The Arty Semite

Celebrating the Film Studio That Showed Israel's Early Days

By Alon Raab

  • Print
  • Share Share
Geva Studios

Bronzed workers forge a winding road through the hills leading to the Dead Sea; smiling politicians cut ribbons marking the National Water Carrier, chemical factories and a gleaming submarine; proud generals lecture an adoring audience on their latest military victories; Jewish athletes march at the Maccabiah Games — these images, known as “Yomaney Geva” (“Geva Diaries”), were shown during the first three decades of the State of Israel to cinema-goers before every film screening, representing the ethos of an idealistic era and helping the process of cultural and ideological integration in the new country. Now, the celluloid on which they were printed has faded and soon the buildings they were created in will be demolished, replaced by luxury apartments.

Founded in 1950 by two young filmmakers, Mordechai Navon and Yitzhak Agadati, Geva Studios produced the “Diaries” along with films about Kibbutzim, the Histadrut Labor Union, and new settlements. The studios also produced many narrative films, starting with Larry Frisch’s “A Cab Story,” (Ma’aseh B’Monit) about travelers stranded between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Artistic films, including Uri Zohar’s satiric Chor Ba’levana (“A Hole in the Moon”), were joined by historical epics, films about the 1948 War of Independence, cult films such as “Kazablan” and many “Bourekas” films — ethnic comedies and musicals that, despite their stereotypical portrayals, played an important role in forging Sephardic awareness and pride. Many of Israel’s leading directors and actors had their start at the Studios, including Menahem Golan, whose later career as a Hollywood director and producer included Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone’s early films.

The birth of Israeli TV, the move from film to video, and squabbles between new owners led to the studios’ closure in the early 1990s. Ya’akov Gross, a film historian, documentarian and the son of Nathan Gross, one of the original filmmakers, tried to preserve the buildings and create a national film museum on the site as a center for young filmmakers and television studios, but the land’s owner and the municipality of Givatayim preferred to give the location to developers. Gross was granted use of the space for a month and created an extensive and moving exhibit as a homage to the bygone era.

When the bulldozers move in, the place where the record of Israel’s early history and many artistic and popular films were created will vanish. During our meeting at the Studios, Gross recollected his participation in many of the films, starting as a 3-year-old bathing in a tin bathtub in “Mayim Chaim” (“Living Waters”), a film about the importance of water for the new nation. While disappointed, Gross said: “This is not the end. The memories embedded in the visions of the creators of the diaries and the films, as well as in all who viewed them and saw themselves and their dreams presented, remain.”

Watch an Israeli television feature on Geva Studios:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yomaney Geva, Yitzhak Agadati, Uri Zohar, Nathan Gross, Mordechai Navon, Menahem Golan, Larry Frisch, Kazablan, Israeli History, Israeli Film, History, Histadrut, Geva Studios, Geva Diaries, Film, Bourekas Films, Alon Raab

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!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • 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.