‘It would be so much easier if we were mean and ugly and violent – but we’re none of those things.’
I just watched The Hilltops, by Igal H. It is a beautifully-shot and thought-provoking documentary about the settlers in Judea and Samaria. Admirably, it manages the unlikely feat of being fair and quietly even-handed on this most contentious of topics.
As we know, Israeli settlers are often described as ‘the obstacle to peace’ in the Middle East. According to many, the obstacle is not the tyranny and medieval brutality of some Arab states, nor the terrorism of Hamas, with its policy to exterminate all Jews, nor even the nuclear programme of Iran, whose President openly vows to wipe Israel off the map.
No, it turns out that the obstacle is some Jews building a few homes just outside Jerusalem. Awesome.
In reality, the settlers are not the obstacle. But they might be an obstacle, so they merit clear-headed understanding. The Hilltops is a well-made film; the most intelligent portrayal of the settlers I’ve ever witnessed. Igal H is neither a rabid settler-basher, nor a fanatical backer of them right-or-wrong. Instead he visits the communities, speaks with their members and lets the viewer draw their own conclusions.
Putting aside the contentious nature of the settlements, it is interesting to witness the passion for the land of those featured. ‘I could be wrong, but I really don’t believe there is a nation on this earth who loves their land as much as we do,’ said one. While settlements are often surrounded by hostile neighbouring villages, the harmony within the communities is remarkable. Not a street-robbery, intimidated pensioner or torched shop to be seen.
The emotional connection with the land is most beautifully-expressed by the women featured in the film. Indeed, the fact that The Hilltops features so many women from the communities is one of its strengths. With one exception they speak without the bluster and bravado that dominates some male settlers’ statements. I wasn’t surprised; I’ve long thought that women have far more chance of solving the world’s most contentious issues than any of the men who dominate political leadership.
Igal H occasionally intervenes with some questions of his own. The one I wish he had asked is how settlers with children justify raising kids in settlements. Adults have free choice to live in the middle of such dangerous and contentious neighbourhoods – children do not. I’m genuinely curious about this aspect of their decision to move their families into settlements.
Whether you support or despise the settlers, or if you’ve not made-up your mind yet, The Hilltops is required viewing. It had a sell-out world premiere at Hot Docs, North America’s most prestigious documentary film festival. It also aired on the CBC in Canada. I think this balanced and thought-provoking documentary would be ideal for the UK Jewish Film Festival.
If you want to showcase The Hilltops in London or Europe, or hold a big screening, contact Igal H at firstname.lastname@example.org.