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Working Woman: An Intricate Israeli Drama

Sexual harassment and assault are the overlapping themes of Working Woman, a fine and intricate Israeli psychological drama now available on the ChaiFlicks streaming network.

Michal Aviad’s feature-length movie, set in Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion and starring an accomplished cast, deals with this volatile issue intelligently and sensitively.

Orna Haviv (Liron Ben-Shlush) accepts a job as a property developer’s assistant despite child-care responsibilities at home and her husband’s expectation that she will help him run his newly opened restaurant. Benny Almog (Menashe Noy), Orna’s boss, was formerly her army commander, and is now building a luxury high-rise condominium in the seaside town of Rishon LeZion.

He’s hired Orna in the full knowledge that she has no experience in the real estate market, but he has confidence in her abilities. Orna is indeed a capable young woman, judging by her success in persuading an elderly French Jewish couple to consider buying a unit in Benny’s forthcoming building.

Much to Orna’s shock and disappointment, Benny, a married man almost twice her age, comes on to her. He apologizes, promises he will behave himself in the future, sings their praises as an effective sales team, and practically begs her to stay.

Although she has her doubts about Benny’s integrity, she continues working for him. Impressed by her marketing skills, he offers her a promotion, a salary increase, and a commission for each unit she sells. Orna, portrayed with aplomb by Ben-Shlush, is pleased. But shortly afterward, Benny breaks his promise and acts inappropriately once again.

Orna tolerates his indiscretion because she and her husband, Ofer (Oshri Cohen), are financially strapped. Business is slow at his restaurant, and household bills must be paid. Aviad presents Orna’s dilemma from both her point of view and from the universal perspective of a woman who cannot extricate herself from a cycle of abuse.

Realizing that Orna is reaching her breaking point, Benny tries to mollify her by helping Ofer resolve a problem related to his restaurant.

Reluctantly, she accompanies Benny on a business trip to Paris. And in a virtuoso performance, she sells a group of French Jews 10 condo units. Back at their hotel, Benny loses all self-control and gropes Orna. When she resists, he goes further. “You drive me crazy,” he moans. Noy delivers a first-class performance as a predator bent on achieving carnal pleasure.

Upon her return to Israel, Orna confides in her mother that something is amiss, but stops short of disclosing details. Benny, meanwhile, acts if nothing has happened. In desperation, she recounts her ordeal to Ofer, but deliberately leaves out important information.

Having decided to quit her job, Orna asks Benny for a letter of recommendation. He refuses, but she devises a clever method to extract it from him. It’s a small victory, as the final scene indicates. But viewers are left with the impression that the Bennys of the world have nothing to fear because they face no consequential punishment, and are free to carry on as usual.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com
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