“Lemon Tree” as a piece of “Israel for Beginners”

“Lemon Tree” as a piece of “Israel for Beginners”

Simha Nyr, adv.
29.09.2009 03:41

A well-made film, showing in micro some controversy in the Israeli public opinion.



“Lemon Tree” as a piece of “Israel for Beginners”

Simha Nyr, adv.

A well-made film, showing in micro some controversy in the Israeli public opinion.

It’s quite weird that as a veteran Israeli it occurred to me to see the movie “Lemon Tree” only after landing in the US, but here I am.

The movie is based on the (true) story of the security measures taken to protect the private house of Israel’s then defense minister, Sha’ul Mofaz.

The story takes place at zero-distance on both sides of the “Green Line” – the border between Israel and the West Bank, according to the Armistice Agreement of 1949 between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. After the 1967 war (known also as the Six Day War) this “line” became, more or less, the actual (and controversial) border between Israel and the Arab population of the West Bank. Later it turnd to be the border between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

After the 1967 war the State of Israel had decided, for political and strategic reasons, to densely populate the area close to the Green Line, which is known as the “Seam Space”. One of the localities (I intentionally refrain from saying “settlements”, which are “another opera”) built there is Kochav Ya’ir, in which Mofaz had built his own house – adjacent to the Green Line, on its western (“Israeli”) side.

On the other side, the eastern side of the Green Line, stands the orchard of Zohariya Morshad, a 72 year old Arab widow, whose livelihood is solely from the orchard.

The distance between the orchard and the minister’s house is about 30 meters (100 ft.), and the security authorities say that the trees are a hiding-place for terrorist activities, and therefore all the trees should be cut down.

The next stage on this stage is in the Israeli Supreme Court, sitting as an administrative court (“Bagats”), and, by your leave and permission, we shall now turn to the movie itself – the subject of this criticism.

The movie does not purport to stick to the real facts – as an artistic work it shouldn’t – but dramatizes the deep controversy (the right-wing attitude versus the left-wing one) in the Israeli community as to the relations between Israel and Arabs, in general, and between Israel and the Palestinians, in particular.

In order to sharpen the dilemma of the security needs versus humanitarian musts the film adds some “colour”: the widow has no family, she inherited the orchard from her late father (adding an emotional dimension to the saga), the trees are all lemon (why?) and so forth.

On the other hand, the minister and his wife represent the split in the Israeli society: while his wife urges him to be considerate to the old widow, he says that though he is in charge of the security services, he wouldn’t interfere with their professional considerations.

The rest you should see by yourselves.

And back to reality … Some critics see in this work a hint to a split in the Mofaz family, but as far as I know, there is no ground to such a conclusion (and if there is – is it of import?). To my view it is just an artistic transfer of the public controversy from the “macro” level to the “micro” one, and thus I see the relations woven between the two neighbouring women – the Jewish-Israeli minister’s wife and the Arab-Palestinian old widow.

Save the artistic point of view I don’t see any import in the intimate relations woven between the old woman and her young lawyer.

Finally, a piece of “Israel for beginners” – well made, very sensitive to human feelings.

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The author is an Israeli lawyer and publicist

Author’s website: www.quimka.net

Author’s mail: quimka@quimka.com

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