Ma’aleh: Jewish Film School Doesn’t Shy Away From Controversy

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The Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts honored its 17th graduating class of 20 students last month at the Jerusalem Cinametheque. The highlight of the ceremony was viewing Ma’aleh graduate writer/director Tvi Yehuda Herling’s profound short film, HaMavdil (The Separation).The film depicts a family divided over the Israeli government’s decision to dismantle settlements. The oldest son, Koby, is an accomplished soldier in the IDF, but his family, particularly his father (played by the late Amos Lavi), demands that the army, in all respects, remain outside of their settlement which has been slated for evacuation by the government. His father forbids talk of the army, and even the sight of his son’s uniform is too much for him to handle.

The film hits a climax during havdalah, the Jewish ritual done to separate Shabbat from the start of the new week. As the family stands in the darkness, staring at the flickering candle, Koby, wearing his uniform, approaches them. With tears in his eyes, his father recites the blessing and his son turns and leaves. Symbolically, he is separating from his family, just as the government is choosing to part from the land and its settlers. HaMavdil raises important questions about the limits of national and familial loyalty and how far an encroaching army can come to tearing apart a land, a family and a country. An uneasy and threatening tension builds throughout the film, as the viewer waits for the release of an emotional or violent outburst, but none comes.

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