Films for Yom HaZikaron / Yom Ha'Atzmaut


From: Aryeh Halivni '93

Toldot Yisrael is a Jerusalem based nonprofit dedicated to recording and sharing the firsthand testimonies of the men and women who helped found the State of Israel, basically an effort to do for Israel's 1948 generation what Spielberg did for survivors of the Shoah. Michael Oren, Daniel Gordis, Ruth Wisse, and Yehuda Avner are among the many fans of the project, seeing both the historical and educational value of the testimonies. We have produced several movies and interview clips using our interview footage which would make for appropriate viewing for Yom HaZikaron / Yom Ha'Atzmaut. 

The Eyewitness 1948 short films (10-15 minutes long) were produced jointly by Toldot Yisrael and Israel's History Channel and have been viewed online 500,000 times.

A Bravery Fiercer than Death: The 35 Heroes of Gush Etzion tells the tragic yet inspiring story of 35 young soldiers--mostly students at the Hebrew University-- who set out from Jerusalem to bring much-needed supplies to the kibbutzim in the besieged Etzion Bloc south of the city. This film is particularly appropriate for Yom HaZikaron since the kibbutzim of Gush Etzion fell on 4 Iyar, the day before Ben Gurion declared the State; Yom HaZikaron is observed on that date partially for that reason. An excellent companion teacher's guide has been prepared by Michael Unterberg and Noam Shapiro, two former teachers at Fuchs Mizrachi School in Cleveland, now living in Gush Etzion. The guide includes background information, discussion questions, and additional resources and is available as a pdf here.

Other films in the series are:

Echoes of a Shofar
 - Six men in their 80s return to the Kotel to "reenact their crime" - blowing shofar in the 1940s when it was illegal under British Mandate law.

The Story of a Vote

- A vote that lasted a mere three minutes on November 29, 1947 changed the course of Jewish History and brought 20 centuries of Jewish homelessness to an end. 

The Volunteers
- Did you know Vidal Sassoon left a hairdressing apprenticeship in London to come fight in Israel's War of Independence? The moving stories of Jews from abroad who contributed to the founding of the State of Israel.

The Founders: The Story of the 1948 Generation is a series of 2 minute films (Hebrew with English subtitles) also produced with the History Channel. IMHO,  all 20 films in the playlist are good, but the following may be particularly relevant for an educational setting:

Shmuel Albeck talks about finding out later that he had been the one to start Israel's War of Independence
Benjamin Gepner talks about his first encounter with Yair (Avraham Stern) and life in the underground as a member of the pre-State Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel)
Shosh Habas talks about being the office director of the first IDF Chief of Staff, Yaakov Dori, and the challenges of the War of Independence
Rina Aharoni recounts the household turmoil she caused by joining the Lehi when her father was a Haganah commander
Menashke Harel, a founding member of Kibbutz Maoz Haim, describes the Kibbutz's disappointed reaction to the declaration of the state.

In addition, we have a few other powerful 2 -3 minute clips:

Zipporah Porath, a student from New York spending a year abroad at Hebrew University in 1947-8, describes her induction to the Haganah
Dr. Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University, discusses designing bullets for Israel in a clandestine laboratory in upstate NY in 1948, which he calls "one of the highlights of my life."
Jack Slomovic, talks about arriving in Israel after surviving Auschwitz and being sent immediately to the war front in Latrun.
Yaffa Tevuah was a 22 year old Lehi fighter imprisoned by the British in the women's prison in Bethlehem. Seeking courage when facing her British interrogators, she drew strength from nearby Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb), a symbol of the Biblical promise of the Jewish return to their homeland. 


Aryeh Halivni (Eric Weisberg)
Executive Director
Toldot Yisrael