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Jerusalem Cuts cover photo

Jerusalem Cuts 2008


Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by First Hand Films and Belfilms
Directed by Liran Atzmor
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - Adult
Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies

Date Entered: 05/29/2009

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, American University

Just days after Israel’s independence was declared in 1948, the Battle of Old Jerusalem began between the Israelis in the Jewish Quarter and the invading Jordanian army. The battle lasted ten days ending in a victory for the Jordanians and evacuation of the Jews. Despite its historic significance it was witnessed by just a few journalists. The stories of two of them, John Phillips and Ali Zaarour, and Jack Padwa, an executive producer of Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer, the film about the battle, are the basis of this documentary.

John Phillips was a British photo journalist traveling under the protection of the Arab League to cover the war in Jerusalem for Life magazine. Despite restrictions the Jordanians enforced to prevent other journalists’ access and the possibility of rousing global sympathy for Israel, Phillips’ was free to record the events as he saw them. His photographs of the battle and its aftermath of panicked evacuees and the looting of Jewish homes were seen around the world and no doubt enraged his hosts.

The story told by Phillips’s photos was later dramatized in Padwa’s Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer released in 1955. The film’s depiction of the struggle of the Jews in Jerusalem received some critical attention though it’s probably best remembered today as the first film made in the state of Israel.

The third subject, Ali Zaarour, was one of the few who photographed the battle from a Palestinian perspective.

Each of these men’s experiences surrounding the battle is recalled. Jack Padwa at 92 years old is accompanied by his son on a flight to Jerusalem for his birthday. John Phillips’ step-grandson tells about his late grandfather and Ali Zaarour’s son visits the Israeli military archive in Tel Aviv where he successfully locates a confiscated photo album of his father’s work.

None of the stories are extensive nor reveal much more than the back stories behind certain photographs and film clips. Each photographer‘s photos represent where his sympathies lie. Zaarour captures officers celebrating a victory while Phillips sees people running for their lives. Because Israel survived, Phillip’s photos took on the mantle of historic record while Zaarour’s photos are the ones that have been stored away and forgotten.

The video will be of interest to Jewish history and journalism programs though at $295 is recommended as an optional purchase.