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“Menashe” Is a Movie with a Wealth of Soul

Aug. 11 2017

Menashe is based loosely on the life of its lead actor, Menashe Lustig, who—like most of the film’s cast—is a ḥasidic Jew without prior acting experience. Set in the ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn enclave of Borough Park, and with dialogue almost entirely in Yiddish (with English subtitles), the film tells the story of a father struggling after his wife’s death to gain custody of his son. Jonathan Leaf writes in his review:

A movie that takes a sympathetic view of a faithful adherent to a Judeo-Christian religious group is as rare as a meteor from Pluto or a ski instructor in the Bahamas. It isn’t just improbable. Nowadays it’s nearly unheard of. Yet that’s what the remarkable new movie Menashe is. . . .

The group in which [its title character] lives really is a community. The word is not just a meaningless term in the service of political propaganda as it might be in an expression like the “arts community.” This means that Menashe respects its decisions. These are handed down by his elderly rabbi, his “ruv.” . . .

Menashe is relatively slow-moving and intimate, and its hero is a tubby, disheveled figure. There are no beautiful people in this movie and no action sequences. The opening credits of a typical Hollywood picture contain twenty times more violence and quite a bit more sex appeal. . . . Moreover, the movie’s production values are mostly below the level of video taken on a more recent generation of iPhone.

But Menashe has something sorely lacking from the overwhelming majority of mainstream movies: three-dimensional characters, a thoroughly plausible story, and a wealth of soul.

Read more at Scenes

More about: Arts & Culture, Film, Hasidism, Ultra-Orthodox

 

The Threats Posed to Israel by a Palestinian State

Oct. 23 2017

To the IDF reserve general Gershon Hacohen, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would, given the current circumstances of the Middle East, create a graver danger for the Jewish state than either Iran or Hizballah. More damaging still, he argues, is the attitude among many Israelis that the two-state solution is a necessity for Israel. He writes:

Since the Oslo process began in the fall of 1993, dramatic changes have occurred in the international arena. . . . For then-Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, Oslo was based on the superpower status of the U.S. . . . At the time, the Arabs were in a state of crisis and aware of their weakness—all the more so after the U.S. vanquished Iraq in the First Gulf War in the winter of 1991. . . . It was that awareness of weakness, along with the PLO leadership’s state of strategic inadequacy, that paved the way for the Oslo process.

[But] over the [intervening] years, the America’s hegemonic power has declined while Russia has returned to play an active and very influential role. . . .

Something essential has changed, too, with regard to expectations in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere. At first, in the early days of Oslo, the expectations were of mutual goodwill and reconciliation. Over the years, however, as the cycle of blood has continued, the belief in Palestinian acceptance of Israel in return for Israeli concessions has been transformed in the Israeli discourse into nothing more than the need to separate from the Palestinians—“They’re there, we’re here”—solely on our own behalf.

The more the proponents of separation have honed their efforts to explain to Israeli society that separation is mandated by reality, enabling Israel to preserve its identity as Jewish and democratic, the more the Palestinians’ bargaining power has grown. If a withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state is a clear-cut Israeli interest, if the Israelis must retreat in any case for the sake of their own future, why should the Palestinians give something in return? . . . Hence the risk is increasing that a withdrawal from the West Bank will not only fail to end the conflict but will in fact lead to its intensification.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Oslo Accords, Russia, Two-State Solution