Ben-Gurion: Epilogue, about the legendary founder of Israel, is not so much a documentary as an invaluable historical document. Featuring footage from a six-hour interview with David Ben-Gurion that has never been seen before, 20 years after he declared the establishment of the Jewish State and five years after he left the government where he was Israel’s first Prime Minister for 13 years and then its Minister of Defence.
Yariv Moser’s film is essential viewing for anyone interested in Israeli history.
Ben Gurion is the closest thing Israel has to a founding father – not counting Theodor Herzl , the early icon of Zionism, who died in 1904- and though his life is mostly a matter of public record, he remains an elusive, larger-than-life figure.
Right up to his death in 1973, he was the living embodiment of the romantic ideal of Israel and still is, though the country itself and the world’s opinion of it has changed.
The new documentary Ben-Gurion Epilogue offers a look at what went on inside Ben-Gurion’s heart and mind.
Ben-Gurion came to Palestine right after the turn of the century, and he gravitated to the most arid section of the desert, where he wanted to farm, plant trees, fuse with the land. In retirement, just months after his wife’s death, he’s still living in Kibbutz Sde Boker, a compound of such spartan simplicity that the British film crew recording the interview built an elaborate set, all so that it would look like Ben-Gurion was seated in a study, surrounded by books.
Then it’s 1948, when Ben-Gurion led the decision to fight Israel’s war of independence, even though the United States urged him to wait. He acknowledges that only with the world-shaking horror of the Holocaust as the wind at his back was there a full context for the creation of the Jewish State. But then he offers a troublesome thought: “I believed that we had a right to this country,” he says. “Not taking away from others,but recreating it.”
At the same time, he has a belief in Arab sovereignty that places him on a more enlightened page than those who’d begun to make the decisions about Israel’s destiny. The interview in Epilogue takes place just one year after the Six-Day War, in 1967, and following that paradigm-shifting military victory for Israel, Ben-Gurion says he thinks it would behoove Israel to give most of the conquered territories back, in exchange for peace. But, of course, that was not to be. For 1967 marked the start of the religious “Land of Israel” settler movement — the penetration into occupied territories.
Ben-Gurion was one of the men who built Israel on the faith of the early Jewish settlers, yet what he offers in Ben-Gurion, Epilogue is a piece of advice to the nation’s leaders that is tantamount to a survival warning: “You are not considering the future,” he states. “You are only considering the present.”
Ben-Gurion Epilogue is showing as part of the Doc Edge International Film Festival 2018. It will be showing:
- In Wellington at the Roxy Theatre at 8.45pm on Monday 14 May and at 11.45am on Sunday 20 May.
- In Auckland at the Q Theatre at 7pm on Thursday 24 May and at 10am on Sunday 27 May.