sbaglio questo nostro impuntarsi su quel che speriamo trovabile. Se invece si percorre la via adagio e la si percorre come se il tempo che passa non porti con se solo un agguato, ma consiglio ad ogni minuto battuto, allora trovare e scoprire potrebbero in qualche strano modo anche convenire a portarci i risultati sperati.

happy birthday, Rabbi Toaff

She was the daughter of a grocer; he was the son of a silver merchant. They lived two blocks away from one another for years, but only met at a dance party in the city center of Rome when he came back from the army one day and she happened to like dancing. She wanted to keep studying literature and arts and he was ready to settle down and build a family of his own. He convinced her with a box of the most delicious chocolate on a bench in the Italian capital, she said yes.

“I was so overwhelmed with feeling we were able to do whatever we wished I was barely conscious that day was my wedding day. The war had forced me to hide for over nine months, now I could have my own hand-made wedding dress, walk to the altar and get married,” she said. “We were two impulsive young rascals, but we were free!”

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Her name is Paola Toscano, she is 85 years old and she is my grandmother. On September 29, 1943 she hid inside the private home of a baker with her own family to escape the Nazi. She was 13 years old. They lived in hiding until June 5, 1944. His name was Bruno Valabrega, he was 87 when he passed away three years ago. He was my grandfather. His parents were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on October 16, 1943 and never came back to Rome. He was an orphan when he met my grandmother. They married on November 4, 1951 at the Tempio Maggiore (Great Syn-agogue) in Rome, Italy six years after the Americans freed the Italian capital from the Germans.

Their wedding was a dream wedding after a terrible past had been finally left behind. My grandparents had no idea who the Rabbi who married them that cold, autumn day would have become. His name was Rabbi Elio Toaff and that wedding was the first of many he celebrated af-ter having been elected Chief Rabbi of Rome.
“Nobody knew him at the time. He was so young and he had big shoes to fill,” said my grandmother. “We all got to know him better with the years. He surprised us all.”

Toaff was a third generation Rabbi born on April 30, 1915 in Livorno, Tuscany. He was 36 years old when he joined the Rabbinate of Rome after having escape a Nazi execution himself and having been the Chief Rabbi of Venice until then.

He was full of energy and focused on practical things. All he wanted to do is put the com-munity of Rome back on its feet. Of the 1,067 Jews deported on October 16, 1943, less than 40 re-turned. The community was dismantled and fearful. The shadow of the Nazi had left everyone al-ienated and unable to trust anyone. Toaff was there to be a spiritual and political guide.
“If we want to rebuild this community, we must start with the school,” said Toaff to his dear friend and neighbour Davide Limentani when he asked for help rebuilding the Jewish gan.

photo 4Toaff knew through teachings children, he would have been able to reach out to the trust and interests of their families. So little by little, one by one, everyone would have come back to synagogue abandoning fears and reconnecting with their Jewish roots and hopefully find their way back into the rest of society.
“He was a grandpa to us all,” said an adult man standing by the entrance to the synagogue the day of Toaff’s funeral, April 20, 2015. “You could ask him advice for everything, anytime you needed. He was there for us back when we had no direction and no idea on where to go. He lead us out of our Egypt.”
To really understand who Toaff really was one just needed to look around in front of Tem-pio Maggiore Monday morning when the body of the Rabbi was laid for a last goodbye. There was a whole world that attended the commemoration of his life. Not only Jews or members of the Jewish communities around the world, such as, Chief Rabbis of Belgium, Paris and Russia, but poli-ticians, members of the Vatican and even tourists who heard the news on the radio or read about it on the local papers and have just known the former Chief Rabbi from the words of others.
He would always hide a cheerful smile underneath his scars, white beard. No matter what day he was having, he never missed an occasion to be sarcastic and tell a joke. He had one for eve-ryone, even for himself.
“Life has to catch me alive,” said Toaff last year to Limentani when asked how did he feel. “It is his humans side I will miss the most, not the one of spiritual guidance, but the one of a friend for every situation. I will miss knowing he is no longer behind the door in front of my house.”
This was how we remember Rabbi Elio Toaff, former Chief Rabbi of Rome, Italy for half a century who would be blowing 100 candles today.

sitting on the edge of the holiest city

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Jerusalem, my dear, I  have enjoyed five months worth of photo-taking adventures, which led me all over the country this time and started me on a political discourse that may never see the end of the days. I have discovered the depths of a conflict that is breaching endlessly in all matters and all conversations. I felt the depths of my soul until there was no more to see and no more to discuss about. And, now that I have reached that point, I am ready to go. Ready to stop sitting on the uncomfortable chair overlooking the edge of the holiest city of all. I am through with its controversy and its political discourse, I am turning around and getting back to another chair, somewhere far away where the views are slightly different and the resolutions maybe a bit easier to achieve.  Yet, Jerusalem, once again, you outdid yourself and have given me perspective on somewhere else to end-up, somewhere else I need to call home, somewhere else I must feel to dig roots and grow tall from, a place to call mine, because, as holy as you get, living in your proximity it is just still too hard for me…despite the energy you emanate and the subtle layers of content you are beaming of, you remain a city at war, a place where one cannot feel like simply living even as a Jew. Jerusalem, dear,  you remain beautiful and damned by human hands, confused and chaotic and yet almost apparently pristine at times, and when one misses you, it is like missing a part of oneself, but once one has you it feel much like the same: A sickness to the stomach with no end and no begin, no explanation and no real reasons.  Jerusalem, you will have my heart always, but just a piece of it, the rest I take with me, somewhere where I will find a more comfortable chair, I will sit on it and decide to call it home. But thank you, Jerusalem. Thank you for lending me that chair once more, it always get a good use, but it is not soft enough for me to sit in it for too long…

the next chapter of my life

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To us photographers, we have always been taught to look for the right light.
Find it. Feel it. Capture it. Make it look authentic. And repeat. Redo. Remake.
We do it incessantly. We are hunted by it everywhere we go. There is never a moment when we are not looking at the light and rather at our subject matter’s expression only. We see the light. We frame it perfectly on whomever or whatever it is we have to photograph and then we search for more light, more shadows on someone’s face, more hidden folds on someone’s dress, more shinning reflections and strong beams all over.
We are tireless, obsessive, almost compulsively looking for that triangle of light that will give our images the best texture and that will hide imperfections and identify qualities.

The magical light that will reveal it all, but keep it concealed at the same time.

But what about if the light we are chasing and constantly photographing is indeed something we should look closely into for ourselves? What if we had to stick with it? Stay with it and see until it turn darker and darker when we cannot see it anymore? Go in, inside that light very little until it is not good anymore. And not photograph it, but only feel it for ourselves.

What if we became the subject matter for a bit and were put on the stage, but nobody was behind to take our pictures? We just stood still. Frozen in the space between light and darkness, between the taking of the image, and the moment right before and right after the shutter closes…

I am here now.
The light is mine to steal.
I am suspended in the space between.
And I will be here for a bit.
Just the time to take the light in.
And breath it back out.
I am here now.
Immovable. Still.
Taking it in.
And it is here I am supposed to be.
The light is mine to steal.
Will hold on to it until I need.

one day: tribute to ben gurion

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“The future of the Jewish people will not be founded on the sword. We will not make war into a Jewish profession. The vision that we will bestow on our youth and future generations is a vision of honest men’s labor. A vision of justice and peace. A vision of friendship and human freedom. The young people who will give their lives for these values will never been vanquished. If I have any great dreams or passionate desire, it is that a day should come when we will dismantle the Israeli Defense Force, because we are certain that we live in safety and security. That wars should cease in Israel. I still dare to hope that the young women and men among you, and perhaps I too, who knows, will live to see that great day,” David Ben Gurion – Farewell speech to IDF in 1963.

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gl’insegnamenti della nonna …

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“Ciao Sora Ganna, come andiamo? Tanti Auguri comunque!”
“Si (c)ampa, si (c)ampa, Sora Federica,” risponde la mia Nonna adorata che oggi compie 81 anni.
“Si va per la discesa, ma si va ancora. Non mi fermo finche` da lassù non mi chiamano.”

Io sono a Tel Aviv, in Israele alla ricerca di storie da raccontare come da anni oramai nella mia vita. Lei invece e` a Castel di Lama, quello che quando ero piccola, io chiamavo, il paese più bello del mondo. Il solo ed unico paradiso dei bambini, la campagna marchigiana aperta e deserta, dove da piccini si poteva andare ovunque e con chiunque, senza orari e senza paure. Si usciva con il cane di turno e ti guidava lui e basta. Non importava dove andassimo, bastava che andavamo. Le avventure erano in ogni dove, dalle lucertole bruciate sulla brace, ai pozzi profondi dove spiare le rane che saltavano, ai fagiani colorati in gabbia da infastidire per farli volare. Bisognava tornare per l’imbrunire, ma per il resto andava tutto bene. Spensieratezza pura. Spensieratezza vera. Liberta` assoluta e animali di ogni tipo, ovunque, sempre. Senza di loro non si andava da nessuna parte.

Un po` come i ragazzini di adesso. Magari… altro che anni novanta, qui siamo nell’oltre millennio ed i cani e i gatti sono solo quelli degli emoji sul telefonino ahime`.

Le conversazioni telefoniche con la nonna sono le migliori comunque. Anche se magari loro non si rendono conto che chiami da oltreoceano e che stai spendendo meta` del tuo stipendio a parlare con loro e quindi ti tengono oltre un`ora al telefono, sono i migliore $30 spesi della tua vita. Si passa a parlare del “che tempo che fa oggi in campagna e la`, ci sta il sole, il vento, la neve? Alla storia dell’ennesima signora che e` morta nel paesello accanto al suo…” Ma oggi era tutto diverso. Non so come ma si parlava di uomini e donne e di relazioni e di come sono cambiate le cose dall’epoca dei nonni, da quando tutti erano piu` buonintenzionati e da quanto ci si faceva male di meno in amore perche` la gente era più interessata agli altri che a se stessi e quanto questo altruismo smisurato faceva si che non ci fossero quasi mai liti, oppure che le liti fossero immediatamente risolte con il perdono senza peccato ne` peccatore. Un buon abbraccio faceva dimenticare tutto a tutti.

“Oggi invece non ci sono speranze,” dice la nonna. “Se ti sposi, ti ritrovi dopo 40 anni da sola perche` tuo marito ti lascia per un`altra donna di 20 anni piu` giovane, oppure ti uccide. Comunque vada, non ti sposare, Federi`, convivi, divertiti finche` puoi, ma non ti sposare mai. Almeno che non trovi uno come tuo nonno Vittorio. Senno` davvero, meglio la solitudine”

“Ma nonna come? Non mi dire pure te cosi` che gia` mi sono lasciata un`altra volta con l`ennesimo ragazzo meraviglioso che pero` aveva paura di impegnarsi per un lungo periodo di tempo etc. etc…non mi dire anche te cosi`, senno` perdo la speranza e davvero rimango zitella a vita! Nonna…pronto, pronto!”

“Ma che cosa ti devo dire…e` cosi`, non vale la pena. La gente non ha piu` gli stessi valori, non ci sono piu` le persone che ci stavano una volta. E` tempo perso. Meglio fare le foto.”

“Ossignor, nonna, ma non dire cose senza senso, dai. Almeno te…dammi una speranza!”
“Nessuna speranza, se fosse vivo tuo nonno te lo direbbe anche lui. La vita e` una, breve e va vissuta bene. Non sperare nei miracoli, non esistono spesso e se ci sono, svaniscono presto, come le storie d’amore nate a mo` di lampo. L`amore e` lento, lascialo crescere negli anni, poi vedrai dove andra` a finire, ma non ti aspettare nulla dagli uomini di oggi, sono poco convincenti e poco affidabili.”

Ma ora dove lo trovo uno come nonno io. Mica li fanno piu` con lo stesso stampino, magari! AIUTO!!!

taliban women

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Their name is erroneous and quiet misleading, but their garment and hidden identity is explicatory of exactly who they are: Non-women. Non-individual. Just a walking black tent resembling Sarah’s tent in the desert. Nothing can show, nothing can come through, no words are spoken, no gaze are given through their ‘fake burkas’ nothing to show even if they are Jewish or Muslims. Except if you ask. Then they tell you, but that’s all you get. A whisper in the air: “Yeudia!” Although you remain astonished and hard of hearing since they look nothing like they say they are. They peruse the streets of Meah Shearim as if they were constantly followed, they move fast, across the crowd, trying to disperse and give in little to the eyes of curiosity.

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women who rock

I had tears in my eyes today and not, it was not for the tear gas I inhale straight on and neither from the sprained ankle as a result of my jumping the ditch to run away from the fumes. I had tears in my eyes, because the women I met today were real, angry, motivated, ready for a change and not willing to give up or give in. they were women who rocked, women worth sitting and singing with, women with a spirit of madness and hope. women with wolves souls and animal hearts. women who stood still to shout out loud their ideals and their way of life. women untouched by fear. only by the hope of a different future. women who care to make a difference even if it takes 35 years of activism like Alya, who moved from the U.S. 57 years ago and have been part of the Black Women movement since the 1980’s and is way over 70 years old and still standing with her signs and her beautiful believes in a future where Palestinians and Israeli will walk hands in hands. women to take as examples and to help standing in their beliefs for as long as it get to make change happen.

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