ISRAEL: An apartment building in Jerusalem exposes the repressive and damaging manifestations of Israel’s concept of defense.
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Modern Times Review.
Published date: November 8, 2019

Land Mine

(The Other Side of Silence)

Tirtza Even

Tirtza EvenJorge Gurvich

USA, Israel

When Israel launched its war in Lebanon in June 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin described it as an act of self-defense. As he put it, he wanted to avoid another Treblinka for the Jewish people.

On the second night of battle, Israeli units conquered Beaufort, an old crusader castle in South Lebanon that had been an enemy stronghold. During the battle, six Israeli soldiers were killed. One of them was Guni, a young man from Jerusalem. Recently, he had finished his compulsory service and was on his way to a coast-to-coast trip in the US when he was called up for reserve duty in a commando unit.

Guni lived with his parents in an apartment building in Jerusalem, and his story is one of many about its residents, filmmaker Tirtza Even portrays in her latest documentary. She herself grew up in the building that housed nine families with more than twenty children but left for the US to study and got married there. Many years later she returns to dig into the undercurrents of the Jerusalem building where it turns out a significant number of the male residents have died prematurely and of unnatural reasons.

Land Mine, a film by Tirtza Even

Haunted house

What follows is a fragmented assembly of portraits of the men gone, of the women mourning them, and it all becomes a mirror image to a society that is prey to the violence of its own defense mechanism, its land mines. Tirtza Even looks up the last remaining tenant still living in the building. He is a musician and composer, and he resides in the very apartment where she grew up.

That brings it all back. Her childhood in the early 1960s was harmonious. The building functioned like one big commune, a secluded world where everybody cared for each other. People never locked their doors and the kids entered all apartments without knocking.

Then everything was upended as if an earthquake had …

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