A West Bank regional development council has produced a slick promo for settlement tourism which earnestly flogs the Occupation brand. The film, Harvest Time, is being screened regularly at a new $1-million visitor center established at the Psagot Winery. The plot involves a ragingly successful Israeli businessman, Yonatan, sent by his boss to London to close a big deal. Instead of doing as he was told, he receives a call informing him that his father was wounded [presumably in a terror attack] and is in the hospital requiring a major operation. This will prevent dad from leading the wine harvest at the family vineyard. This news turns Yonatan away from affairs of the world and toward affairs of family and the heart…that is, his deep attachment to the family winery. He can’t possibly let it go under.
Bolstering his fidelity to family is a Biblical fantasia interlude, in which characters from the Bible come to life as shepherds walking the hills of Judea once more. What can trump the call to fidelity to one’s family, one’s people and one’s land? Nothing.
Here’s the narration that acccompanies the Bibilical fantasy:
Look around you. Every hill is part of history. Every stone has a story.
A Biblical shepherd dressed in ancient headress and with flock quotes Jeremiah to Yonatan telling him he must return to this land. As the sky darkens and ominous music swells on the soundtrack, Yonatan confusedly turns as if seeking his fate. In the next scene, Yonatan has visions of an ancient Israelite battle as flaming arrows hurtle toward him.
The narrator continues as if speaking to the hero:
You’ll see, someday the children of Israel will return to these lands [piano music swells and camera pans on Israeli flag fluttering over a settlement panorama, and then shows toddlers, wearing kippah naturally, playing at a playground].
This is where you grew up. This is part of what you are, of who you are. We are here. [Don’t look for it] anywhere [else]. And you, where are YOU going?
It’s impressive in a slick, sleazy sort of way. It presents the settlements in the sort of romantic way they were envisioned just after the 1967 war: as elements of a quest for Jewish history and identity; as part of a fulfillment of the Zionist dream. What the film omits of course is all the horrendous history between 1967-2010: the theft, killings, religious hatred. The whole bloody mess. I can’t think of an Israeli film (or any film really) I’ve seen in a long time that is as ahistorical and fraudulent as this one. If Im Tirzu had it in them (they don’t) to create a slick promotional video, this is what they would make.
The winery owner spoke about his agenda in creating the work:
The film deals with questions of identity and is an attempt to connect our visitors with the history of this place as the navel of the land of the Jews. We want people watching the film to understand that we are not ranting people murmuring prayers all day. But rather people more or less like them who work for their living.
This neglects the fact that the overwhelming majority of settlers do not work the land like Yonatan supposedly does, but rather commute to the same type of job that Yonatan does in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. The settlements are not a agricultural idyll resonating of the Biblical era. They are rather extended suburbs of Israel’s major cities. Nothing more, nothing less.
The lead actor in this nonsense is Liron Levo (Kippur by Amos Gitai, 9/11, Munich) about whose politics I know very little. But you can see from the following disingenuousness that he’s a bit dense (and deliberately so) about what exactly the settlement enterprise is and how it impacts Israel as a nation:
Levo sees no political message in the film whatsoever. “I am an actor. And when someone shows me a good script and provides interesting people to work with, I go for it. And so it was in this situation. From my perspective the plot could take place in the settlements, Shiloh or Gaza. The main thing was to create a wonderful film and give viewers something to think about. For me personally, there isn’t a single work about politics. And I don’t exploit anything I create to make a political statement.
“Also, I don’t see this as a promotional film for a region. From my perspective, they should screen it everywhere in the world. My goal is to provoke dialogue and thought, as have other films I’ve done. I’m an actor, not a politician.”
The only person who should be doing more thinking about this film is Levo himself as he seems not to understand that he’s pimping the settlement brand.
We have an Israeli company called Compugraphic to thank for this drivel. I don’t see them bragging yet about this on their client list, but I do see other old friends like Elbit, PAKAR, and Rafael, some of Israel’s chief armaments companies.
Thanks to Dena Shunra for translation of the script.