How Ahava boycotters led to Israel film celebration in London

By Jennifer Lipman, June 6, 2012

The co-founder of the upcoming Seret Film Festival has revealed that she was inspired to arrange it by her experience with Israel boycotters.

Odelia Haroush, whose London Israeli Film & Television Festival opens on June 14, was until last year the marketing manager of the Ahava shop in Covent Garden. The beauty business was constantly targeted by anti-Israel activists, and eventually closed in Septembers.

Ms Haroush told the Times of Israel that she was upset at the way the protesters "used Ahava as a tool" and said she hoped the festival would encourage dialogue between Israel and Britain.

Although Israeli films are already shown throughout the year thanks to the efforts of UK Jewish Film Festival, Seret is an attempt to highlight Israeli creativity specifically rather than show it in the context of global Jewish art.

The Israeli Embassy in the UK's Counsellor for Cultural Affairs has expressed hope that the festival will become an annual fixture.

"Israeli films are a great way to experience Israel and visit the country for the cost of a movie ticket," said Iris Ambor. She added that she hoped the introduction to Israel film and television would offer Britons a window on Israeli culture.

The programme of the five-day festival includes an array of work, from sitcom to serious and heart-wrenching feature films. There are love stories; both romantic, such as Ro Werner's "2 Night" and about friendship, as with "Invisible" a drama about two rape victims who lean on each other for support and survival.

In some of the films and shorts on the schedule, the influence of the political situation and the centrality of the army is clear; the documentary "Who Shot My Father?" follows three daughters in search of the truth of the death of Air Force officer Colonel Yosef Alon, killed in mysterious circumstances at home in Maryland nearly 30 years ago.

Like wise, The Fifth Heaven takes as its starting point for the tale of an isolated teenager the experience of British mandate Palestine at the end of the Second World War.

The festival is the brainchild of Ms Haroush, as well as Anat Koren, who edits a magazine for Israelis living in the UK, and Patty Hochmann, a member of the Israeli Film Academy.

Last updated: 3:27pm, June 6 2012