Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Pillar of Fire~The History of Israel's Re-Birth

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As we enter the last days before Pesach everyone is busy cleaning and preparing for the seder. This is my busiest time at work, leaving little time to post, so I've decided to post this (very long) seven part documentary.

Pillar of Fire was produced for TV by the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in 1981. The name was derived from the biblical "Pillar of Fire" which traveled in front of the Israelites as they left Egypt for the Promised Land.

This mini series documents the History of Zionism and Israel's Rebirth. What makes it so unique is that it is not actors and movies sets you will see. The entire series is comprised of original footage taken as the events happened. Carefully put together and narrated, Pillar of Fire is a true look at what it took for Jews to return to their land. The opposition they faced then has changed very little over time. The English version consists of seven episodes (420 minutes).

Episode 1 of 7 (1895 to 1920): Pillar of Fire~The Jew Returns~The Arab Awakens~The drama of the return of the Jews to their land after two thousand years of exile begins. From the Dreyfus Trial and the initial diplomatic activity of Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist Movement, until the British Mandate. During these years the diplomatic and settlement infrastructure for the Zionist endeavour was set up. Also during these years, the Arabs of Palestine, who opposed Zionism, awoke and began forging their own identity.
In Czarist Russia, 1905, more than fifty pogroms took place~all inspired by the government to turn the people from the real problems to the classic scapegoat~the Jews. The pogroms and the Dreyfuss Affair prompted Herzel to bid for a homeland for the Jewish People. When Uganda was offered, Herzel was unable to understand the refusal of the Jewish people to accept it~the love and longing in the hearts of the Jewish people to return to their homeland (Israel) was beyond his comprehension. Meanwhile, Eliezar ben Yehuda believed that land alone would not save the Jews from extinction. He began what started as an experiment with his children, and grew to be the revival of the Hebrew language. World War I saw Turkey align with Germany against Britain~a move that would seal their fate. A 1918 air force reconnaissance from the Australian army provided the first aerial views of Jerusalem~at this time it was the Turks who occupied much of the land. The "Arabs" headed by Faisel had very little interest (listen at 34:00) in Jerusalem~he was more concerned with Damascus. When Faisal was given authority over Damascus, only then did Arabs take note of "Palestine" and wanted it as part of Syria.

Episode 1: The Jew Returns~The Arab Awakens (1895-1920)

Episode 2 of 7 (1914 to 1929) Pillar of Fire~The Dream~The Halutzim (Pioneers) Who Arrive in Palestine in the Early 1920s Build Upon the Utopian Ideas of Kibbutzim and Cooperative Settlements. From the end of the First World War to the Arab Riots in 1929. A look at events in Palestine. Days of hope as the British Mandate begins. The Jezreel Valley is captured by Jewish pioneers of the 3rd Aliyah. The Arabs respond with acts of pillage and murder in the 1929 Riots. The Jewish community is not protected by the British. Desperate Actions are taken by Jewish residents.

The Russian Revolution of 1914~set new record of terror and oppression. There were about 13 million Jews world wide. During 1920's many young Jews left Russia to establish a home in Palestian, but large numbers of Jews still believed in the Socialist Revolution of Russia. In Ukraine there were 1,326 pogroms. Many Jews were exiled to Siberia where the term Prisoner of Zion originated. In Palestine the Jews (who were 2nd class citizens under Turks) now had hope. Palestine was arid and mostly deserted. The few arabs lived mostly in the hills while the Jews lived in the coastal areas and the valleys where they laid pipes to drain swamps and began bringing the land to life as in the transformation of the Jezreel Valley. Churchill visited and divided Palestine giving all of Transjordan to the Hashemites. Hebrew University of Jerusalem was opened, while Haj Husseini starts strirring up riots using religion as the reason. This caused six days of murder, riots and destruction. The Hebron massacre resulted in the brutal murders of Jewish men, women, and childred~the community was decimated.

Episode 2: The Dream (1914-1929)

Episode 3 of 7 (1919 to 1937) Pillar of Fire~The Rise and Fall of German Jews~The rise to power of Hitler and thousands of Jews immigrate to Palestine. A period of prosperity and affluence for the Jews of Germany follows the end of the First World War. The rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis abruptly changes their destiny. Thousands of Jews immigrate to Palestine~which flourishes. The Arabs respond with another wave of bloody attacks. The British propose a solution~partition of the land into two states~Jewish and Arab.

Following the rise to power of Hitler, thousands of Jews immigrate to Palestine. Most interesting is the fact that German Jews thought of themselves as more "German" than Jewish. The rate of assimilation was so high, it was posited that with a bit of patience, the Jewish problem would be resolved by the Jews themselves as they would be eliminated by assimilation~but Hitler was not prepared to wait.

Episode 3:  The Rise and Fall of German Jews (1919-1937)

Episode 4 of 7 (1937 to 1939) Pillar of Fire~Who's Afraid of a Jewish State?~The British Chamberlain Government abolishes the Partition Plan and issues an anti-Zionist White Paper. The British Chamberlain Government abolishes the Partition Plan and issues an anti-Zionist White Paper. In Europe the power of Nazi Germany is enhanced. A grim fate awaits the Jews. In Palestine settlements and a Jewish defense force are being built, with the support of the British. As the impending war approaches, the British capitulate to Arab pressure and impose tough restrictions on the Jewish community, while the rest of the world closed their doors to all Jews.

 Episode 4:  Who’s Afraid of a Jewish State? (1937-1939)

Episode 5 of 7 (1939 to 1945) Pillar of Fire~Holocaust~Thousands of Palestinian Jews Volunteer to Serve in the British Army. The Holocaust of the Jews of Europe unfolds in all its brutal stages, from the outbreak of the War to its end: the creation of the ghettos, the Nazi stormtroopers, Auschwitz~the death factory. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. And in Palestine~fear that the German Army, on the march in North Africa, will overrun Palestine. Even when the fortunes of war change, the annihilation of the Jews continues. The liberation of the camps reveals the appalling fate of the Jews of Europe.
Episode 5:  Holocaust (1939-1945)       

Episode 6 of 7 (1939 to 1945) Pillar of Fire~Exodus~Jewish Underground Organizations Unite in an Armed Struggle Against British Mandate Power. The end of the war and liberation of the death camps do not bring redemption to the survivors, or the problem of the Land of Israel. The struggle goes on: the "Escape" movement brings Holocaust survivors to Palestine; a violent struggle is launched against the British authorities; shiploads of "illegal immigrants" continue to arrive~until the question of Palestine is brought before the United Nations, culminating in the UN Decision on the establishment of the State of Israel.

Episode 6:  Exodus (1945-1947)  

Episode 7 of 7 (1947 to 1948) Pillar of Fire~A Nation Reborn~The Jews Lift the Siege of Jerusalem. An account of the military and diplomatic battles leading to the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel. In the diplomatic arena~struggles in the UN against attempts to reverse the decision on the establishment of the state. And in Israel~the opening round of the War of Independence. The Arabs in Palestine begin their campaign, battles are waged on the road to Jerusalem. The Arab states prepare for war. Despite all that~on the day the Mandate ends, David Ben Gurion declares the establishment of the State of Israel.

Episode 7:  A Nation Reborn (1947-1948)

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