We saw two fairly recent Israeli films, both good. The first, “Yana’s Friends”, is set in Tel Aviv in the early 1990s, and tells the story of a bunch of Israeli’s, none of whom have yet found their place in society A somewhat black comedy, it tells the story of Yana and her husband, recent immigrants from Russia, she three months pregnant, and he taking funds borrowed from a bank back to Russia with him, leaving Yana alone. Then there’s the couple across the hall, who live with the wife’s grandfather, a military veteran now paralyzed and non-responsive, who spends his days sitting in a wheel chair with a cup in which passersby hopefully deposit some money. And the woman who owns the building, who seeks to evict Yana because she has accidentally found and read some of the landlord’s old correspondence hidden in the attic. And the young photographer who lives in the same unit as Yana, and is her (more helpful than not) roommate. And the street accordian player who is belittled by all, but teaches classical music to neighborhood kids (for free?) on the side. Each has overwhelming problems – but the movie is uplifting.
The second film, “Lemon Tree”, is anything but uplifting – the new foreign minister of Israel and his wife live in a new house, right on the border of the West Bank, with their neighbor (fenced off, of course), a Palestinian woman who lives off the lemon grove planted by her father. The secret service decides that terrorists could hide in the lemon grove and that it must be torn down. The Palestinian woman finds a lawyer and takes the case all the way to Israel’s Supreme Court, which attempts a compromise, ordering that only half the trees be trimmed to give the security personnel a good vantage point, leaving the remaining trees productive. This was not a satisfactory decision for either side, but the owner of the grove knew she had no choice On the other hand, the Israeli army……… (you can guess). While all this is going on, the wife of the foreign minister feels for her neighbor (whom she can see, but has never met), and makes some statements which do not help her husband’s case. No one in the movie is really a “bad guy”, but you can sense what “3000 years of blood and politics” (to paraphrase a line in the film) can do.