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Israel, Why (1973)

Pourquoi Israel (original title)
A documentary examining life in Israel twenty-five years after the birth of the state.



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Credited cast:
Schmuel Birger ...
Himself (as Schmuel Bogler)
Gad Granach ...
Himself (as Gert Granach)
Himself - Interviewer


A documentary examining life in Israel twenty-five years after the birth of the state.

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October 1973 (USA)  »

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Israel, Why  »

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"Mystical and informative..."
27 March 2015 | by (Norway) – See all my reviews

French professor, film editor and director Claude Lanzmann's debut documentary feature is the result of a started book and a reportage which was not made. It premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1973, was shot on locations in Israel and is a France-Israel co-production. It tells the story about a state with a signifying name which became instituted in the late 1940s some years after the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), the first émigrés from other nations who in the mid-1950s came to a place called Dimona which they had been told was a city, the people who live there, the people who relocate themselves to live there and to return to their ancestries, intentional communities located mostly in rustic areas which came into existence in the early 1900s during the Second Aliyah and the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923) and a renowned movement with origins going back as far as to an ancient Empire in Iraq which was established many years ago by human beings called Semites.

Distinctly and subtly directed by French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, this quietly paced documentary which is translated and narrated interchangeably from multiple viewpoints, draws a conversational, thematically substantial, melodic, authoritatively serious and disarmingly humoristic portrayal of the living conditions in this country at a period in time when many people of Jewish origins, especially from the former Soviet Union, came there as expatriates and how they experienced this transition. While notable for its atmospheric and versatile milieu depictions and reverent cinematography by French cinematographers William Lubtchansky and Colin Mounier, this dialog-driven and narrative-driven story reflects upon themes like Jewish identity, roots, linguistics, characteristics, culture, traditions and history, the history of Israel, the recurrent relations between Israel and Palestine, relations between Israel and Germany, their prominent military standards, laws which then said that only a person who is born to a Jewish mother, was converted to the Jewish faith and does not belong to another faith can be registered as Jewish, boarders, answers and naturally on human communication within a nation known by the names Eretz Israel, Land of Israel and the Promised Land which was declared a century after American abolitionists named Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) and Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880) held a convention in Seneca Falls, New York in USA, by a Polish-Jewish author and its first president named David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973).

With interviews of interviewees like Israeli and Jewish citizens, students, professors, military officers, police officers, prisoners at Tel-Mond, Israel, dock workers, Gan Shmuel Kibbutz members, Israeli Black Panther members, American tourists, families and their children which underlines the normality of the State of Israel, the abnormality within the normality, sincere comments like: "We may work with our hands, but we are not working-class. We have no common language…", "If you come all this way, you build this country to let just people to die, then why did you make all this way. You can die elsewhere also…", "We are trying to spread Judaism amongst Jews.", "I always prefer the product of man's work." and a timely response from a dock worker who asks the director: "Would you give Paris to the Germans or the British?", this multifaceted and monumental testimony which was made the same year as an Israeli politician from Tel, Aviv, Israel named Shulamit Aloni (1928-2014) inaugurated the civil rights movement in Israel, two years after a place in Copenhagen, Denmark called Fristaden Christiania was established, six years after a voice from Israel's history sang a song about Jerusalem and nineteen years before an American songwriter sang: "…Where are those angels when you need them -

  • Why do we crucify ourselves…" creates perspectives which represents

generational and global significance.

This territorial, historic and humanizing three-hour and twelve minutes introduction, journey and educational experience which is set in Israel in the early 1970s in the then twenty-four-year-old Jewish state where an Israeli politician named Golda Meir (1898-1978) was prime minister, an Israeli journalist named Zalman Shazar (1889-1974) was president and a movement called Nilahem was initiated, where the instructor keeps on asking why in French and English without a question mark, receives all kinds of answers which are both indiscreetly straightforward, genuinely accommodating and in its right unrequited and a newly arrived French speaking woman of distinguishable politeness says: "But I am a Jew" is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure, subtle continuity, ingrained religious undertones, introducing and echoingly narrating scenes of the Dead Sea, comment by a secular non-Jewish mother and wife: "Not being able to leave this country and come in contact on normal terms with other people…" and by an American-Jewish man: "Why? It just does something to you." A mystical and informative documentary feature.

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