Israel on my mind – “The Footnote”

The other day I saw the Israeli movie ”The Footnote” again- what a great movie: complicated and off-beat storytelling, deep feelings and a Jewish world view almost old testament in tenor- at the same time as it was uniquely Israeli in its almost claustrophobic depiction of society and family. Of course, part of the reason for this feeling of claustrophobia had absolutely nothing to do with it taking place in Israel: most of the movie takes place in the halls of Israeli academia, in any country an inbred backstabbing-competitive claustrophobic environment if ever there was one.

But, what really fascinated me with the movie was its indirect and unintended depiction of where Israel is today. By this I mean that often, when I hear or read something current about Israel, no matter from which vantage point,  I get the feeling somehow of transition and impermanence, as if Israel, as a nation, a people, a culture is continually moving on to something else. Moreover its criticizers (especially in Europe) or worse its enemies (of which Israel has many, and here I don’t even include the Palestinians), are always wanting to discuss a future Israel totally different from the Israel that is here and now, today and in the near future.

In fact I have actually experienced a much more young and transitory Israel as early as 1952 (ok, I was a child then, but I do have my memories) and later in 1964. Unfortunately after 1964 there was to go over 40 years before I again was in Israel, and what then struck me almost the first day like a thunderbolt, was that here there was no feeling of newness, of a state and culture in its formative stage, a social and historical experiment, and no manifestation in what I saw and experienced that implied a transitory state of affairs: Israel was a fully developed unique state, society and culture: Jewish, yes, but it also something else, it is Israel. Whatever the tensions between the various groups in Israel (and they are many and very divisive) , Israel has achieved a synthesis of Jewishness, modernity,  and social customs into an all-encompassing  national culture,  in the same manner as its language Hebrew now has been transformed from what almost amounted to being an experiment to the flexible comprehensive language of the country: it had transformed itself into “Israeli”.

 Almost every scene and dialog  in “the Footnote” confirmed my own impressions. Everything in the plot, and every scene and dialog takes place against the backdrop of something that is a shared culture of everyday life based on common roots, values, myths, and ideas, and dramatic conflicts are played out in apposition to these.

A great movie.



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