Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Life of the Jews of Palestine (1913) Noah Sokolovsky

On the eve of World War I, Jews in European ghettos and market towns were transfixed by a new sensation: motion picture images from Palestine. Many had never seen a movie before and some cried as they escaped the cold Russian landscape for a moment, on a celluloid pilgrimage to the land of milk and honey. The maker of the film was an active Zionist and his vision of nearly miraculous Jewish productivity was meant to encourage viewers to make aliya (resettle in the promised land). The film shows European Jews laboring beside their Middle-Eastern co-religionists, tilling fields, building cities, schools and hospitals. There are few signs of Ottoman domination or Palestinian life. The film was criticized by the Zionist left as early as 1914 for virtually ignoring the presence of local Arabs. The beautiful photographic eye of Sokolovsky and his colleagues provides us with more of a travelogue than a narrative. Still, this newly rediscovered and restored film is a striking document of political and cinema history, partly because of its rare depiction of the Jews of 1913 as a people with a newfound sense of their power to determine their fate. 

Directed by Noah Sokolovsky Runtime: Israel:60 min / USA:78 min Country: Russia / Israel Language: Hebrew Color: Black and White Sound Mix: Silent Genre: Documentary 

Storied Lives and Strange Bedfellows Leslie Camhi Tuesday, January 9th 2001 "Like finding documentation of Moses" was how one Israeli film historian described the rediscovery, in 1997, of The Life of the Jews in Palestine, a 1913 film shot by a Russian crew in the Holy Land and presumed lost for 80 years. Few among the 33 selections in the New York Jewish Film Festival hold out the promise of such divine revelations. But rare archival films and documentaries about music are among the highlights. A smash hit throughout the Pale of Settlement, The Life of the Jews in Palestine offered shtetl dwellers a vision of terrestrial paradise. Noah Sokolovky's 79-minute silent is a cinematic experience of aliyah, or homecoming: opening on board a ship in Odessa, where passengers bid adieu to the diaspora, and gliding past the ancient Oriental mysteries of Constantinople, before surveying the broad, perpendicular avenues of brand-new Tel Aviv, whose allure is distinctly modern. All across this land of plenty, where Jews appear virtually the sole inhabitants, girls and boys (liberated from kitchen and yeshiva) learn agricultural techniques and compete at gymnastics. Sokolovky's crew captured the farms of the Galilee, but not the malarial swamps that surrounded them; the piety of Hasidim at Hebron, but not their tensions with Arab neighbors. Only the stiff backs and rigid physiognomies of middle-aged pioneers celebrating 30 years of Zionist enterprise suggest the price that dream exacted from its earliest participants. 

The dream's architect, Theodore Herzl, is given hagiographic treatment in Otto Kreisler's ponderous 1921 silent, The Wandering Jew, which dramatizes the life of Zionism's founder as he reflects upon the history of his people, debates the merits of Uganda as a homeland, and appeals to a baron, a sultan, and a pope before collapsing in 1904, at age 44, from heart failure and exhaustion. The Village Voice

Jews of Palestine

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