Writer-director-editor Adam Hootnick's short but potent documentary takes an up-close look at one of the most controversial decisions to be made by the Israeli government regarding the hotly contested Gaza Strip: The June, 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced plans to "unsettle" the thousands of Israeli settlers who had been living in the region for...read more
Writer-director-editor Adam Hootnick's short but potent documentary takes an up-close look at one of the most controversial decisions to be made by the Israeli government regarding the hotly contested Gaza Strip: The June, 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced plans to "unsettle" the thousands of Israeli settlers who had been living in the region for decades. No longer convinced that the settlements would serve as a leg up toward an Israeli majority in Gaza, Sharon, once an unblinking proponent of aggressive settling in the wake of the Six Day War, announced that this tiny 25-mile stretch of sand between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, should not become part of the State of Israel. With this end in mind, all 8,500 Israeli settlers in Gaza would be forced to evacuate their homes by August 15, 2005, leaving the land to the 1.3 million Palestinians who claim the land is rightfully theirs. Israelis who insisted on remaining would be forcibly removed by the Israeli Defense Forces. The operation would be largest military operation in Israel in a generation, and the fact that it was being directed against fellow Israelis wasn't lost on the decision's many critics, particularly those living in Gaza. But not everyone disagreed with the Israeli government's decision. Many believed that Israel could never exist as a true democracy until it had disengaged from the Gaza Strip, and that the violence -- over 1,000 Israelis and some 3,000 Palestinians since 2000 alone -- would never end. Hootnick has assembled a strong cross-section of Israeli voices from both sides of the issue, from settlers like Neta, a "religious filmmaker" living in Netzarim who believes Jews will be in Gaza forever, and Lior, a shaggy beach bum and lifeguard from the unexpectedly beautiful (if you look past the coils of razor wire) coastal town of Gush Katif where his apolitical farming family has been living for the past 20 years, to activists like Ye'ela, who believes the land should be returned to the Palestinians even though her 15-year-old sister was killed by a suicide bomber in 1996. She doesn't think any more young Israeli soldiers should die protecting the small group of Israelis who refuse to leave what's become a war zone, and she's joined the "Leaving Gaza -- Returning to Zionism" pro-pullout tour. And in caught between are soldiers like 20-year old Tamar who have been training to evict those settlers whom the IDF knows won't go quietly (nearly half, however, will leave peacefully in the weeks prior to the deadline). Regardless of her own confused feelings about the future of Gaza, she has a job to do -- perhaps one of the hardest jobs of her life. Some viewers may find the absence of Arab voices unusual, but Hootnick's aim here is to show how deeply the issue has divided Israel, and for many, occasioned a rethink of the meaning of Zionism and the future of Israel, and he's made a sensitive, thought-provoking film on the subject.
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