If you live in or near a major city in the United States, chances are you have access to a well-attended, high profile Jewish Film Festival.
As a major part of the Jewish Diaspora and identities of American Jewry, film festivals have grown to number over 100 across the country in the past few decades.
What makes these festivals so successful and sought after by Jews of a variety of backgrounds?
First of all, there are few things more American than Hollywood and cinema glamour; expressing and consuming the richness of Jewish identity in this notorious American art form is a way to negotiate one’s Jewish roots and often conflicting contemporary American identity.
Second of all, film festivals are forums that offer a variety of expressions of identity for people of all interests, which reinforces the idea that Judaism is one aspect of a much larger picture when it comes to the whole person.
Third of all, the production of film allows us to physically and formally preserve Jewish identity while also challenging this identity to progress and reflect contemporary issues, needs, and interests of the current Jewish diasporic community.
Film festivals are one way American Jews manifest their desire to connect to their roots- which is exactly why film festivals are extremely relevant to Israeli travel.
As space separates the Jews of America physically across oceans and countries from the land of Israel, time separates the Jews of America from vital events informing 21st century Jewish identity- namely, the Holocaust and the War of Independence establishing the State of Israel. American Jews have compensated for that distance by contributing their own time and money to Israel through its vital tourism industry. This is a win-win for both American Jews as well as for Israel: American Jews return to Israel to find their roots and connect with their history, while Israeli tourism benefits from their financial and emotional support.[pullquote]We cannot all make aliyaah...We can however, commit the time and money to spend as much time there as possible to support local businesses, preserve the historical culture of the country, and encourage the rest of the world to enjoy Israel as much as we Jews tend to.[/pullquote]
This support is extremely vital to the reputation, persona, and public relations of Israel as it relates to the non-Jews of the world who perhaps have a different, or lesser, investment in Israel as a Jewish state. Engaging with Israel for personal benefits and growth is important in this time of fading religious and cultural identities, but it is even more important in the need for American Jews to support Israel as publicly and tangibly as possible. Adding to the fight to defend Israel verbally, intellectually, and emotionally is just one part of the equation; to make a difference on the ground in Israel it is key to put oneself on the ground and there is no better way to do that then through travel.
We cannot all make aliyaah, we cannot all move to Israel to permanently reclaim our connection to the Holy Land. We can however, commit the time and money to spend as much time there as possible to support local businesses, preserve the historical culture of the country, and encourage the rest of the world to enjoy Israel as much as we Jews tend to.
In light of the recent conflict in Israel during the summer months of 2014, many prominent American Jewish scholars, intellectuals and spiritual leaders stood together in their stance that the absolute best way for Americans to show their support for their Israeli brothers and sisters is commit to traveling there, commit to visiting, and allow actions to speak louder than words.
As a travel agency serving the needs of the American Jewish travel community, Gil Travel is dedicated to this mission of supporting Israeli tourism, by promoting connection to Jewish history in the land of Israel. No matter what your interests, Gil Travel is here to provide you with comfortable, safe, and engaging travel through Israel and beyond.
In the meantime of waiting for your next trip to Israel to roll around though, do enjoy those film festivals and allow the cinematic line-up to open your diasporic heart to your Israel-root-connecting-journeys to come.
-- Or better yet, check out some incredible international film festivals that take place in Israel each year!
Jerusalem Film Festival- started in 1994 by an Israel filmmaker and judge of the Cannes Film Festival who wanted Jerusalem to have its own cinematic prestige as a festival host. JFF is held every summer and highlights many films that continue on with mainstream success.
Haifa Film Festival- first international film festival to occur in Israel. This festival takes place every year during the week- long festival of Sukkot in the gorgeous North of Israel, which gives access to incredible film to less populated Northern communities.
Tel Aviv Film Festival- the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv hosts a variety of film festivals each year, including its main festival held each June. Highlights include student works and documentaries that push the edge of contemporary film both in form and in content.