Dov Lerea

A review of the film, “The Zone of Interest”

As a Zionist rabbi, I read with great interest David Klion’s review of Jonathan Glazer’s film, “The Zone of Interest,” in the NYT March 9, 2024. I agree completely with Mr. Glazer’s assessment of his own work, that this “…is not a film about the past….it’s trying to be about now.” In general works of art are about the present, especially when they select past events and view them through a contemporary lens. I do not agree, however, with the perverse comparison between the wall that separated Rudolf Hoss’ house from the death camp of Auschwitz, and James Wilson’s statement at the BAFTA awards that the “Zone of Interest” is about the “walls we construct in our lives which we choose not to look behind….[walls that shield us from]… innocent people being killed in Gaza…..”

This review compares the State of Israel’s military war against Hamas to the genocide factory that was Auschwitz. This is a dangerous, perverse comparison. Perhaps Mr. Klion and Mr. Wilson believe that Jews have no right to participate in the same nationalism that has created every European country and return to a homeland. Perhaps they erroneously believe that Jews are a faith-community like Christians and Muslims, instead of a nation. Perhaps they believe, therefore, that Jews are colonialist settlers and not exiles who established a nation-state in an ancient homeland. Perhaps they believe that Palestinian leadership has done everything possible to create their own state with the billions of dollars they have received over the decades.

Perhaps they believe that the State of Israel has not been regularly bringing over 200 trucks filled with food into Gaza, and that Hamas has welcomed those donations with open arms. Perhaps they believe that Israel forced Hamas to build a network of underground tunnels and trained an army dedicated to kill as many Jews as possible, while all Hamas yearned to do was to build luxury hotels along the coast of Gaza and create a thriving tourist industry to stimulate a shared economy with Israel and European nations. Perhaps they believe that Hamas’ attack on October 7th was a justified response to Israeli/Jewish oppression, justifying the rapes, tortures, mutilations and murders of 1,400 civilians including infants and teens. Perhaps they believe that the IDF intends to kill civilians as a military goal so the entire situation is explained simply in terms of genocidal disproportionality.

This review of “Zone” suggests that neither Mr. Klion, Mr. Glazer or Mr. Wilson understands very much about the State of Israel and about the Jewish people there. I am certain that the review is correct in describing the “Zone” as a powerful and suggestive commentary on contemporary events, only one I believe perpetuates a false, dangerous narrative. That narrative not only belies complete ignorance of Israel’s existential challenges, but perpetuates a mindset and beliefs that endanger Jews both in Israel and throughout the Diaspora. The “unclean feeling” that Mr. Klion describes derives from the film’s willingness to avoid all nuances and layers of realities facing the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and simply flattens the Hamas-Israel war, with artistic sophistication, into what has become another version of the contemporary antisemitic trope of oppressors and oppressed. Nobody needed another film to portray the brutality of war. All of the films Mr. Klion named in the opening paragraphs of his review do just that, with more factual authenticity and nuance than this review of “Zone” admits.

About the Author
Rabbi Dov Lerea is currently the Head of Judaic Studies at the Shefa School in NYC. He has served as the Dean and Mashgiach Ruchani at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, as the Director of Kivunim in Jerusalem, as the Dean of Judaic Studies of the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York, and as the Director of Education at Camp Yavneh in Northwood, New Hampshire. Rabbi Dov has semicha from both JTS and YU. He is married and is blessed with sons, daughters-in-law, and wonderful grandchildren. He loves cooking, biking, and trying to fix things by puttering around with tools.