One way to celebrate Israel’s birthday is to see how the rebirth of the Jewish nation has been portrayed on film. Some of the top options:
- “Exodus” (1960) — Otto Preminger’s 3½-hour epic about the postwar smuggling of refugees into Israel and the fight for independence won an Oscar for Ernest Gold’s score and features a great scene in which a British soldier laughs at the idea that the character played by Jewish star Paul Newman could be Jewish.
- “Cast a Giant Shadow” (1966) — Kirk Douglas stars as American Army officer Mickey Marcus, who finds love but tragically never learns Hebrew while organizing the young Israel Defense Forces into a military that can defend and supply a foothold in Jerusalem.
- “Above and Beyond” (2014) — The best documentary about Israel’s War of Independence, the opening film from the 2015 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival focuses on how individual Americans helped launch Israel’s initial air force.
- “Sword in the Desert” (1949) — Filmed while Israel’s survival in the war was still in doubt, this is the story of a freighter captain (Dana Andrews) who smuggles in Jewish refugees, then is drawn into the struggle. Jewish actor Jeff Chandler gets to play a rare Jewish role.
- “Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer” (1955) — The story of four people trying to hold a hill outside Jerusalem on the eve of a U.N. cease-fire represents the birth of Israel’s film industry.
- “A Woman Called Golda” (1982) — Ingrid Bergman won an Emmy for playing Golda Meir in this TV biopic, which provides a glimpse at Israel’s pioneer days and the political side of the independence fight.
- “A Tale of Love and Darkness” (2015) — Natalie Portman stars in her directorial debut, which tells the story of writer Amos Oz’s youth in the years before and after independence.