The Arty Semite

For Former Soviets in the West Bank, Jewish Identity Goes With 'The Territory'

By Susan Armitage

In a West Bank settlement home, a middle-aged man strums a tune in a soulful Soviet singer-songwriter style that was popular in the 1960s. A Soviet sailor’s cap sits jauntily on a plaster bust nearby. But the lyrics of this Russian song — “Judea, you are my land. Any way you say it, I am a Jew” — could never have been uttered publicly in the Soviet Union.

This image turns up in Dmitriy Khavin’s documentary “The Territory,” which is showing in New York on January 30. The film provides an up-close and personal introduction to the Soviet immigrants who now call the West Bank home. According to the film, they represent about 100,000 of the 500,000 settlers in the West Bank. They’ve carried their Soviet heritage with them, but many of the settlers in film also express deep connections to Jewish identity.

Like Khavin’s earlier films, “Across the Narrow Bridge” and “Artists of Odessa”, “The Territory” explores the post-Soviet Jewish experience. In the early 1990s, Khavin and his family left Odessa for New York. A friend from Jerusalem told him about a group of Russian-speaking settlers in the West Bank. Intrigued, Khavin started reading their blogs to learn more. Eventually he decided to see for himself.

Khavin sat down with the Forward in New York to talk about “The Territory” and post-Soviet Jewish identity.

How did you come up with the idea for the film?

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Odessa, Documentary film, Dmitriy Khavin




Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • 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.