Shai Ginsburg

Shai Ginsburg teaches Israeli culture at Duke University, North Carolina. He has published articles on Israeli literature, culture and history. He formerly reviewed films for Tikkun.

Arts and Culture

In Search of Anti-Semitism

Defamation is contentious, malicious even, to some, because it’s director refuses to accept at face value the belief that Jews are always victims of racism, and sets out to find out who makes such claims today, and why.

Arts and Culture

Enemies Out of the Frame: Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort

Ostensibly, Joseph Cedar’s film Beaufort (Israel, 2007) portrays the denouement of the first Lebanon war, which came to an end with Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. Undoubtedly, however, it seeks to comment on Israeli society in the aftermath of the second Lebanon war. Following Time of Favor(2000) and Campfire(2004) Beaufort is Cedar’s third film. Currently showing in Israel to both critical acclaim and commercial success, Beaufort has already garnered the prize for best director in this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

News and Politics

The State of Utopia

It is difficult to believe that three weeks ago the main news item in Israel was Netanyahu’s endorsement of the two state solution. Notwithstanding the coverage his Bar Ilan address received, within days, it had largely slipped from public consciousness. While Obama’s Cairo speech continues to reverberate throughout the Middle East, the Israeli prime minister’s so-called acceptance of the “leftist” program has left no marks. The dismissive reception that Netanyahu received when he traveled to Europe afterwards, coupled with persistently blatant demands—even from Silvio Berlusconi—to cease all settlement construction in the Occupied Territories shows how little Netanyahu was taken seriously by Israel’s so-called best friends.

Arts and Culture

The Tragedy of the Smile

Tamar Yarom’s 2007 documentary To See If I’m Smiling is a fascinating, yet disturbing study of the effect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the Israeli psyche. The film is comprised of interviews with six female military veterans, who did much of their active duty in the Occupied Territories, in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip prior to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory.

Arts and Culture

Mirror to the Crisis: Israeli Media

Whenever I return to Israel, I always make a point of listening to local talk shows and reading as many magazines as possible. If you want to gauge changes in public opinion quickly, there’s no better way to do it. My last trip back to Israel, in June, is no exception. The following are my incidental observations.

Arts and Culture

Jewish Film Festival Diary, Week 2

The recent stream of successful Israeli features—The Band’s Visit, Waltz with Bashir, and Beaufort, to name the most obvious—has significantly raised the bar for Israeli filmmakers. No longer can we consider oursleves satisfied by a well-made, albeit Israeli film. Rather, inclined moviegoers are lead to expect extraordinary cinematic experiences, of the kind that an increasing number of Israeli films simply cannot provide.

Arts and Culture

Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir

It is difficult to categorize Ari Folman ’s extraordinary film Waltz with Bashir: a cinematic autobiography, a war documentary, a meditation on trauma and memory, a hybrid of reality and fiction, or an acid-like cinematic trip. Every category equally applies.

Arts and Culture

Justifying the Holocaust

Whether it be in the US, Europe, or Israel, filmmakers are demonstrating a renewed interest in World War II, specifically the Jewish Holocaust. Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, starring Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, Adam Resurrected directed by Paul Schrader, Boaz Yakin’s Death in Love, Amos Gitai’s Later, starring Jeanne Moreau ,and Uri Barabash’s Spring 1941 are perhaps the best examples. The question is why? What is spurring a renewal of cinematographic interest in the Shoah at this point in time?

Arts and Culture

The Sounds of Citizenship

In his film Voices from El-Sayed, Oded Adomi Leshem tackles the often-neglected issue of Israel’s unrecognized Bedouin villages. Contrary to stereotype, Israeli Bedouins lead a sedentary, non-nomadic life. 170,000 Bedouins reside in the Negev Desert, in the south of Israel, in some 46 villages and small towns. It is rarely noted, however, that between 40% and 50% live in one of 36 unrecognized settlements.

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