How to Use Israel in Shorts

There are many ways to introduce short films and to explore the meaning and questions each film raises. They can be discussed in one session or more, depending on time and audience. Viewers can watch on their own or together. Educators can facilitate discussions on key issues, assign individual exploration, or implement activities. We encourage you to put your own spin on lessons using these materials as a foundational source.

>> Download Israel in Shorts

Films סְרָטִים

12min 18sec
Columbia University
Written & Directed by Yitz Brilliant
Produced by Joshua Greenberg
Co-Produced by Geoffrey Booth
Cinematography by Nils Kenaston

http://bit.ly/TheKiddushManMovie

 

The Kiddush Man is a Columbia University thesis film, and was honored with the National Board of Review Award by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

 

The Kiddush Man is a touching coming-of-age short film set in Jerusalem, Israel. Its surprisingly simple story focuses on the experiences of Yoni – a young Jewish boy – who tries to sneak into the ‘Kiddush’ buffet at Shabbat before anyone else. His mischievous behavior usually gets him in trouble with Mr. Katz — an older religious man — until one day his fear is replaced with compassion.

 

The film brilliantly demonstrates the importance of the musical score as it features a tender musical accompaniment composed by Greg Pliska that makes the viewer relate to the story on a subconscious level despite the lack of dialogue.

Grade Level

5th grade and up

Themes & Values 

Intergenerational relationships, Compassion, Empathy, Synagogue life, Respecting the elderly.

Discussion Questions

  • How does the relationship between the boy and the old man develop?
  • What are some of the lessons learned from their relationship?
  • Were you ever in a similar situation?
  • The film does not contain any dialogue. How did the music relate to the story?

Additional Resources

Two quotes from Jewish sources support themes that are apparent in the film:

One of the 613 Mitzvot is to show respect to the elderly and accommodate them physically. In Leviticus 19:32:

 

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man.
.מִפְּנֵי שֵׂיבָה תָּקוּם, וְהָדַרְתָּ פְּנֵי זָקֵן
Mipnei seivah takum, v’hadartah p’nei zaken.

 

In Pirkei Avot 2:4, Rabbi Hillel’s words encourage empathy for people’s behavior since we don’t always know their situation:

Do not judge your fellow human being until you have reached his place.
.אַל תָּדִין (תָּדוּן) אֶת חֲבֵרְךָ עַד שֶׁתַּגִּיעַ לִמְקוֹמוֹ
Al tadun et chaverchah ad shetagiyah limkomo.

 

10min 31sec
Sam Spiegel Film & Television School
Director: Shelly Kling-Yosef
Producer: Lilach Gavish
Editor: Rony Gammer

http://bit.ly/GefilteFishMovie

 

Gali's family has a long-lasting tradition. Every woman, engaged to be married, has to prepare gefilte fish for the wedding party as a virtue for the success of the marriage. Gali, who is engaged to Yaron, has received from her mother and grandmother a living carp to be cooked. But oh dear, the poor creature seems human in her eyes, practically begging for its life. Gali is torn between the pity she feels towards the fish and the need to abide by her family tradition.

 

Grade Level

4th grade and up

Themes & Values

Intergenerational relationship, Tradition, Marital relationship, Respecting animals. 

Discussion Questions

  • Why did the mother and grandmother insist on Gali making gefilte fish for her wedding?
  • Do you think it is important to follow traditions in a family? As a people?
  • What were the reasons Gali wasn’t able to comply with their request?
  • What are traditions that your family keeps? Will you pass them on to your own family?

Additional Resources

  • From Generation to Generation - Midor Lador
    Rabbi Jonathan Sachs summarizes the importance of nurturing family traditions: “The life-changing idea here is surely simple yet profound: if we truly wish to hand on our legacy to our children, we must teach them to love it. The most important element of any education is not learning facts or skills but learning what to love. What we love, we inherit. What we fail to love, we lose.”   [Source: The Importance of Jewish Family Traditions]

5min 15sec
A film by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen

http://bit.ly/WhatAboutMeMovie

 

Like many of his stories, author Etgar Keret presents a mirror to everyday reality in Israel with surrealistic elements. A Palestinian man arrives at the checkpoint riding on his talking donkey. They are trying to pass the checkpoint—two concrete blocks in the middle of the desert, manned by an IDF soldier and a dog who also talks.

Grade Level

Middle School and up

Themes & Values

Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Common humanity, Shared destiny.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think is the message the filmmaker is conveying about the conflict?
  • Well known fables have talking animals. What do you think the donkey and the dog symbolize?
  • How is humor effective in portraying difficult situations? Give examples.

Additional Resources

  • Israel Resource Card on Etgar Keret (shown)
  • Israeli ID Cards
    The soldier in the film is asking for an ID card of a certain color in order to pass the checkpoint. Israeli citizens and permanent residents are issued ID cards with casing of different colors to identify which region them come from. For more information, see ID card casing and variations at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_identity_card.
  • Banksy - Donkey Documents, 2007
    A Banksy mural that was spray-painted on the Israeli West Bank separation wall was “lifted” with the concrete slab on which it was sprayed, and put on display Sept. 21, 2015, at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre in London. The piece, unauthorized by the world-renowned and elusive graffiti artist, was expected to sell for about $800,000, but did not sell after all.
    We could not verify if the film was inspired by the graffiti.
  • O Come All Ye Faithful,” The National, Arts & Culture
  • Banksy’s West Bank Mural in Auction,” The Independent, UK

7min 17sec
A film by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv

http://bit.ly/StrangersMovie

 

A short story of two strangers meeting in an underground train, not knowing that something stranger is coming their way. The entire story is told through silence, eye contact, and symbols.

 

The filmmakers have gone on to create feature films together and apart, such as A Matter of Size and The Magic Man. Guy Nattiv won the 2019 Oscar for the short film Skin

 

Grade Level

4th grade and up

Themes & Values

Israeli-Arab coexistence, Shared destiny, Anti-semitism, White supremacy, Identity.

Discussion Questions

  • Which elements define the identity of each of the characters?
  • How and why does the relationship between the two strangers develop? 
  • Which cinematic tools did the filmmakers use to build a sense of tension and danger? (i.e., camera angles, editing, music)
  • The two main characters hold (or wear) objects that point to their identity. What are these objects? Do you have or wear something that points to your identity? And if so, what is it and why do you have it?
  • Although the location of the underground train seems to be Paris (the station that is announced is “Hotel de Ville”), it was actually filmed on the Carmelit, an underground funicular railway, in Haifa. Haifa is a mixed Arab-Jewish city. Does this fact offer additional meaning to the film? 

Additional Resources

10min 43sec
Echad Ha’am High School, Petach Tikvah
Director: Tom Laufman,
11th grade student at Echad Ha’am High School
Editor: Dana Shemesh

http://bit.ly/Busline53Movie

 

Noa and Guy are a young couple in love. When Noa accompanies Guy to the bus that takes him home, she tries to convince him to stay a little longer or take a cab for fear of a terror attack. A surprising film that examines the limits of love and the reality of everyday life in Israel for young people.

Grade Level

High School and up

Themes & Values

Relationship, Friendship, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Reality of daily life in Israel, Destiny.

Discussion Questions

  • What does the film tell you about some aspects of daily life in Israel?
  • Does everyday life in your community have elements of stress or fear?
  • What is your interpretation of how the film ends?

Additional Resources

23min 50sec
Writer/Director: Khen Shalem

http://bit.ly/TheOtherSideMovie

 

A simple soccer ball sparks an unusual friendship between two young boys on either side of the Israeli and Palestinian separation wall. Can this wordless and gaze-free relationship overcome the wall's towering presence?

Grade Level

5th grade and up

Themes & Values

Bullying, Being the “other,” Arab-Israeli conflict, Bereavement, Friendship, Shared destiny, Everyday reality in Israel.

Discussion Questions

  • In what ways are the leader and the group of kids bullying and excluding the boy?
  • How does the “relationship” with the kid across the wall affect his mood and behavior? Why?
  • What does the film tell you about some aspects of daily life in Israel?
  • What does the film tell you about life on a kibbutz, especially for kids?
  • What is your interpretation of how the film ends?
  • If you could add another scene to the film, what will it be?

Additional Resources

  • The Separation Wall
    The Israeli Separation Wall, also referred to as the Security Barrier (among other names), cuts through the land and the landscape. It is a combination of fences and barriers that includes a 21-foot high concrete wall in some places. It is built by the Israeli government in the West Bank or along the 1949 Armistice Line (known as the Green Line). Upon completion, its total length will be about 430 miles and separate about 9.4% of the West Bank and 23,000 Palestinians from the bulk of that territory. 
    The Israeli government argues that it protects civilians from suicide bombings and other terror attacks that increased significantly during the Second Intifada. Barrier opponents argue that it annexes Palestinian land under the guise of security and undermines peace negotiations by unilaterally establishing new borders. Opponents object to a route that in some places substantially deviates eastward from the Green Line, severely restricts the travel of many Palestinians and impairs their ability to commute to work within the West Bank or to Israel.
  • Kibbutz
    The Kibbutz Movement (My Jewish learning)
  • Click here for your own Israel Resource Card deck

 

18min 39sec
Ma’aleh Film School
Director: Yitzik Sverdlov
Producer: Moshe Tal
Cinematographer: Moshe Huri

Rent Movie (rentals from Ma'aleh start at $5)

Watch Trailer

 

The warm relationship between elderly holocaust survivor, Mendel, and Jose his Filipino caretaker is tested when the police begin searching the neighborhood for illegal immigrants.

Grade Level

Middle School and up

Themes & Values

Intergenerational relationships, Social Issues, Foreign workers/illegal immigrants, Shabbat & Jewish Holidays, Challenges & Special Needs, The Elderly, Yiddish. 

Discussion Questions

  • What is special about the relationship between Mendel and Jose? 
  • Who are the “others” in our society, and how are they treated? How can we improve the treatment they are getting?

For high school-age viewers:

  • There is an immigration debate in the US today. It’s important to look at past history and see how previous policies were determined. What factors were at play? (economic, discriminatory, etc.) How did these factors affect different populations who were in danger? 
  • What is your opinion about the current immigration debate?

Additional Resources

A quote from Leviticus 19:18 supports a theme that is apparent in the film:

Love your neighbor as yourself.
.וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ
v'ahavtah l'reachah kamocha.

 

In Beresheet Rabbah 24:7, Rabbi Akiva says:

Love your neighbor as yourself, this is a great principle of the Torah.
.וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ, זֶה כְּלַל גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה
v'ahavtah l'reachah kamochah, zeh klal gadol baTorah.

 

Immigration issues in the US and in Israel:

 

22min 34sec
Ma'aleh Film School
Director: Pazit Lichtman-Epstein
Screenwriter: Pazit Lichtman-Epstein
Editor: Chaim Elbaum

Rent Movie (rentals from Ma'aleh start at $5)

Watch Trailer

 

Yoni and Michal, who have been married for only a year, arrive at the Rabbinate to formalize their divorce. The two experience different emotions while waiting in line, and the ceremony has an outcome which neither of them expects.

 

The Jewish "get" ceremony, in which the man presents to the woman a bill of divorce, has been taking place behind closed doors for 2000 years, and this drama, thoroughly researched at the Jerusalem Rabbinate, will be the first time that many viewers will have the chance to witness it.

 

Willingly raises questions about love and commitment, about the advantages and disadvantages of "get" as a ceremony, and about Israel's non-separation of religion and state. All Jewish divorcing couples, regardless of their religious orientation, must divorce with this ceremony in the State of Israel.

Grade Level

Upper High School 

Themes & Values

Marriage & divorce, Women’s rights, Issues of separation of Church and State.

Discussion Questions

  • What is your reaction to the experience of the couple? Was there a difference between what the man and the woman endured?
  • If you lived in Israel, do you think you would have a different opinion? 
  • What is the importance of separation of church (religion) and state in a democracy?

Additional Resources

Secularism in Israel: Separation of Religion and State (Wikipedia)

Survey Finds Israeli Jews Seek Separation of Religion From State,” Ynet, 2017

16min 20sec
Ma’aleh Film School
Director: Tehila Wiesenberg-Kaiser
Screenwriter: Tehila Wiesenberg-Kaiser

Rent Movie (rentals from Ma'aleh start at $5)

Watch Trailer

Behind the scenes video (7min 2sec)

 

 

Lazer and Baila Hirsch, a Jewish couple who moved to Israel from the United States, suffer from financial difficulties and bad luck. When Lazer, who works as a tour guide, gets into a car accident during a tour, Baila loses her front teeth and he loses his job. As Lazer and Baila hope for a miracle during the Hanukkah festival, Lazer finds a way to transform their suffering and despair into joy.

Grade Level

4th grade and up

Themes & Values

Chanukkah & Christmas, Jewish faith, Inner theological struggle, Hasidic Tales, Marital relationship, Hardship.

Discussion Questions

The narrative is told as a Hasidic tale in which common people draw upon their faith in order to handle hardship. (see Educational Guide from Ma’aleh)

  • How does Lazer handle his hardship? What kind of decisions does he have to make?
  • How does wearing a Santa Claus costume affect Lazer? Why?
  • What does the last scene in the film tell us about Lazer’s inner world?
  • In Hasidic Tales, there is often a miracle that saves the protagonist. Do you think there was a Chanukkah miracle in this story?
  • Does your family celebrate Chanukkah, Christmas, none, or both?

Additional Resources

 

28min 18sec
Ma’aleh Film School
Director: Nurith Cohn
Producer: Noam Keidar
Screenwriter: Emanuel Cohn
Cinematographer: Josef Shelest
Editor: Shaiya Bernstein

Rent Movie (rentals from Ma'aleh start at $5)

Watch Trailer

 

Yossi Kleinmann, a dull history professor and expert on the political leaders of totalitarian regimes, feels unappreciated by both his students and his domineering wife. One weekend, at the 90th birthday party of his wife’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, Yossi finds himself in a surreal situation that forces him to face up to himself and his family.

Grade Level

8th Grade and up

Themes & Values 

Holocaust survivors, Intergenerational relationships, Respecting the elderly, Cultural Gaps in Israeli society.

Discussion Questions

According to Israeli cultural researcher Nissim Calderon, Individuality is the most important value in the United States, while in Israel, the most important value is being accepted by the collective. This explains why Oma Gerda’s children have difficulty accepting her nostalgia and connection to German culture despite the Holocaust, and assume all immigrants should adopt Israeli common culture. 

  • What do you think about the conflict between the different generations in the film regarding this issue?
  • Are there cultural gaps among members of your own family? What do they look like? Are they related to different generations or ages?
  • Do you think the US is a melting pot creating a collective culture, a salad bowl consisting of many different cultures, or a combination of both?

Additional Resources

Recommended Activities פְּעִילוּיוֹת מוּמְלָצוֹת

There are many ways to unpack a film, and we include here a few ideas. You may choose which ones to use dependent on the film, the group, and grade level.

Intro 

Give viewers a short introduction to the film. Don’t give out too much information, in order to allow interpretive first impressions. 

Watch 

Watch the film in class or have students watch ahead of time on their own. 

See-Think-Wonder 

Right after watching the film, have learners jot down answers to the three prompts. Have them pair up and discuss what they wrote, and finally have them share with the group. 

Suggested prompts:
  > What things did you see, observe, or notice in this film?
  > What do you think the film is about
  > What makes you wonder?

General Questions 

After watching, ask a few general questions to elicit reactions. For example:
  > Did you like the film?
  > How did you relate to the characters?
  > What were the best parts of the film?
  > How were you moved by the film? Is there a specific message or lesson?
  > What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
  > Did you learn something about Israel that you didn’t know before?
  > What questions did the film leave you with?

Dig Deeper

In order to dig deeper, offer more information about the film, the filmmakers, etc.
  > Ask questions that pertain to specific literary and cinematic techniques.
  > See How to “Read” a Film.
  > Offer additional information about the themes or values that each film raises, or have them research on their own.

Group Discussion 

Conduct a group discussion based on your own questions or those which appear under each film description. 

Rewatch 

If time permits, a second viewing often reveals new details and sharpens insights.
  > Suggested question: After discussing the film and watching it again, did you see/hear/feel something that was not apparent the first time you watched?

Reflection 

Have the group reflect on their experience utilizing different artistic expressions such as poetry, short story writing, drawing, creating a short film, or any other form of their choice.

How to "Read" a Film אֵיךְ "לִקְרוֹא" סֶרֶט

French film critic Christian Metz wrote “a film is difficult to explain because it is easy to understand.”  We are used to sitting back in the dark and viewing a film uncritically; indeed most films are constructed to render “invisible” the carefully constructed nature of the medium. A film is constructed of visual, aural, and linguistic components that are manipulated in numerous ways, it is a challenge to take apart the totality of the film experience and to interpret how that experience was assembled.

Here are some things to look for when “reading” (not just watching) a film. 

You may choose which elements to “read,” based on the film, the group, and grade level.

STORY ANALYSIS

Some elements of a short film can be analyzed as a short story by using literary interpretation tools. 

1. Meaning

  • Themes: The broad ideas and allusions
  • Intent/Message: What idea is the filmmaker trying to convey
  • Subtext: Messages that are beneath the surface, sometimes intended and sometimes unintended
  • Metaphors/symbolism: Similar to literary interpretation, metaphors and symbolism gain relevance if they are repeated in significant ways or connect with the larger meaning of the film

2. Basic Elements


  • Title: Titles are chosen carefully. Consider why this particular title was chosen and how it reflects on the message or the story. 
  • Story and Plot: The story consists of all the information conveyed by the film (either directly or by inference) assembled in order to communicate the overall sense of what occured in the film. The plot is constructed as the basic building blocks of the story.
  • Some elements to examine and discuss: Plot exposition, conflict or crisis, turning point, resolution, narrative, characters, and point of view. 
  • Characterization: Who are the central characters? How are minor characters used? Is there a clear or ambivalent hero or villain? What values do the characters represent, and do they change during the film?

CINEMATIC ANALYSIS

To add another dimension to the literary analysis, which many educators are familiar with, cinematic analysis is what the audiovisual elements add to the experience. Since not all are familiar with cinematic language, we include key elements here.

1. Opening and Closing Shots

Filmmakers assign great importance to the first and last shots of films. They understand the value of a powerful opening and a memorable ending. The opening shot sets the tone of the rest of the film, and the closing shot is the last thing the audience sees, bookending the story and providing a closure.

What is the relationship between the opening and the closing shots? Are the filmmakers playing with opposites, similarities, or is there another relationship? How do they reflect on the rest of the film?

2. Mise-En-Scene


Everything that happens in the frame except editing and sound. Pay attention to setting and sets, acting style, costumes, makeup, and lighting.

3. Shot Composition 


The camera work that records the mise-en-scene between edits. Each shot represents many choices made by the film makers. Why have they made these choices? What do they represent?

Elements to consider: angle of view (i.e., regular, wide angle, telephoto), camera angle (i.e., eye level, shot from below, shot from above), tracking/panning/tilt, shot distance (i.e., from close up to long shot), point of view, frame, and lighting.

4. Montage (Editing)

Editing (“cuts”) within scenes and in the film in general, creating continuities and discontinuities, juxtapositions, and narrative structure. 

Elements to consider: editing pace, shot/counter shot (usually used during dialogues), reaction shot (quick cut to pick out a character’s reaction), and transition between scenes.

5. Sound


Sometimes non-dialogue sound is the hardest element to pick out and analyze, yet it is often extremely important and subject to just as much of the filmmakers’ focus as other elements. Note how sound is used—to underscore emotions, to alert the audience to an upcoming event, as an ironic counterpoint, etc. Carefully created and edited sounds (including the use of silences) create rich aural images the same way that mise-en-scene, shot composition, and montage create visual images.

Elements to consider: Dialogue, voice over, sound effects, and score

.

—Based on an article by Prof. Michael Goldberg, UW University.

Resources מַשְׁאַבִּים

FILMS ONLINE

Please note that some of the films might not be appropriate for all audiences. A careful exploration and consideration is recommended. 

FILMS IN EDUCATION