Ahead of the half-centennial anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Israel Film Archive put out a call for submissions to the general public, asking them to locate and share with the archive any relevant home movies they may have shot, during and after the war. The rationale behind this appeal is fairly straightforward: the digitisation process this footage will undergo will help to preserve and add it to the thousands of hours of existing archival footage chronicling life in Israel / Palestine over the last 125 years.
That being said, there is another – perhaps not quite as obvious – an advantage to documenting the war through home movies, versus official media or IDF film unit footage of the time.
The media, as is their nature, will be prone to focusing on news reporting – as such, they tend to highlight the “bigger moments,” e.g. major battles, key figures, and so forth. Miliary commissioned footage, meanwhile, is there to promote the organisation’s own agendas such as boosting soldiers’ and frontline morale, which is why it is shot and edited a certain way, to meet these very goals.
Home movies, on the other hand, are a form of far more immediate and ‘intimate’ documentation. They were shot by the soldiers themselves and as such, naturally tend to focus on the things that they considered important and interesting – an altogether different point of view in this context to that of the various media and military brass. Consequently, these home movies transport us to places and moments that were seldom, if ever captured in official footage, featuring scenes far more authentic and human. For better and for worse, this footage shows us the true face of war. Such is also the nature of the content we are about to explore in this collection.
On 11 November, Israel, Syria, and Egypt signed a joint ceasefire agreement. The official war may have been over – albeit only on paper, for in the months that followed, thousands of full time and reservist soldiers continued to hunker down in frozen trenches in an area nicknamed ‘the Syrian enclave’ – a chunk of Syrian territory taken by Israel in the final days of fighting – whereas in the south, thousands of soldiers were having to brave sweltering conditions in ‘the Land of Goshen’ – the [biblical-referencing] nickname given to the territory west of the Suez Canal. This was a scarcely documented period of history, compared to the days of actual fighting – and the footage I’ll be featuring in this collection gives viewers a rare glimpse of the hardships and challenges endured by tens of thousands of Israelis in the days and months after the war.
Thanks to Rachel Lev and Dr. Ziv Orenstein for the comprehensive investigation on which the collection is based.
Please note, all films were shot with an 8mm camera and are without a soundtrack.