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The muses were not silent: What did Israeli culture do during the Yom Kippur War? - Voila! culture


Highlights: In October 1973, a war broke out that changed the face of the country. With hundreds of soldiers killed every day, it was hard to think of a good reason to do anything else. The romantic comedy "Pete and Tilly" was released, and the legendary film critic of the Davar newspaper, Ze'ev Rav-Nof, recommended that the audience go see it. At the same time, the Kaveret band performed with the show "Foggy Stories" and "I'll Wait for You"

With hundreds of soldiers killed every day, it was hard to think of a good reason to do anything else. But during those three weeks in October 1973, life itself went on, albeit with great difficulty

Of course, the main headline dealt with him. Leonard Cohen performing at the front, Yom Kippur War/Isaac Shokal

In October 1973, a war broke out that changed the face of the country. Looking at the newspapers of those years, one can conclude that this war, naturally, was all that concerned the people: with hundreds of soldiers killed every day, it is hard to think of a good reason to engage in something else. But the thing is that during those three weeks in October 1973 life itself went on, even if it was with great difficulty: people watched television, went to concerts, theater, cinema. But what did they see?

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The romantic comedy "Pete and Tilly" was released, and the legendary film critic of the Davar newspaper, Ze'ev Rav-Nof, recommended that the audience go see it, even though he was surprised by the fact that unattractive actors like Walter Matthew and Carol Barnett even manage to create chemistry and sex appeal ("Who in old Hollywood cared about the fate of such adults?" he wonders).

A perusal of that autumn's newspapers might make you think that 1973 is not another time but a different world: a world where movies can only be seen in the cinema, television is for poor entertainment and news. Movies could have been shown for a year straight before they left the screen, and considering that meant The Godfather was shown here for almost a year straight, I don't think it bothered many viewers.

On the other hand, some of the best films of 1972 did not arrive in Israel until late 1973, and were screened in cinemas in the days before and during the war: "Cabaret," one of the best musicals Hollywood has produced (and gave the same godfather a shot at the Oscars, a few months earlier); John Boorman's Men in a Trap; "Screams and Whispers" by Ingmar Bergman; "The Lady Sings the Blues", in which Diana Ross played Billie Holiday. In this sense alone, not much has changed in the past fifty years: Israeli audiences often still have to wait between six months and two years until the best films of any year arrive. Fortunately, the ways to consume culture have been perfected (although not all of them are legal).

Turned out to be a blockbuster. Then the war broke out. Soldiers in the background of the poster of the film "Abu El Banat", October 1973/National Photographic Collection, Herman Hananya

In this marginal article, too, he gives credit to the sitcom "All in the Family" compared to the other sitcoms of those years. In addition, it notes a historical event that took place on American television of those years: the heroine of the sitcom "Maud", which was broadcast in American prime time, had an abortion

The same is true of television: in a brilliant article he wrote for Davar, Nahum Barnea (who was the paper's correspondent in the United States) reviews what is happening on American television. He notes the surplus of detective and policing series that run on television, and as he always knew, in this marginal article he gives credit to the sitcom "All in the Family" compared to the other sitcoms of those years. In addition, it notes a historical event that took place on American television of those years: the heroine of the sitcom "Maud", which was broadcast in American prime time, had an abortion. Barnea concludes the article with a complaint that American television arrives in Israel years late: "In Israel, whether we like it or not, we will see mainly the surplus of the three big networks in a year, if not five years," he writes. A few days later, he would probably realize that this was the least of his troubles, considering that he had returned to Israel to serve in the reserves during the war.

At the same time, throughout the country the Kaveret band performed with the show "Foggy Stories" and the songs that changed Israeli music. Accordingly, "Baruch's Boots" was also the song of the year as it was decided in those weeks in the annual song charts: both listeners of Army Radio and listeners of Israeli broadcasts chose it for the title. The weekly chart featured the songs "The Love of Theresa Dumont" by Ilanit, "Electricity Flows in Your Palms" by Ruthi Navon and "I'll Wait for You" by the Pure Souls Band - and the latter must have been more and more relevant in the weeks that followed.

The theater wanted the children's play "The Magic Journey in the Land of the Golems", which was praised mainly thanks to the unique direction of Omri Nitzan, then a 23-year-old theater flower, and in the following years - one of the most important people in Israeli theater. Alongside it was a play by an even more important Israeli theater man: "Jacobi and Leidenthal", by Hanoch Levin, which starred Albert Cohen, Zahrira Harifai and Yosef Carmon (who received praise for his performance). A few months later, following the Yom Kippur War, Levin wrote his best-known work: "Queen of the Bath."

In the Israeli film sector, one rather beloved film was released a week before the outbreak of the war: "Abu Al-Banat", starring Shayka Ophir and directed by Moshe Mizrahi. In its first week in theaters, it seemed to be a blockbuster, and the film's festive premiere was extensively covered in Cinema World Weekly.

Then the war broke out.

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Some movie theaters just closed, and those that were open did show Abu Al Banat properly, but many just didn't feel like going to see a movie (especially since some potential ticket buyers were just very busy during those weeks). And even if in real time it was considered a failure due to the situation, in retrospect - this film sold over 300,<> tickets. Today, Israeli filmmakers fantasize about a third of that number. And in general, there is nothing to worry about the legacy of this film and its creators: a year later it was screened as part of the official competition of the Cannes Film Festival, and three years later director Moshe Mizrahi became the first Israeli to direct an Oscar-winning film (the French "All Life Before Him"). The star of the film, Shayka Ofir, is considered to this day one of the best Israeli actors ever.

The country was in crisis from every possible aspect. Yedioth Ahronoth wrote during the first days of the war: "Although the authorities, cultural institutions and cinemas made every effort not to disrupt activity in these areas, despite the state of emergency, activity in all these areas was negligible last night, due to the audience's refusal to come." According to an article by Emanuel Bar-Kadma, if there were actors there would be no audience, and if the audience had already come, the actors would simply be on reserve duty.

At the front, the list of the fallen grew longer and longer every day, and in the rear of the majority they must have taken care of which of their loved ones was sent to it. Although the cultural world found it difficult to attract people, the films continued to run: Truffaut's "American Night," for example, aired just in time for the war, and the newspapers covered it extensively, whether in Yehuda Stav's favorable review in Yediot or in a profile article about the film's beautiful star, Jacqueline Bisset.

On such issues it is customary to say that when the cannons thunder, the muses are silent, and indeed it is hard to believe that the people were interested in culture and art during those hellish weeks. But one headline in Haaretz claims otherwise: "The muses refuse to be silent," reads Haaretz, blue and white, in an article covering the world of classical music and its activities during the war. "You can't rely too much on classic proverbs. Euripides and Aristophanes reached their peak in besieged Athens. British theatre and ballet flourished during the German Blitz. And the War of Independence gave birth to the cheesebatron."

The artists mobilized. Band performing in front of soldiers in the Yom Kippur War / National Photograph Collection, Ron Ilan

Reporter Michael Ohad quotes the great Zubin Mehta, who landed in Israel and returned to his job as conductor of the Philharmonic exactly in October '73, and said: "If only four people came to hear us, even then we would have played and not canceled." Mehta added that they added performances with free admission: "All donations go to the IDF. In the first concert we raised 15,000 liras, in the second concert we raised 20,000. This weekend I hope we will perform in the Golan Heights."

"The muses act wisely when they are silent in the face of the thunder of cannons," Mehta added. "The soldier doesn't need Beethoven. When there is calm, he puts his head on the backpack and gets sleep for a few hours. Only then, after sleep, does it come our turn to kick in. Now he's ready to listen."

Then Mehta told one story so beautiful that we have no choice but to hope that it also really happened. He is immersed in the maddening lack of political correctness befitting Israel in the 1970s: "I drove along the roads and every tank that passed us greeted us with a victory greeting. I tried to identify people by their origin. Is this blacksmith Moroccan or Yemeni? The tall redhead must be the son of Ukrainian-born parents. Is the blonde next to me a Sabra or a native of Germany? I struck up a conversation with a solid guy, such a lady. He said he had fought in the Golan since Yom Kippur nonstop. I didn't introduce myself, I assumed he saw me as a foreign correspondent. Wrong. (He told me) "So what's the matter, Maestro? When will you repeat the same program of Vienna music?' I stood with my mouth open. The war is in full swing and this lady, who hasn't seen his family in a week, finds time to talk to me about music."

Mehta is one of the many artists who enlisted to entertain IDF soldiers. During the war, the weekly "Cinema World" opened almost every issue with a report about the artists recruited for the mission: "The recruitment of the State of Israel is complete, including the recruitment of the artists ... Most of them were officially recruited, but those who were not drafted volunteered." Yehoram Gaon is photographed in the issue with the eternal cap of the Kasbalan on his head; Arik Einstein and Uri Zohar performed a duet with the soldiers.

The article actually mentions some of the greatest A-lists in the history of the State of Israel and their appearances in front of the soldiers: the pale tracker, Ilanit, Hava Alberstein (who "leaves her little daughter with her mother, and goes out every day to perform"). Shoshana Damari appeared, alongside her great rival Yaffa Yarkoni, for whom the Yom Kippur War was another opportunity to justify the nickname "the singer of wars." Indeed, it is explicitly stated that Yarkoni "appeared right on the front line in the farthest south." Haim Topol is also mentioned, only two years after he burst into international consciousness with "Fiddler on the Roof" starring him, thus becoming the most famous Israeli star in the world: "[Topol] arrived in Israel immediately after Yom Kippur and was 'attached' to the IDF Spokesperson to personally deal with the foreign journalists and television crews, most of whom he knows personally."

Trying to raise morale between battles. Band performing in front of soldiers during the Yom Kippur War / National Photo Collection

"It is very difficult these days to publish an entertainment weekly," it said in the third week of the fighting. "Both technically (especially when most members of the system are recruited) and mentally. But we, like everyone else on the home front, believe that regular life must continue."

Cinema World was a weekly magazine full of escapism, entertainment and gossip, and it too could not (or tried) to escape the horror of war. "It is very difficult these days to publish an entertainment weekly," it said in the third week of the fighting. "Both technically (especially when most members of the system are recruited) and mentally. But we, like everyone else on the home front, believe that regular life must continue... Booklets we sent to IDF camps were 'hijacked' and passed from hand to hand, helping to relieve tension and 'passing' time in leisure moments. When we distributed booklets to wounded IDF soldiers in hospitals, we were greeted with warm thanks." We can only imagine what the quotation marks accompanying the word "transfers" must signify; Apparently, they are related to posters of stars of the period such as the French Brigitte Bardot and the Israeli Yona Eliane (in a picture that really does not mention her role in Sabri Marnan).

Also in the headlines for those interested in the troubles of people that Egypt and Syria are not trying to destroy: Jim Morrison signed his first solo record after the breakup of his band The Doors; Oscar winner Glenda Jackson in an exclusive interview with Judith Solomon, sending "Cinema World" in Los Angeles; Filming of "The Godfather 2" is underway; Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorce; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton reconcile (the two still try to deny it, but the legendary divorcee reunited two years later).

Later in the war, the weekly made more headlines about artists trying to raise morale between battles, at a time when international stars recognized Israel and even dared to support it publicly. Of course, the main headline dealt with Leonard Cohen's visit to the front, a historic event that the Israeli media refuses to release no matter how much it is told, "Enough! This story has been exhausted!!."

But there were other shining stars overseas who expressed their support for Israel during its difficult hour: Sammy Davis Jr., the converted Jew (and probably the first African-American-Jewish star) expressed his support and even received "a special honor from the Israeli government for his work on behalf of Israel"; Carrie Grant, Frank Sinatra and Henry Fonda also expressed their support. The same Elizabeth Taylor (affectionately referred to here as "Liz") began a fundraising campaign to establish a fund for victims of war in Israel. It should be noted that Taylor, probably the biggest star of those years, was a Jewish convert, and three years later even offered to swap with all the Air France prisoners kidnapped to Entebbe.

Another Hollywood megastar who showed a love of Israel that is not taken for granted, then or now, is Burt Lancaster, whose TV movie "Moses" was filmed in Israel exactly that cursed October. Lancaster made it clear that he had no interest in leaving Israel just because of some war, and "announced that he was willing to appear on Israeli television at any time."

Hollywood stars rallied. Danny Kaye visits a soldier wounded in the Yom Kippur War, October 1973/National Photographic Collection

When the ceasefire was declared, the screening of the film "Day of Vengeance" was promoted at the Drive-In Cinema (no where) under the slogan: "The ceasefire has been violated, the battle continues between Giuliano Gemma and Lee Van Cleef." Movie theaters continued to screen hits of '73 such as "Until the Gett Separate Us" with Dustin Hoffman and "Play Her Sam" with Woody Allen, but films and pictures filmed in prisoner of war camps in Egypt and Syria were also screened, as reported in an article titled "Hopes Through the Cinema Screen." "There he is, oh, my mother!" one viewer who recognized a loved one was quoted as saying. It is clarified that the picture is very blurry, but journalist Bella Almog states: "She knows. One hundred percent. According to the balloon, standing and tilting the head... The twenty or thirty people who gather there seem to envy her."

Culture and spirit have been marginalized, and this may not be the worst tragedy of October 1973, but it is another unfortunate outcome. Even a multi-view wolf made a stop from his role as a film critic. Instead, there was one despondent article he wrote about Passover Weisberg, a mythological Tel Aviv barber who was enlisted in the task of shaving off the head wounded from the war in preparation for their surgery. Apparently, the only cultural mention in the newspapers in the days after the war is from a soldier who recalled three hours spent in the trench with a shell-shocked Egyptian soldier: "I felt like Andrei from War and Peace," said soldier Yoav B.

The media—and probably its consumers—needed two weeks of resetting to get back to discussing culture out loud. Maariv published about poet David Avidan's struggle to release the film "Sex" despite its allegedly "pornographic" content. And on November <> – exactly a month after the outbreak of the war – the beginning of a return to normal is apparent.

A wolf in a sinister new film review of "The Lost Horizon," a failed musical starring some of the greatest actors in Hollywood history. The film is considered one of the worst in the history of cinema, and multi-landscape seems to announce some kind of return to normal: there are still cannons on the mountain but they threaten Damascus, and the country's most prominent film critic will continue to kill the terrible films that come his way. "The film falls on all its foundations," Rav-Nof wrote, and somehow it seemed like good news. After weeks of flipping through dozens and hundreds of pages of newspapers filled with the worst headlines Israel has ever known, his intellectual meanness suddenly feels like a breath of fresh air. "Truly a lost horizon," he wrote. "No quotation marks."

  • More on the subject:
  • Yom Kippur War

Source: walla

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