Judge Erick Harper extends an olive branch to this documentary looking at the formation of the modern state of Israel.
Explore. Reflect. Debate.
In Search of Peace: Part One 1948-1967 examines roughly the first third of the history of the modern state of Israel. It starts with the departure of the British, who turned over the ancient iron key to the gates of Jerusalem to the Jewish people for the first time since AD 70. The new Jewish State was established with much fanfare and jubilation—at least among the Jewish residents of the area. The Arab residents were notably less pleased with the idea. Thus were sown the seeds of a conflict that has really not changed its complexion in 56 years.
Of course, the real history of modern Israel starts a few years earlier, in the inferno of World War II and the "Final Solution." Those who survived the Holocaust and resolved that such a thing would never befall them again largely shaped the story of Israel's early years. In a sense, the history of modern Israel may be traced back to the 1942 Wannsee Conference, where the Nazis gleefully started down the dark path to genocide. How appropriate it is, then, that early on the new country's judicial system conducted its very own "trial of the century," holding Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann accountable for his crimes against humanity. The specter of the Holocaust and the defiant tenacity with which the Jewish people have clung to life lurks in the background of much of the new Jewish State's early history.
In Search of Peace is a production of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's production company, Moriah Films. It was co-produced by the center's Rabbi Marvin Hier and director Richard Trank. The pair are no strangers to documentary filmmaking. They shared an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for 1997's The Long Way Home, which tells the story of American soldiers who dealt with the trauma of their unsuspecting discovery of the Nazi death camps. Prior to that, Hier won an Oscar in 1981 for Genocide, a documentary also dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust.
Narrated by Michael Douglas and featuring the vocal talents of Ed Asner, Anne Bancroft, Richard Dreyfuss, Miriam Margolyes, and Michael York, In Search of Peace brings to life the central figures of Israel's struggle for independence. David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir walk its scenes, as do so many figures whose names and legacies still loom large: Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yitzhak Shamir, just to name a few. Vocal talent of this caliber certainly helps bring these historical luminaries to life.
The documentary is largely assembled from old newsreel and TV film, with some dazzling still photos and some less-dazzling color news footage. Most of the footage is in surprisingly good condition for its age, although portions are beset with various nicks, scratches, and other age-related defects. The results of the DVD transfer are relatively good, although in many scenes hard outlines will jump and crawl with mosquito-type picture noise and massive edge enhancement abounds. The audio quality is quite good, featuring a Dolby 5.1 mix that makes active use of surrounds for music and incidental effects, as well as some echo effect as appropriate for historical speakers.
There are some who will not appreciate In Search of Peace, due to its largely pro-Israeli stance. This is to be expected from a Moriah Films production, but those whose political allegiances lie elsewhere may find the film a bit less than impartial. The film does make efforts to incorporate the story of the Palestinians and other Arab peoples; the excesses and atrocities committed by Jewish pro-independence forces are given as much coverage as those committed by the Palestinian resistance. In the main, however, Trank and Hier choose to focus their efforts on the grand achievements of the Israelis. The thing to remember is that a documentarian must make choices; this film tells a story, not necessarily every story.
For the most part, In Search of Peace: Part One 1948—1967 succeeds as an interesting and informative look at the early days of the modern state of Israel. There is a nice balance between bigger historical events and smaller, individual experiences. It does all get perhaps a bit dry and matter-of-fact after a while, but overall it makes for an enlightening presentation of historical events that continue to reverberate today.
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