The Simon Wiesenthal Center's Moriah Films continues its distinguished series of documentaries with "In Search of Peace Part One: 1948-1967," which chronicles the first half of Israel's existence. Written by Sir Martin Gilbert and the center's Rabbi Marvin Hier, and adapted by its director, Richard Trank, "In Search of Peace" unfolds in straightforward fashion, bringing clarity and a personal touch to a complex and turbulent era of history.
On a note of bitter irony, considering current headlines, the film begins with a measure of optimism with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the White House speaking words of reconciliation with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, and announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, the time for peace has come." Today's war-torn Israel resembles its birth, with the War of Independence underway as it came into being. "Today we dance, tomorrow we fight," predicted David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency in Palestine and soon Israel's first prime minister. With comprehensive archival footage, the filmmakers guide viewers through two decades of tumult, culminating in 1967's victory in the Six-Day War. That daring military triumph left Israel with the West Bank of Jordan, East Jerusalem, site of the sacred Western Wall of the Second Temple, and an overall area three times what it had been before the fighting started. In between are power struggles within the Israeli leadership and tense relations with Israeli Arabs and neighboring Arab nations, which resisted Israeli Arab immigration, culminating in the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization and worsening relations between Jews and Arabs.
In the process, the political and military leaders emerge, none more enduringly impressive than Golda Meir, the plain-looking, plain-talking grandmother who became prime minister. When Ben-Gurion sent Meir to raise money for arms to fight the War of Independence, she returned with $50 million, more than twice the amount Ben-Gurion felt was needed. Passed over for a cabinet post in his government, she signed a note to Ben-Gurion as "the Woman Who Saved Israel."
It is this kind of amusing detail that provides relief from the chronic Mideast strife. There are remarks from two internationally renowned actors, Israeli Arab star Mohammad Bakri, who recalls his grandfather was killed the day Israel was founded, and the grand dame of the Israeli stage and screen, Gila Almagor, who recalls both the flowering of the Israeli theater and the effect of the Eichmann war-crimes trial on the nation. Stirring, often tragic yet hopeful, "In Search of Peace" benefits from its eloquent narrator Michael Douglas, and from the voices of Edward Asner, Anne Bancroft, Richard Dreyfuss, Miriam Margolyes and Michael York.
Unrated: Times guidelines: a good history lesson for teens.
'In Search of Peace Part One: 1947-1948'
A Moriah Films presentation. Director Richard Trank. Producers Rabbi Marvin Hier, Richard Trank. Writers Sir Martin Gilbert, Marvin Hier. Cinematographers Carl Bartels, Don Lenzer, Jeffrey Victor. Music Lee Holdridge. Editors Edgar Burcksen, Lorraine Salk. Narrator Michael Douglas. Featuring the voices of Edward Asner, Anne Bancroft, Richard Dreyfuss, Miriam Margolyes, Michael York. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
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