Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer

Thorold Dickinson
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Set against the backdrop of the Independence War, director Thorold Dickinson’s 1955 English-speaking film tells the story of four fighters who had perished on a hill en route to Jerusalem. At the start of the film, the commander, explaining the mission, addresses his volunteers as “you three men.” Nurse Esther (played by Margalit Oved) demands to join them as she knows the area inside and out. Two of the three men are on board with the idea and so, the commander now readdresses them as “you four.” For a moment, it seems as though Esther is accepted into the group as a genuine equal.

On their way to the hill, the three men (an Irish Christian, American Jew, and Holocaust survivor) recount how they got to where they are right now, at which point any and all feminist consciousness comes to a grinding halt. The men are the only ones whose backstories are revisited in flashbacks whereas Esther does not get one of her own. Her only flashback appearance is as a bit player in Allan (Michael Wager), the American volunteer’s origin story. The two met in hospital as nurse and patient and following Allan’s recovery, both ended up volunteering to serve together. And whilst Esther is the only native in the group which, one would think, should make her a natural addition to the fight for national independence, she is consigned to following the man’s lead as he gets to decide their shared ideological path.

The final scene in the film is set in the immediate aftermath of the war. A UN delegation ascends the hill and discovers the four soldiers’ bodies. Esther is found clutching an Israeli flag in her fist and on that very basis, members of the delegation rule that the hill is to be handed over to Israel. The female soldier is tremendously honoured in death, however in life we were denied seeing her engage in actual combat and were only shown a version of her giving water to an injured soldier and playing the role of doting carer.

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