Monday night saw the North American premiere of a new film, Body & Soul: The State of the Jewish Nation, by Gloria Greenfield, the director of 2011’s Unmasked Judeophobia. Body & Soul is meant to be an answer to all those in the media who have recently been heard denying that the Jewish people ever had a connection to the Land of Israel, or that there ever was a sovereign Jewish state there in the past.
The documentary is, in sum, a concise and somewhat reduced history of the Jewish people, from around the time of the First Temple up to the present day. It features interviews with such prominent Israeli and Jewish thinkers as MK Einat Wilf, Professor Ruth Wisse, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Professor Alan Dershowitz. Archival footage of the arrival of the Ethiopian Jews and some subtle Ken Burns-ing of historical documents and photographs are laced between the numerous talking heads who narrate the story as the Jews move from exile to exile.
“The campaigns to erase Jewish history are getting stronger, and even though their arguments make no sense, if its repeated enough people will buy it.”
All in all, the hour-long film serves as a crash course on Jewish history for those who might not know it, and while it doesn’t present any new information per se, the film accomplishes its goal of arguing that the Jews do have a historical connection to the land and that many (read: the Palestinian Authority) are actively trying to deny this connection, a point that many at the screening reiterated.
“This film was necessary to make as a way to understand the centrality of Israel to the Jewish identity,” Greenfield told The Jerusalem Post, saying she wanted to clarify the connection and review the legal history of Jewish rights to the land. “The campaigns to erase Jewish history are getting stronger, and even though their arguments make no sense, if its repeated enough people will buy it,” she said, pointing to the statements made by PA President Mahmoud Abbas that “Jesus was a Palestinian.”
Wisse, who in addition to being featured prominently in the documentary also addressed a very receptive audience after the film, told the Post that these days, it’s “important to tell the truth clearly, often, and with conviction.”
When asked if she thought the crowd at the event – mostly well-heeled and well-kippa’d New Yorkers such as Emmy Award winner Tyne Daly, and a few prominent Israelis including former Housing and Construction Minister Yaakov Katz – was a crowd that was already convinced of this fact and thus didn’t need to be re-educated, Wisse said it didn’t matter.
“Of course this should be shown to Palestinian students on college campuses,” she said, “but you start with those who want to know that this is being said.”
Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America and another speaker that evening, echoed Wisse’s sentiment.
“The majority here care about Israel,” Klein said. “Whether they’re center or center-left, I don’t know, but I hope they view it and tell their friends what they learned. We’re trying to fight against the delegitimization of Israel.”
Wall Street Journal columnist and former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Bret Stephens, who was one of the authoritative talking heads in the film as well as the evening’s master of ceremonies, told the Post after the screening that the film was “necessary” and “an authoritative rebuke to every lie and half-truth that is spoken so routinely these days.”
Body & Soul had its world premiere in Jerusalem at the Begin Center on Monday October 20, and continues on a tour around the US and Canada through April 2015.
This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and may be found here.