State of Israel was built by women. Men
too, but the pre-1949 kibbutz scene was truly an early feminist incubator. However, the ideologically charged women who
immigrated to the future Israel still endured plenty of hypocrisy and frustration. Michal Aviad tells their stories through the
diaries of ardent kibbutz residents in The
Women Pioneers (a.k.a.
Women/Pioneers, trailer here), which screens
during the 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival.
hardcore Left’s kneejerk hostility to Israel is absolutely baffling, given its
revolutionary and feminist roots. After
all, the kibbutz is essentially a collective farm. Several of the featured pioneers were
explicitly inspired by prominent women leaders of the Russian Revolution. Of course, these strong-willed women were
rather disappointed to learn their kibbutz’s governing council was entirely
dominated by men. They were also less
than thrilled to be saddled with all the “domestic” chores, while equally
resenting their exclusion from defensive duties during the uprisings. As they asserted themselves, these policies
slowly started to change, to an extent.
is probably safe to say all the women diarists express mixed emotions on their
kibbutz experience. Not surprisingly,
the whole liberated approach to sexuality seemed to work out a lot better for
the men than the women. Despite the
ideological commitment of Aviad’s POV figures, the documentary often highlights
the inherent weaknesses of the communal economic model. That it worked at all is probably a testament
to the dedication and fortitude of the early pioneers.
and research associate Tamar Katz assembled some striking archival photos that
well suit the dramatic journal entries.
With co-writer Era Lapid, she conveys a vivid sense of kibbutz life, but
they provide little context on the existential threats posed by growing anti-Semitic
violence during the time of the Hebron Massacre and the 1936 riots. Still,
there is a poignancy to the personal dramas that sustains the film.
its svelte fifty-one minute running time, The
Women Pioneers is easily digestible and its schedulability ought to merit
serious consideration from PBS programmers.
Respectfully recommended for those intrigued by Israel’s pre-official
statehood history, it screens twice at the Walter Reade this coming Tuesday
(1/21) with the short film, I Think This
is the Closest to How the Footage Looked.
Labels: Documentary, Israeli Cinema, NYJFF '14