On The Side Of The Road, 82", Israel/Palestine, 2013
Former West Bank settler Lia Tarachansky looks at Israelis’ collective amnesia of the fateful events of 1948 when the state of Israel was born and most of the Palestinians became refugees. She follows the transformation of Israeli veterans trying uncover their denial of the war that changed the region forever.
Tarachansky then turns the camera on herself and travels back to her settlement where that historical erasure gave birth to a new generation, blind and isolated from its surroundings. Attempting to shed a light on the country’s biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence.
בצדי הדרך, 82", ישראל/פלסטין, 2013
מתנחלת לשעבר ליאה טרשצ'נסקי חוקרת את האמנזיה הקולקטיבית של ישראלים בקשר לאירועי תש"ח כשמדינת ישראל נולדה ורוב הפלסטינים נהיו פליטים. היא עוקבת אחר הטרנספורמציה של לוחמי 48' ישראליים שמנסים לחשוף את ההכחשה שלהם עצמם ושל בני דורם כלפי המלחמה הגורלית.
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Lia Tarachansky grew up in a settlement. When the second Intifadah broke out in 2000 her family moved to Canada. There, for the first time she met Palestinians and "discovered" their history and learned why they were fighting Israel in the first place.
When she became a journalist, she returned to Israel to become the local correspondent for The Real News network. Returning for the first time to her settlement, she "discovers" the Palestinians next door as she travels the West Bank covering the Israeli military occupation.
In this film she meets with those who played a personal role in the events of 1948 and like her, "discovered" that which they had not only erased from their consciousness, but erased from the map. For years she tries to convince veterans of the 1948 that set off the conflict as we know it today to face the most difficult questions and dig deep into their memories. This is a film about the questions Israelis cannot ask, about memories that cannot be uncovered, and the history that's fighting to come to light.
It was then, in 1948, three years after the holocaust that the nascent Jewish state was created in a bloody war that led to two-thirds of the Palestinian people becoming refugees. Those who fled or were expelled to this day remain in camps throughout the Arab world, the West Bank and Gaza. In 2009 the Israeli government proposed a law that forbade mourning this history. A law that attempted to criminalize history itself.
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Note: This film previously carried the title Seven Deadly Myths
The film was shot with the concept of return in mind. Not only content-wise, but also visually. It starts with Tarachansky's return to Israel, to begin her work as a correspondent/video journalist for Independent World Television - The Real News. We see scenes from the every-day conflict in Israel/Palestine and get to know the character through her lens as she tries to make sense of the on-the-ground politics of the conflict.
She then starts discovering the history of 1948 through the story of Khalil Abu Rahmeh, a Palestinian friend she meets in a refugee camp in the northern West Bank. Unable to get a permit to visit the place where his grandparents escaped from during the war, he dreams of a paradise village as told in the collected stories of his grandparents, passed down to him through his parents. Only a short drive away from his camp is the settlement where Lia grew up. Trying to make sense of the Palestinian narrative she hears for the first time, Lia returns to the colony for the first time in a decade. She sees her home and the school where she studied. She tells the story of how life in the settlement felt like an island of safety in a sea of danger. "One night I ran away to meet a boy behind that big boulder," she says, pointing at the edge of the settlement, as she stands on a hill above. "I came home late at night only to find my parents freaking out. They kept yelling at me for disappearing. They were afraid I was been killed by an Arab from the other side of the fence.” She starts laughing cynically, and adds “There's no way a Palestinian could ever enter the settlement, to kill me, except, of course, to build the houses. Palestinian construction workers built all our houses."
Having realized that what she learned in school about Palestinians and 1948 wasn't the full picture, Tarachansky finds and interviews the historians and journalists who worked tirelessly to uncover this history. She also finds Israeli veterans who fought in that war, and begins asking them uncomfortable questions about their actions. On one such shoot she films Amnon Noiman, a veteran who fought and expelled dozens of villages in the south of the country, he tells of how his unit sent the residents on foot to Gaza, to permanent exile. For the first time she hears a veteran talking about systemic "cleansing campaigns" Then, he is asked if he could talk about specific places, such as the village of Burayr where he fought and a known massacre took place. "No, don't ask me questions like that,” he shot back, “there are things that are better left untouched". “Why?" she insists, “because I did it, OK? Is that reason?"
The second half of the film follows what happens once the wall of denial is cracked. The pivotal scene to connect it to the first half is a moment back in Lia's settlement, where as if for the first time, she sees the Palestinian villages next door and realizes the extent of isolation in which she grew up. She breaks down on camera realizing that as the national narrative erased the Palestinian history, the daily conflict erased the Palestinian humanity to the point of generations growing up next door to each other without actually seeing one another. Slowly, over years, she convinces the veterans, one by one, to return to the very sites they themselves erased, not only from the map but also from their memories. With veteran Tikva Honig-Parnass, Lia returns to the village of Saris. Standing in the empty field, overlooking a gas station, she tells of how she used to play in this place, with the Palestinian children, when she was a girl. Then, one day, they were gone. Tarachansky asks her if she received clear orders to expel them. "No," she says, "it wasn't said. No one said it, but we all knew that our job was to clear the land." The villagers who lived in the place where they stand, and in the dozens of expelled neighboring villages today live in refugee camps in the southern West Bank. A forest was planted on the ruins, erasing them from Israeli maps and textbooks. Tarachansky then finds and follows an Israeli organization named Zochrot whose mandate is to raise this buried history at the center of the Israeli discourse. They do this through Hebrew tours to the hundreds of sites of destroyed villages where they cement signs that tell what happened there in 1948. They help teachers introduce a more comprehensive curriculum in their history classes, and organize creative actions on Israel's independence day to question the silence over what had happened for that independence to be won.
For three years, Tarachansky follows Zochrot through the character of the organization’s director, Eitan Bronstein. In the heart of Tel Aviv, he and the group try to raise the names of the expelled villages, and year after year the violence with which they are received intensifies. In 2012 as they try to leave their office, as fireworks exploded in the sky above Tel Aviv, they found their building was barricaded. Police surrounded them, preventing them from laying pieces of paper on the ground with the names of the 530 destroyed villages, while celebrating bystanders yelled death threats over the line of cops. "You're lucky the police are here," one Israeli screamed at the camera, "I have friends here, if the police weren't protecting you, we'd shoot you one by one.”
Before leaving the barricade, three hours later, Eitan and Lia discuss why Israelis react with such violence to such simple, non-violent actions. Why touching on 1948 arouses such a strong response, and how it is what happened in 1948 and continues to happen in the West Bank today is truly the center of the conflict, a connection most Israelis refuse to make.
Finally, Khalil receives a permit for 24 hours to visit Qaqun, the village his grandmother fled from. He enters Israel and together with Lia, they drive to the site of where his ancestors lived for centuries before Jewish forces expelled them on one fateful day in March 1948. As he climbs up the hill to where the village used to stand, he calls his grandmother, and together they share this moment of bittersweet joy at finally being allowed to return, if even for one day. As he overlooks the fields and hills around, his wife asks the camera "why can't we return? Why must we remain living in a square-kilometer camp for generations? What about our children? Look at all this space, look at how easily we could return here, to live here, with you, in our homeland". As the hours on their permit expire, Lia drives Khalil and his wife back to the nearest checkpoint, racing against time to return to the occupation, to hope that some day they'll be able to return for good.
Throughout the film we see Lia wrestle with the narrative she has grown up to believe was true. She is faced with challenging questions from her family, her friends, and other Israelis who begin to question her loyalty as she digs further and further into the history. In conversations, at the state archives, in interviews with historians we see her trying to reconcile what she thinks she knows with what she is discovering, and question why, if all this information is now openly available, it hasn’t made its way into Israeli schoolbooks, and past the wall of denial Israeli society has barricaded itself with. The film ends with a shoot Lia covers for her work. She films the celebration that marks the end of the annual Birthright-Taglit trip, a free 10-day visit funded by American billionaires for Jewish-American youth where they get to visit Israel in the hope that they will immigrate and live there. Each year tens of thousands of youth are brought on the trip, where they spend time with Israeli soldiers, visit biblical sites, and party in Tel Aviv.
In the sea of ecstatic teenagers, singing the Israeli national anthem and waiving Israeli flags Tarachansky (and a colleague) interview Michael Steinhardt, the biggest funder of the program, who reveals that its main purpose is for the youth "to meet Jewish partners and make Jewish babies", to settle the land and tip the demographic balance toward a Jewish majority. He tells of how this is important, so that Israel can remain a Jewish state, to fulfill the Zionist dream. Tarachansky also speaks to a dozen participants as they dance and celebrate in a fervour of Israeli nationalism. One, speaking of the atmosphere in the crowd says, "It's like we're high on Zionism right now, it's like it's Ziojuana".
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Israel/Palestine, 2013, 83 min
When the government tries to silence a history, a light is shed on the nation's biggest taboo.
On The Side Of The Road is the story of those who fought to erase Palestine and created an Israeli landscape of denial.
ישראלֿֿֿ\פלסטין, 2013, 82 דקות
כשהממשלה ניסתה למחוק את העבר, נחשף הטאבו הלאומי ועבר משולי התודעה אל מרכז תשומת הלב.
בצדי הדרך הוא סיפורם של אלה שניסו למחוק את פלסטין ויצרו מרחב ישראלי של הדחקה ושל אלה שמבקשים לחשוף אותה.
A history which is no longer credible serves neither to legitimate the State nor to inspire or inform its citizenry.
- Avi Shlaim
My generation had to undergo emotional crippling in order to fulfill the missions which were assigned to them: conquering the land, expelling its indigenous Palestinian residents, expropriating most of their lands and turning them into "state lands," and imposing a military government on those who remained, which lasted until 1966!
Tikva Honig-Parnass, 1948 Veteran
Lia Tarachansky has produced a powerful and moving film about finding the truth about the fate of the Palestinians in the founding of Israel. The stunning revelation that she, like other Israelis, had repressed the realities surrounding the Palestinian community near her childhood home opens a new window on the tortured history of the conflict with the Palestinians. Tarachansky's film, represents a breakthrough in presenting the conflict on multiple levels.
Award winning investigative historian and journalist
If there is ever to be genuine reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, then the issue examined by Lia Tarachansky's film has to be properly understood: how can Israelis be encouraged to confront the historic and contemporary forms of denial they live in? These are psychological defences developed by most Israelis to avoid admitting either to themselves or to others that they are oppressing another people, the Palestinians. The film powerfully addresses this core problem, and, through the power of the film's revelations, offers a path to ending this long-running conflict
Award winning journalist and author
With all its might, the state of Israel since its founding day did not rest in its efforts to erase Palestine. This project did not succeed, not only because the Palestinians continue to demand their return, but also because Jewish citizens who themselves participated in the expulsion and erasure are reawaking the nightmares of their acts and are trying to open the past and seek for change, remedy and recompensation. Lia Tarachansky's film is especially important as it attempts to follow this very process of awakening and sobering up of these Jewish citizens who were not only participants in the crime but who erased their own roles within it.
Scholar, Photographer, and prolific Israeli author