By Janet Tassel
"The Hebrew Bible is the blueprint of Jewish civilization. And it's the foundational document of some of the best in civilization as we know it. There in the Bible is the pledge of the Jewish people, 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.' And then, in our lifetime, that pledge was realized, when the Jews regained their sovereignty in the land of Israel, after it had been under foreign domination for almost 2,000 years. And what's more, they did it in the 1940s, in the same decade when one-third of the entire Jewish people had been eradicated in Europe. Now that is a miracle of truly biblical proportions."
Thus, with great solemnity, Ruth Wisse of Harvard introduces Body and Soul: The State of the Jewish Nation, the latest documentary by Gloria Greenfield and her company, Doc Emet. The film, which will have its premiere this month in numerous American and Canadian cities, as well as in Jerusalem, is an intensely moving experience, documenting—one is tempted to say "once and for all"—that Israel is, was, and always will be, the land of the Jewish people.
Greenfield deftly uses the format developed in her previous films, a succession of prominent "talking heads," their authoritative commentary accompanied by historic photographs and films, paintings, and archeological objects, all conducing to the ocular proof of Israel's history in its own promised land.
Wisse leads off the film's chronological format with the longest and richest section of the film, the biblical evidence, "In the Beginning." Wisse is succeeded by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the UK, who tells us that "Jewish identity is born in the land of Israel. It begins with two momentous journeys, of Abraham and Sarah from Mesopotamia, and the other, several centuries later by Moses and the Israelites from the Egypt of the Pharoahs; and ever since, in a sense, to be a Jew has meant to be on a journey to the Promised Land."
The story continues. Author and historian Robert Wistrich points to the fact that though it is hard to document exactly when the special relationship of the Jewish people with the land began, it was at "the very minimum close to 3,000 years" ago, and possibly much longer.