Forward Thinking

Celebrating the Beauty of Israel in Film

By Todd Zeff

  • Print
  • Share Share

On Yom Haatzmaut morning, bright and early at 8:30 am, my four-year-old son Asher broke a crystal vase. It was an accident, but it could have been avoided. He could have chosen to play in a different place, and we as parents could have guided him better in his morning shenanigans. Horrified, Asher asked if he would still be allowed to go to the Yom Haatzmaut BBQ.

While we need to teach our son to be responsible, we also need to teach him that we have reasonable expectations and do not expect him to be perfect. We ask him to learn and grow as he matures out of toddlerhood. So yes, he got to join the family — and all of Israel — at the Yom Haatzmaut BBQ and festivities in Jerusalem.

Yom Haatzmaut is a day of joy for Israelis and Jews throughout the world — a celebration of the establishment of a home state for the Jewish people. But Yom Haatzmaut is more than a BBQ and a day to relax: It is the day we celebrate the right of Jews to live freely, as a nation, in our homeland, the Land of Israel.

In the pages of the Forward, writer and editor for this blog Sigal Samuel critiqued Israel: A Look Back, a film made by Jerusalem U, the organization for which I work. She claims that the film, which highlights the struggles and triumphs of the Jewish State, is disingenuous for failing to highlight, among other things, the “terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to… (the) Arab population.” Samuel lists many similar accusations, some accurate and others false, that she feels our video should have included in order to celebrate Israel without bias.

I strongly disagree with everything she wrote except this: The unbiased truth is that Israel is a State where there is much work to be done, compromises to be made and wrongs to be righted. However, that should not preclude those who love Israel from celebrating her accomplishments. When my son Asher turns five and we throw him a birthday party, we won’t bring up the vase he broke and list the mistakes he has made up to that point. We won’t be ignoring them, but to define him by his faults, when he is growing, maturing and trying to do better, would be a mistake of our own.

We can celebrate Israel Day at parades in our communities, Israel Day at summer camp, or Israeli Cultural Day on college campuses, without contradicting our commitment to improving the democracy, equality and freedom of the State of Israel. In fact, with her article, Samuel has highlighted an entirely different problem; we have crossed a line from being able to both struggle with and celebrate Israel, to simply demonizing our country at every opportunity.

To demand that the world focus on Israel’s failures whenever it remembers her successes sets unreasonable expectations for this new state. That the critic of our film feels the need to refute and berate it can be seen as a reflection of her personal animosity toward Israel.

Our film was intended to support Israel — to bring confidence and encouragement to those who love her and to share a picture of Israel which reflects our joy, our pride and our hope for her future.

The question is what picture, what story, do we focus on?

Do we focus on the pain or the progress?

Do we focus on the injury or the healing?

Can we see the miracle without seeking fault at every turn?

The Jewish people are fundamentally a people of optimism. We are the people who took the text of Ezekiel 37:11, “Avdah Tikvateinu — our hope is lost,” and transformed it to say “Od Lo Avdah Tikvatenu — our hope is not yet lost.” Our history is filled with sorrow and defeat. But as a nation, and in film, we can choose to see the beauty. And not only can we tell of the beauty of modern Israel, but we should. We have much to be proud of.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch our minute-long film and decide for yourself. Leave a comment and let us know how you feel about this issue.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: film, Yom Haatzmaut, Israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.