Monday, February 27, 2017

Chirbet Chizah

Chirbet Chizah, Hebrew: חִרְבֶּת חִזְעָה) is a novella by Israeli writer S. Yizhar (Yizhar Smolenski).S. Yizhar is arguably the greatest Hebrew writer to have emerged since 1948, and his thousand page plus stream of consciousness novel Yemei Tzekleg (1958) is regarded as a clasic which has influenced many famous Israeli writers, including Amos Oz and David Grossman.
Chirbat Chizah was published in 1949, and deals with the expulsion of Arabs from the fictional village of Chirbet Chiz'ah. 

The story was later made into a 1978 TV drama on Israeli Channel 1, and sparked a public debate in Israel on whether it should be broadcast or not.Early in 1977, director Ram Levi persuaded the Israel Broadcasting Authority to sponsor a made-for-television movie of the novella, and filming got underway by spring. During filming, on May 17, Menachem Begin's Likud came to power. When the film was supposed to air, in January 1978, the government postponed the broadcast; but when the new air date neared, the new education minister, Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party, cancelled the broadcast altogether. All hell broke loose. Opposing the ban on "Chirbet Chizah," MK Yossi Sarid declared that "the flag of freedom of speech in Israel has been lowered to half-mast; it's going to take a lot to hoist it back up again."

Supporting the ban, journalist Tommy Lapid (father of Yair Lapid, who today leads Israel's Yesh Atid political party) who a quarter of century later would become justice minister, wrote that, "even if the Fatah Information Bureau were headed by a genius, he couldn't have come up with a better one than this. And even if Goebbels were directing Arab propaganda efforts, they couldn't have had greater success. And even if a fifth column were operating in our television studios, they couldn't have performed a better service to aid the enemies of our state."

In Lapid's scorched-earth prose, Yizhar was a Nazi propagandist. In Sarid's acerbic oratory, Hammer was a book-burner. Even among less incendiary pundits, "Chirbet Chizeh" had become a partisan matter. There were many reasons why this was so. For one thing, the story's 1978 television audience was different from what its readership had been in 1949. Then Yizhar's readers had just scraped through the 1948 war, absorbing the ample tragedy it was for Israeli's ( 1% of Israel's population was lost during the war, equivalent to the UK going to war today and losing 600 000 lives) and for Arabs.
Director: Ram Levi, 1978, Hebrew with Hebrew subtitles, and, amongst other actors, a still young Gidi Gov.

(Most, but not all, of the above notes comes from Zochrot, an Israeli NPO that is so self flagellatory I will not share the link to it....its easy enough to find, if you're thus inclined.) Watch the film on YouTuve via the link below

Samech Yizhar Chirbet Chizah

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