In the spring of 2007, Rula Jebreal, a prominent political journalist and TV anchorwoman in Rome, was lunching with her friend Walter Veltroni, the city’s mayor. He told her that a man wearing pajamas had come to his office that morning and asked him to turn off the lights—to improve the view of the Roman ruins outside the window. “Who was that nut?” she inquired. “He’s an artist, an interesting guy,” Veltroni said. “His name is Julian Schnabel, and he’s having a show at the Palazzo Venezia tonight—you should go.”
Rula did go to the Schnabel opening and stayed for the festive dinner afterward. Toward the end of it, the artist made his way down the long table, exchanging pleasantries with some of the 300 guests. He stopped when he got to Rula and introduced himself.
“Are you Indian?” he asked.
“No, I’m Israeli.”
“So you’re Jewish?”
“No. I am Palestinian.” (Pause.) “What’s wrong? Are you scared?”
“Should I be?” Schnabel wasn’t scared. He was dazzled—by her dark-skinned beauty, her intelligence, and her reputation as a writer, which he had already heard about. “He had a charming smile,” she remembers. “Very innocent, like a child.” He asked if he could see something she had written.
She sent him her first book, Miral, in a rough English translation. Published in Italy in 2003, it is an autobiographical novel about three generations of Palestinian women, told through the eyes of a girl growing up in Jerusalem during the first intifada—the Palestinian uprising that began in 1987 against the Israeli occupation. The book, surprisingly, is not anti-Israel; it recognizes the conflict as an ongoing tragedy for both sides. “I found the story was very important, heartbreaking,” Julian tells me. “It was a learning experience for me, as a Jewish person, like taking a walk in somebody else’s shoes. I also thought, This is a movie—it’s actually written like a movie.” More here.…
Article: Vogue magazine by Dodie Kazanjian