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April 18, 2003 - Image 75

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-18

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War Correspondent

life while in Kuwait, he takes it lightly.
"I'm a Jew from New York," Yago
said. "I went through 25 years of life
without having an ounce of prejudice
weighed on me."
All in all, "I think that's a pretty
one another."
eliminate the Israeli stamps since Israeli
good run."
Yago said he was picked to cover the
nationals are blocked from the country.
And for the most part, Yago said his
war for MTV because he was the only
Now that the Americans are in
Jewishness was rarely a problem, with
reporter willing to stomach swirling
Baghdad, Yago is waiting for clearance
only a few "glaring exceptions."
sandstorms and other rough conditions.
to go there to do another show, yet to
In those cases, hearing anti-Semitic
Yet attitudes about Jews and Israel
be determined.
statements shocked him. "You read
in the Arab world have already hin-
Asked if he fears for his security,
about them, and then when you hear
dered his work.
Yago responded flatly: "No. It's just
them to your face, there's always a lit-
Yago, who recently returned to
tle bit of a disconnect."
New York from a stint in Kuwait,
Yago declined to give details but
where he hosted an MTV special
cited, for example, " people who are
about the lives of young Kuwaitis
in the Grand Mosque," the central
and the American marines there,
mosque in Kuwait, "who are a little
was pulled from a different news
less receptive to Jews and Judaism."
assignment in Baghdad due to
Still, he downplays the virulence of
security concerns.
the region, saying conservative reli-
His religion and the fact that his
gion anywhere promotes slightly
father is an Israeli who heads a
extreme views.
fund-raising group for Israel raised
And he attributes the area's nega-
"too many red flags," Yago said.
tive outlook toward Jews to simple
Glenn Yago's Pups for Peace,
which began shortly after the Sept.
"You're going to breed misunder-
11 terrorist attacks in the United
standing if you have policies at the
States, trains and supplies Israel
door that are going to exclude peo-
MTV News correspondent Gideon Yago attends
with bomb-sniffing dogs.
ple," he said, referring to Kuwait's
media training camp in Quantico, Va., before
An economist, Glenn Yago found- his assignment in Kuwait.
policy of excluding Israeli nationals
ed the program hoping to find a
from the country.
cost-efficient measure against suicide
As for living as a Jew in such an
Yago displays cool defi-
Even before Yago could enter
And though he witnessed episodes of ance: "I make no bones about who I
Kuwait, he needed a fresh passport to
anti-Semitism for the first time in his
am, and where I come from."

Security concerns keep Jewish journalist from Iraq.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency


is not just Ted Koppel and Wolf
. Blitzer blaring news from the
war-torn Persian Gulf anymore.
Meet Gideon Yago, the 25-
year-old Jew from New•York, who
was sent to cover America's war in
Iraq for MTV.
Yago's assignment underscores the
war's draw among a generation other-
wise tuned in to sex, drugs and rock 'n'
roll. The war, in fact, beat out drugs as
the chief concern among young peo-
ple, according to an MTV poll last
month. It was the first time a foreign
subject ranked top on their radar.
But it also reveals the.challenges — and
from Yago's perspective, opportunities —
of being a Jewish reporter in an Arab
"I think it behooves American Jews in
particular to put themselves out in hairy
situations like that, because how else are
you going to get a dialogue" and "call
people out on their stereotypes," said
Yago, whose angelic face glimmers
against his drab, camouflage parka.
"Fundamentally, you're able to make
changes by forcing people to confront



their South Side street when it became
predominantly African-American.
Davis, in turn, helped register black
voters in Alabama and made his first
movie about his brother, the last white
musician in the old neighborhood.
He went on to direct socially con-
°, scious films such as The Fugitive,
which involved a drug conspiracy;
and Collateral Damage, about ter-
rorism in Columbia.
While observers say Holes re-pre-
sents a departure for the director,
best known for action thrillers, he
points out that the film, "like the
Fugitive, revolves around a person
falsely accused of a crime."
Then there are the Jewish values.
`Holes' director Andrew Davis with author Louis "Holes teaches kids that by learning
about their family's struggle, they
Sachar who also wrote the screenplay
can empathize with others who are
sisters, one of whom was dating a
struggling in America," he says.
Russian officer who saved them from a
pogrom," he said by way of example.
Holes, rated PG, opens today in
By the time he was growing up in
Detroit-area theaters.
Chicago, his parents were committed to
progressive Jewish values, refusing to flee

Film based on award-winning author Louis Sachars book features Jewish connections.

Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

IV hen director Andrew
Davis first read Louis
Sachar's acclaimed chil-
dren's novel Holes, about
a boy sent to a hellish Texas juvenile
delinquent camp, he says he "detected
a Jewish family."
The story of the fictional Stanley
Yelnats flashes back three generations
to reveal how his forebears struggled
to come to America, "which reflects
the Jewish immigration experience,"
Davis ( The Fugitive) says.
No wonder his adaptation of the best-
seller is a Texan fable that feels oddly
familiar. Davis cast the Jewish actors
Henry Winkler and Nathan Davis (the
director's dad) to play Stanley's father

and grandfather, whose favorite
endearment is "boychick."
Shia LeBeouf, who portrays
--Stanley, is a member of the tribe,
and actor Khleo Thomas (Yelnats'
mysterious African-American friend
Zero), has a Moroccan Jewish
mother and an African-American
father, Davis says.
After conversations on the set,
Thomas decided to become bar
mitzvah through LeBeouf's rabbi,
according to Davis.
While Jewish author Sachar didn't
grant his characters any specific eth-
nicity, he says they embody the tal-
mudic value of "making the world a
better place."
Davis, 56, says he grew up with
family lore that reminds him of the
Yelnatses. "My great aunt had seven



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