Exploring the Etiology of a Jewish Homeland: When Claude Lanzmann Visited Israel

Ohad Landesman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay focuses on Pourquoi Israel (1973) and Tsahal (1994), two films from Claude Lanzmann’s trilogy about contemporary Jewish history that were shot entirely in Israel. It argues that these films maintain a delicate balance between insider and outsider perspectives. On one hand, they are personal works of a filmmaker struggling to defend his views on Israel as a Jewish intellectual living abroad, thus maintaining an empathetic rhetoric that often prevents him from expressing reservations. On the other hand, they flag and make use of Lanzmann’s unique outlook as a foreigner as a filmic strategy meant to understand whether the search for normal existence in Israel is a viable option and whether normality in a place like Israel, or even Jewish existence itself, is a kind of anomaly. When his personal investment does not obfuscate his ability to observe reality from an outsider-looking-in perspective, a situation that occurs more in Pourquoi Israel than in Tsahal, Lanzmann is able to foreshadow and reveal concerns, conflicts, and problems that the local perspective in those early years was unable to fully tackle or comprehend.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)3-27
Number of pages25
JournalJewish Film and New Media
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


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