EXODUS

On a whim, I ordered a DVD of Otto Preminger’s 1960 film Exodus. It was based on Leon Uris’ fine novel of the same name and starred Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Peter Lawford, Lee J. Cobb and Sal Mineo! How’s that for a cast? It was a bit long at 3 hours 28 minutes (!) and considerably dated in its dialogue and special effects. But it was set on location in Israel/Palestine and the photography quite beautiful for its time.

It is set in 1948 and chronicles the rebirth of a people and the lead-up to the establishment of the state of Israel. The lead character, played by Newman, is Ari Ben Canaan (said to have been based loosely on the real-life Yitzak Rabin) who is a commander of the underground and who leads some 600 Jews from the detention camps of Cyprus onto a large freighter bound for Palestine. But British forces learn of his plan and insist that he turn back. Undaunted, the Jews refuse to give up and risk their lives for the greater cause of Israeli independence. Much blood is shed and the film concludes without a real conclusion and with Newman and his troops headed off into one more battle.

Whenever I get fed up with Benjamin Netanyahu’s strong arm tactics and policies of the Israeli government which trample upon the rights of the Palestinian people today, I try to remember that there is a reason why the world’s Jews seem paranoid and why they do not think their incredible military might (today funded and supported by the United States in large part) is unnecessary. As they old saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!”

Yes, in many ways the oppressed have become the oppressor once again, this time in the state of Israel and I reserve the right to be critical of the Israeli government without for one minute conceding to the charge of anti-Semitism. I criticize my own government, but am not thereby un-American. I have allied myself with “J Street,” a Washington based pro-Israel, pro justice and peace lobby who continue to strive for a viable two-state solution in the Holy Land.

For, was it not a two-state solution that was initially envisioned? Near the end of Exodus Newman speaks at the burial of a boyhood Arab friend and a young Jewish girl, side by side, in the rocky soil of Palestine. He vows that, just as these two sleep together in death, one day Arab and Jew will live together, in this same land, side by side, in peace.

This story was set in 1948. The lines were spoken spoken in 1960. It is now 2016.

How long, O Lord?

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