Opening: Thursday, May 15, 2014, Nakba Day, 20:00
At Zochrot's Visual Reaserch Laboratory: 34 Yitshak Sadeh St. Tel Aviv. 4th floor, room 400.
The exhibit is open from Sunday to Thursday 10:00 - 15:00. Call to make sure: 03-6953155.
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The Education Minister’s refusal to permit the showing of “Hirbet Hiz'a” on television in the late 1970’s caused a scandal. He had been afraid to reveal how Israel had expelled Palestinian inhabitants in 1948, even though S. Yizhar’s book, on which the film was based, had already appeared in 1949 and been part of the curriculum in the same educational system the minister was in charge of. Israel Television staff protested the censorship. The screen went dark for 45 minutes during the scheduled broadcast time.
In 2010, Dani Gal created his audio-visual work, “Zen for TV and the birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” based on an interview with Ram Levy, the director of “Hirbet Hiz'a.”
Steven Jacob, the actor, speaks the English text of the interview with Ram Levy as a strip of light across a screen on which a black image appears. The strip of light and the work’s title refer to “Zen for TV,” a 1976 work by the Korean artist Nam June Paik, which invites the viewer to consider the nothingness of a broken TV set instead of passively watching it.
In his interview, Ram Levy tells Gal about producing a film that created another scandal which the Israeli public never heard about. Seeking an appropriate location for filming he came across the village of Midya, on the West Bank, not far from Modi’in (which didn’t then exist), that resembled many Palestinian villages Israel had destroyed during the nakba. He’d received the mukhtar’s cooperation and agreed to show Walt Disney films in return for the residents’ assistance in filming. But when they arrived at the village on army trucks carrying dozens of actors dressed as soldiers they were astounded by the reaction of many villagers who, just over a decade following the capture of the West Bank, were afraid of people resembling IDF soldiers. The young mukhtar, a competitor of the older one from whom Levy had received permission to film, led the opposition. Great effort was needed to allay the fears and make the weeks of filming possible.
Gal returned to Midya in preparation for the current exhibit, almost 35 years after “Hirbet Hiz'a” was filmed, to hear the residents’ version of the scandal. The inhabitants of the little village, located only a half-hour drive from Tel Aviv, helped enthusiastically and willingly recounted their recollections of the events. Only one person from Midya had been an extra in the film. He’d been shot by a soldier – in the film, not in reality. The villagers said they’d really liked Amira Polin, the attractive actress.
Gal had brought many stills he’d printed from the film’s frames and asked the residents to identify people and locations. The task fascinated them, a sort of journey into the village’s past. A woman who was about 50 years old identified her brother, who’d been killed by soldiers - in reality, not in the film.
Dozens of children accompanied the filmed interviews and hung around all day. They also joined a tour of the village outskirts to the agricultural lands appearing in the film. They reached an olive tree, the pride of the village. “It’s been here since Roman times! More than 2000 years!” they declared. In the film Dalik Valinitz, Gidi Gov and their comrades are seated under the tree, impressed by the view. They say that now it all belongs to us. The Palestinian residents of the village sit under and on the tree and declare to Gal’s camera: these lands have belonged to the village for hundreds of years. The landscape is still beautiful, though bruised by the separation wall directly opposite us.
“Hirbet Hiz'a” is shown that evening in a lovely reception room in one of Midya’s old buildings. Part of the floor is made of an ancient mosaic which, according to the residents, also dates from Roman times. The excitement is palpable; many people gather around the building before the screening. Chairs have been set up, refreshments arranged among them. An orderly flow of men, women and children enters excitedly when the doors open.
The film is in Hebrew, without an Arabic translation. Tamer Nafar, the rapper, stands next to the screen, presents the film, translates the dialogue. Occasionally he adds comments of his own, sometimes crossing in front of the screen.
The audience, residents of the village, isn’t very interested in what Tamer has to say, nor do they seem to care about the plot. Their lack of interest is particularly striking with respect to the harsh scenes showing soldiers shooting Palestinians who are fleeing through the fields and one in which the soldiers expel villagers in trucks in 1948. The film shows what, in effect, is an expulsion from Midya; in retrospect, the villagers’ opposition to the filming can be seen as an attempt to prevent the expulsion.
The villagers are most interested in the film’s scenes of their village. Their faces light up whenever they see its buildings and landscapes. They identify their family homes. Parents point to the screen, show children their grandmother’s house, someone’s plot of land.
A few times Tamer mentions that “Hirbet Hiz'a” is about the Palestinian Nakba – a term that is absent, of course, from the film - but it appears that the residents of Midya aren’t particularly interested. As a small village that survived the nakba and didn’t take in refugees from other localities, the most important event in its recent history was the occupation of the village in 1967, not the Nakba.
The video “To Midya” shows the outcome: the visit to the village is documented together with the film screening, edited according to the film’s narrative, using the original soundtrack.
On the exhibit’s wall is an enlarged image of a painting by Mordechai Ardon, “Hirbet Hiz'a,” inspired by S. Yizhar’s story. A black-and-white photo of the painting was published in Davar on July 16, 1954, in an article about the painter. The enlargement destroys the original’s abstract, lyrical portrayal of a demolished village, of an imaginary Hirbet Hiz'a.
Wrote: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio, Dani Gal