Soldiers Playing Soldiers

At war with themselves

In a country where most young people find themselves in uniform at age 18, and wars rear their heads every few years, figures of dusty warriors have conquered not only strategic positions but also the silver screen. From the founding of the state to this day, the number of war and army films made here has been remarkably high.

During the early decades of the state Israeli cinema centered on the figure of the heroic soldier, the fearless sabra who is prepared to sacrifice himself for his native-born homeland. But starting from the late 1970s, films began chipping away at the myth

Reams have been written in academia about the new soldier, the antihero. Numerous scholars have already analyzed the way in which war movies of the past three decades have buried the national patriotic meta-narrative; the manner in which they dared at long last to question the morality of the Israel Defense Forces, and filmmakers' decisions to focus on the beaten and suffering soldier rather than on the brave and heroic warrior.

Left out of the equation, though, have been actors commissioned to portray these conflicted men.

Haaretz recently brought together four actors whose roles gave the antihero a space on the big screen: Gavri Banai, who played the unforgettable Sgt. Raphael "Jinji" Moked in the film "Halfon Hill Doesn't Answer" (1976 ), written by Assi Dayan and Naftali Alter; Liron Levo, who starred in the film "Kippur" (2000 ) as Weinraub, a character that was modeled on the filmmaker Amos Gitai during his military service in the Yom Kippur War; Eli Eltonyo, who in Joseph Cedar's "Beaufort" (2007 ), based on the novel by Ron Leshem, played the role of Company First Sergeant Oshri, who waits with his comrades in the first Lebanon War for the retreat order that will rescue them; and Michael Aloni, who played Benny, the abusive commander in "Infiltration" (2010 ), which Dover Koshashvili directed based on the book by Yehoshua Kenaz.

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