Life & Culture

Film review: Upheaval: The Journey of 
Menachem Begin

This bio pic of Menachem Begin is useful background for those confused by today's conflict in the Middle East


PM MENACHEM BEGIN SPEAKING AT A CEREMONY HELD NEAR THE "LION" MEMORIAL AT TEL CHAI. ראש הממשלה ×ž× ×—× בגין × ×•×©× דברים בטקס ×©× ×¢×¨×š ליד ×× ×“×¨×˜×ª ×”"אריה" בתל ×—×™.

The story of controversial Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin is told with honesty and commendable precision in the latest documentary from American director Jonathan Gruber (Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story).

Imprisoned by the Soviets and later orphaned by the Holocaust, Menachem Begin carried in his heart a determination that no Jew should ever endure the persecution he and millions of others had encountered in Europe.

For most of his life, we are told, Begin had a strong belief that the Jews were alone and needed to take action alone to defend themselves from their enemies.

Upheaval presents Begin as a man of great contradictions. While his Likud party was seen by those who opposed it as a counter-revolutionary entity, the man himself was a great believer in advocating for minorities. Welcoming newly arrived North African Jews and even giving a home to Vietnamese boat people who had been rejected by most western countries, the highly determined Zionist leader saw Israel as a land of possibilities for everyone no matter their colour or creed.

But it was his almost messianic view on settlements that made him into a figure of hate in the Arab world.

Begin saw himself as a son of the Jewish people and a bridge between Jewishness and Israeli-ness. We are told that he saw the occupied territories as “lands that lay at the heart of Jewish existence” and that it is this belief which has been partly responsible for the lengthy war between Jews and Arabs in the region.

Overall, Gruber presents a film which is both honest and detailed in its handling of a man whose problematic legacy still lives on.

It is a film as dense as it is informative and is sure to provide some background to the current situation in the Middle East, which might be especially useful for those unfamiliar with its chequered history — and even for those who think they are experts.


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