The 5 Best Israeli Movies Ever

av Szilvi Somlai

The title in itself is already ridiculous for me. I think every Israeli movie is the best movie in the whole wide world, simply because it’s Israeli. Fortunately or unfortunately, I seem to be perfectly incapable of developing any sense of objectivity when it comes to Israel. The more I try, the less I succeed. This of course applies for everything, not only movies: food and drinks, music, people, clothes, nature, the seas, and even pebbles on the pavement are so much more beautiful in Israel than anywhere else in the world. But back to movies: how could I ever have a toplist?! So instead of constructing a hierarchy, I will just write about 5 movies that I love, for 5 completely different reasons. In order not to offend either of them, they shall be in alphabetical order -or rather, aleph-betical order.

Beaufort (2007)
The only movie that I saw three times in my life, on three consecutive days, and one of the very few movies ever, that made me cry. Cry a lot. Beaufort is a story about young Israeli boys in uniforms, boys who are much younger than me and have had so much more responsibility placed on their shoulders. We are in the year 2000, just before Israel withdraws her forces from Lebanon, at a post called Beaufort. The movie captures the last few days of the soldiers before their return to Israel, their emotional and mental torments, the appreciation of life mingling with death, joy and sadness, and transmits a general feeling that is so deeply Israeli.

The Band’s Visit (2007)
The sweetest movie ever! And I honestly believe this is what I would think of it even if I loved Israel a little bit less than I do. An Egyptian male orchestra arrives in Israel to play in Petah Tikva. But since they don’t pronounce the name of the city well, they end up in Beit Hatikva, with no more buses to take them to their destination the same day. They are stuck in Beit Hatikva for the night, and this night is filled with magic, romance, and a lot of emotions between Israelis and Egyptians.

Halfon Hill Doesn’t Answer (1976)
This movie, generally known as Givat Halfon Eina Ona, is one of the most hilarious Israeli classics. Until you see it, you ain’t seen nothing yet! We enter the world of miluim (army reserve), and meet the funniest deserter ever, the commander who is obsessed with the girl on the poster, the soldier in love, the gilrfriend who is either crying or flirting, her big and angry dad and even bigger sister, Egyptian captors and different kinds of weird humans, all in the extreme heat of the desert by the Sinai peninsula.

Sallah Shabati (1964)
There was no way I could or would leave out one of my all-time favourites. Directed by the famous Hungarian-born Israeli writer, Ephraim Kishon, Sallah Shabati (starring Haim Topol) is a sometimes ridiculously funny, and at the same time ridiculously sad satire. The title is already playful: Sallah Shabati consists of the mixed up letters of slicha shebati (sorry for coming). The main character, Sallah, makes aliya with his family from one of the Arab countries, and all throughout the film, tries to finally get a nice house to settle down in. He is faced with an endless number of challenges, one of them overcoming the difference in the social status between him and Ashkenazi olim.

Live and Become (2005)
Last, but certainly not least, comes a movie that I feel a special personal connection to, having lived both in Israel for a bit, and in Ethiopia for 4 long years. This is the touching story of an Ethiopian Christian little boy, who -by pure luck- manages to escape famine and the Sudanese refugee camp, and makes his way to Israel pretending to be a Jew. He grows up in the Jewish state hiding his identity for years, until everything explodes around him.

I have tried my best to collect 5 out of loads of must-see Israeli movies. It was a hard job for me, but I hope they will bring you what they brought to me: a lot of moments of laughter, moments of bitterness and sadness, miracles and reality, but most of all, love and pride for Israel, because all of these movies could only have been made in such a unique country.

Some of these films you will be able to see within the framework of the Israeli Movie Club that meets once a month at Paideia. Here are the next two screenings:
November 16, 18:00 – Kadosh, invited guest: Rabbi Isak Nachman
December 06, 18:00 – Beaufort
Enjoy them!