Dispelling the black and white narrative: Telling Israel’s story in full color

Illustrative. A woman picks out apples at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on June 16, 2015. (Micah Bond/FLASH90)

Since October 7 there has been considerable scrutiny over how Israel tells its incredibly complicated story the world.

Israel truly is misunderstood.

A country in which 20% of its doctors, 25% of its nurses and 50% of its pharmacists are Arabs; in which Arab teachers educate our children and Arab footballers captain our national team, is perceived widely as an apartheid state. A country that is made of up a mosaic of cultures, with Jewish, Arab, Druze, and Bedouin communities coexisting and contributing to its vibrant society, is often depicted as homogenous and monolithic. And, a country which has faced gallant struggles and existential conflicts like no other nation, surviving against the odds, yet is still seen around the world as the Goliath in the region.

Indeed, while much of the current “storytelling” is naturally focusing on government talking points and dated “hasbara-style” messaging to the international media, the wondrously complex story of Israel’s history is a foundational core narrative which often gets forgotten.

As the country celebrates its 76th Independence Day, it is vital therefore to tell Israel’s story, and history, to the world in all its diversity. Former Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres once said, “We should use our imagination more than our memory.” In recent years there have been an array of new productions – from biopic dramas to deep-dive documentaries – about Israel’s history beautifully combining the two.

Ben-Gurion, Epilogue offers new insights from Israel’s first prime minister at the twilight of his life, when he was 82 and living in his beloved Negev abode of Sde Boker. Golda (not to be confused with the recent movie starring Helen Mirren) is a deep and powerful interview with Israel’s first female prime minister that was filmed just before the end of her life. Menachem Begin – Peace and War, meanwhile, produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, looks at the entirety of Begin’s remarkable political odyssey.

Recent movies cover other aspects of the Israeli story. Our Struggle looks at the multifaceted challenges faced by Ethiopian Jews immigrating to Israel, while Under the Iron Dome follows the development of Israel’s incredible missile defense; a story which has captured the imagination of the world. From the writer of Fauda, Sabena Hijacking is a docu-drama depicting the events of May 8, 1972, when four hijackers from the Palestinian organization “Black September” took control of a Sabena commercial airliner from Brussels to Tel Aviv. These are just a few of the incredible offerings; there is no shortage of films for those seeking to explore Israel’s amazing history.

Historical documentaries are hugely important. They increase knowledge, spread public awareness, and provide vital tools for students. They allow people from all backgrounds to learn without reading, acting as a gateway that will hopefully encourage them to go deeper. Often, historical documentaries provide people with a passion for history that they never knew they had. They do this through a unique combination of education, information, and entertainment; stimulating both the aforementioned imagination and memory.

In the Israeli context, they can play a crucial role in dispelling myths about Israel’s fraught history. The films mentioned above, and others like them, do not seek to whitewash Israel’s past; far from it. Instead, the aim is to show the human complexities and struggles it has involved, and to try to portray the entire spectrum of the country’s experience. This is vitally important at a time when people have short-term memories, forgetting the broader context that led us to this moment in our story.

At a time when other countries are neglecting historical documentaries, which are often underfunded, repetitive, and simplistic, Israeli documentary-making is undergoing a renaissance that must be shared with the world.

That is why this Independence Day, IZZY, the leading streaming platform dedicated to sharing Israeli content with the world, is celebrating this milestone by opening up access to a curated selection of 15 films showcasing the rich tapestry of Israel’s history and resilience throughout the week of celebrations. This initiative comes at a crucial juncture, with the country under unprecedented threats from all sides, threats not only to the wellbeing of its citizens, but also to the historical foundations which underpin its contemporary vibrancy, resilience and successes.

Explaining Israel in the present is impossible without also explaining the country’s past. So, let’s mark this difficult and complicated Independence Day with a mixture of Peres’ eternal words, memory and imagination.

History is never black and white. We therefore have a duty to show it in full color.

About the Author
Nati Dinnar is the co-founder and CEO of IZZY -, the premier platform dedicated to showcasing Israeli television and movies to international audiences. A prominent figure in the Israeli television industry, he has previously served in leadership roles at Channel 2 (Keshet) and Channel 10. He is also the founder and head of Dinnar Productions, through which he has created and produced acclaimed Israeli films such as "Sabena Hijacking," "Rescue Bus 300", “The Longest Night” and the documentary series "Under the Iron Dome".
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