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The Land of Hollywood—Eretz Hollywood

by  Orit Arfa

August 14, 2008 | 4:36 pm

Recently, I met with a headshot photographer in the Hollywood hills, off Laurel Canyon. I had already taken headshots with another photographer, but I wasn't thrilled with them. They weren't cheap either, so I was frustrated to chart the photography frontier yet again and shell out more money. But headshots are the actor's crucial business card.

I stepped out onto his loft patio and soaked in the view of the Hollywood hills. Mediterranean and Spanish style homes were tucked away behind dark green leaves. The ground sparkled with magenta-colored bark. This is the land of Hollywood, and it's beautiful.

People often say the land of Israel is beautiful too -- and yes, it is. As a travel writer, I was privileged to travel throughout Israel and enjoy the forests of oak and pine, rolling hills of mint-colored brush, peach-colored sand dunes and vast deserts.

But whenever I'd look at those landscapes, especially those dotted with homes, I couldn't fully relax to the physical beauty. I'd see much more than earth. I'd wonder who lives in those homes and if they are happy. I'd wonder if they lost anyone to wars or terror. I'd wonder how they came to this land, where they trace their Jewish history. I'd wonder how many fought and died for the earth. Who sowed it? Who wants it?

In the Hollywood hills, I don't ask those questions. I see pretty homes and foliage and feel confident people are generally content, living their lives without too many existential fears, without too much historical baggage. My mind doesn't go into a deep place where I think about the fate of the Jews and humanity.

Likewise, my apartment in Jerusalem faces the entire city: the walls of the Old City straight ahead, the villages of East Jerusalem to the right, the Knesset building to the left. It's a stunning cityscape, but there too, I could never just enjoy it.

The white, tubular solar heaters on the rooftops disrupt some of the organic beauty of the golden Jerusalem stone and pointy tips of the cypress trees. But I also look at the heaters in wonder too. They are symbols of the modern achievements of the Jewish State. The trees don't know it but they started as a seed planted into a Jewish dream coming true--lining paved roads named after great Jewish sages and thinkers.

Then I'd look to the less tended landscapes of Arab East Jerusalem, and I remember how some unenlightened people living there are trying to kill me for wanting to live that dream, for recognizing it.

In short, in the land of Israel, no matter where I look, I'm always thinking or feeling deeply--hardly relaxing.

Now that I'm moving back to Los Angeles to pursue my long-lost dream to act, many people try to discourage me. It's a hard and frustrating business, they say. Case in point--I have to hustle and spend a ton of money to find the right photographer. Fortunately, I landed a commercial agent pretty quickly, but so far I haven't been sent out on auditions (hence new pictures). Sometimes I feel like I'm waiting by the phone for my next job notice, and it's just as bad as a single girl waiting for that guy who promised he'd call.

But the pain I'll experience to get an acting job is a different kind of pain than developing the land of Israel. Right now I'd rather feel the pain of hearing a casting director reject me rather than feel the pain of hearing about a suicide bombing. I'd rather feel the fear of falling flat on my face in an audition rather than the fear a rocket falling on me. I'd rather feel the sadness over not watching myself on my favorite show rather than the sadness over watching a funeral of yet another widow who lost her husband in war.

And I'd rather look at the land of Hollywood and enjoy simple nature rather than look at the land of Israel and constantly ponder its complex meaning. So for now the land of Hollywood heals me. It lets me relax and enjoy. It may embody some fascinating stories, but I don't yet find in it sweeping dramas, epic mysteries, or dark villains.

And maybe that's why this land does such a wonderful job creating them.
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