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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2007 / 17 Mar-Cheshvan 5768

Film Bombs in ‘Jerusalem’

By Jonathan Tobin



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Bestseller turned into cinematic disaster perpetuates muddled-headed myths


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | History has always had a tough time at the movies. From the earliest days of Hollywood, epic biopics depicting the lives of figures out of the history books have often had little resemblance to the actual events depicted.


Though much about the movies has changed since MGM and its competitors were bowdlerizing the complex lives of the famous into simple inspiring tales of good triumphing over evil and ignorance, getting the facts right in films is a rarity.


But though we might be ready to grant old movies depicting the events of past a pass, should we be as generous when it comes to new attempts to show the events of the last century, especially those related to an ongoing bloody conflict? The answer provided the producers of a historical film that came out this month would seem to be no.


French filmmaker Elie Chouraqui's "O Jerusalem" tries to bring to the screen a factual version of the events that led up to the founding of the State of Israel and the climactic battle for the holy city in 1948. Given that some historical knowledge of this chapter of history might help inform the current debate on the Middle East, such a film was an opportunity to enlighten a public whose grasp of this time is largely nonexistent.

HACKNEYED CLICHES
But "O Jerusalem," a truly awful film, based on the international bestseller of the same name by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, is not likely to educate very many people. It will, no doubt, sink like a stone in a sea of critical scorn and audience indifference. Its dramatic failures are legion. But rather than a noble failure that at least illuminated some part of the truth, the only thing that is really notable about "O Jerusalem" is the way its creators have validated some of the most hackneyed clichés about a conflict that it might have illuminated.


Though the film punctuates its scenes by giving the actual dates of events that are supposedly depicted, the main protagonists of the film are fictional creations who are about as nuanced as a car-bombing. Thrown together by chance in postwar New York City, the film's heroes soon find themselves emoting their way through the siege of Jerusalem.


J.J. Feld's Bobby Goldman and Said Taghmaoui's Said Chahine are just two nice guys who ought to be having fun in New York, but an unkind fate leads these two peace-loving idealists into mortal combat. Their relationship is a plot device as wooden as the acting. Neither character has much credibility or depth but are simply there to show us how wars can lead nice guys to kill each other.


In the film's defense, events such as the U.N. vote for partition of Palestine, and the various terrorist attacks and battles that determined the outcome of the Arab siege of Jewish Jerusalem, are also shown.


Familiar figures from the period are also depicted with American Jewish actress Tovah Feldshuh trotting out her Golda Meir imitation (familiar to those who saw her in "Golda's Balcony" on the stage), while British character Ian Holm's attempt to impersonate David Ben-Gurion is hampered by an unfortunate Eastern European accent and a fright wig.


Yet a disjointed script and some bad editing render the narrative incomprehensible except to those who have the history already memorized.


But far worse is the facile moralizing against what the film sees as the extremism of both sides. While the protagonists mouth minimalist versions of the eternal debate between Arabs and Jews — with the each side claiming their rights to live there and vowing not to be pushed out of their homes — the essential fact of Israel's War of Independence gets lost: The Jews were willing to share the country, but the Arabs were not.


The purpose of the partition vote that sent Jews out into the streets to dance the hora and Arabs to riot was not to dispossess them or to subjugate them to Zionist rule.


Rather, it sought to divide the portion of the country that had not already been allocated to Arab rule (the 77 percent of Mandatory Palestine that was by 1948 the Kingdom of Transjordan) between the two peoples. The goal of the Arab war to stop this partition was to prevent there being a State of Israel on any part of the country, let alone one along the lines that were its boundaries from 1949 to 1967.


"O Jerusalem" deserves a little credit for hinting at that from time to time such as the scenes in which Palestinian Arabs are commended by representatives of neighboring Arab countries for their attempts to "starve" the Jews of Jerusalem during the siege. But most of this is obscured by much maudlin lamenting about why the main characters just can't get along.


And though some Arab beastliness during the course of the siege is shown, the film makes an attempt at false moral equivalence by dredging up the myth of the "Deir Yassin massacre," in which ruthless (and really evil-looking) Jewish terrorists from the Irgun kill helpless Arabs to the disgust of the good Jews.

THE MYTH OF DEIR YASSIN
Though a subject of much debate, the truth about Deir Yassin has long been obscured by the myth. The village was a base for anti-Jewish attacks in which Iraqis blocking the road to Jerusalem had been based. It was attacked by Irgun fighters, who conquered the place in a bloody battle. Casualties were heavy on both sides. Sadly, many civilians lost their lives but the charge of murder was unfounded. Sadly, the massacre myth was given legs not by the Arabs, but by Jews, who were only too happy to blacken the reputations of the Irgun, the political foes of the ruling Labor Party.


Deir Yassin was the first in a long line of lies that lead from that village to the alleged death of Mohammed al Dura, the Palestinian boy supposedly shot by Israelis at the beginning of the second intifada, but who was actually killed (if he died at all) by his own people. It's a shame this film has done its part to give this ancient lie new life.


The good news is that "O Jerusalem's" sheer unwatchability will minimize any damage it does with its muddle-headed even-handedness.


But Chouraqui need not blush too much. The same week that his film debuted in New York, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated during a visit to Bethlehem that the city was a model for reconciliation between the three great monotheistic faiths. Given the fact that Muslims have already driven out most of the Christians from this city — and have besieged the Jewish shrine of the Tomb of Rachel and rendered it a battle zone — it's hard to conceive of a more misleading statement.


Like the characters in "O Jerusalem," Rice is said to have meant well. But as students of history know, myths like these are the stuff of genuine tragedy.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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© 2007, Jonathan Tobin