The Settlers

  • 2002
  • 58 MIN
  • NR
  • Documentary

Israeli documentary filmmaker Ruth Walk's revealing, coolly dispassionate profile of several right-wing West Bank settlers sheds a glaring light on the extremist attitudes that continue to aggravate one of the modern world's bloodiest real-estate disputes. For several months in 1999 (the year preceding the sudden September, 2000 outbreak of the second Palestinian...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Israeli documentary filmmaker Ruth Walk's revealing, coolly dispassionate profile of several right-wing West Bank settlers sheds a glaring light on the extremist attitudes that continue to aggravate one of the modern world's bloodiest real-estate disputes. For several months in 1999 (the year preceding the sudden September, 2000 outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada), Walk interview women who, with their families, settled in the West Bank city of Hebron, where some 400 Israeli settlers have staked a claim to a parcel of land in a city called home by 120,000 Palestinians. Walk's subjects — including Bracha, a mother of 12, and Naomi, mother of seven — all live in Tel Rumeida neighborhood, a small, heavily guarded neighborhood established in 1984, when a band of right-wing extremists defiantly marched in and set up a cluster of mobile homes atop a 5,000 year old archeological site they claim is the first temple of King David — proof positive that the land is rightfully theirs. Tensions between the Israelis and the quarter's overwhelmingly Arab population intensified in 1994 when Tel Rumeida settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron's Ibrahimi mosque. Four years later, the sleeping Rabbi Shlomo Raanan was murdered in his bed, perhaps in retaliation for the mosque massacre. But violence only galvanized the determination of settlers like Naomi, Bracha and Raanan's widow — who still lives in Tel Rumeida — to one day see Hebron returned to the Jews. Bracha dreams of the day when the war is over and the Arabs, whom Naomi says ruin the beautiful landscape, are gone or at least under Israeli rule. When asked if she worries about the safety of her children, Naomi says children have always been part of "the game." The film contains a number of disturbing sequences (the late night bonfire in which the Palestinian flag is burned while the city's Arab residents, confined to their homes under a strict curfew, watch from darkened windows, is particularly troubling), despite the fact that the Orthodox settlers of Hebron are at the very fringe of right-wing Israeli ideology, and their attitudes are not the norm. Walk maintains a expert distance from her subjects, and the film is a political Rorschach test: You either admire the determination of people who act on their fervent belief that God is on their side, or are shocked by their intractability, self-righteousness and intolerance. (In Hebrew, with English subtitles.) Also on the bill: Israeli documentarian Ram Loevy's heartbroken CLOSE, CLOSED, CLOSURE (2002), in which ever-widening gulf separating Israeli from Palestinian finds a poignant corollary in one filmmaker's experience. As the second Intifada explodes, Loevy finds it increasingly difficult to access his subjects — the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. (In English, Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Israeli documentary filmmaker Ruth Walk's revealing, coolly dispassionate profile of several right-wing West Bank settlers sheds a glaring light on the extremist attitudes that continue to aggravate one of the modern world's bloodiest real-estate disputes.… (more)
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