Eli Amir, Eliyahu Rips, and Eliezer Sonnenschein couldn’t be more different: The first is a celebrated Baghdad-born author, the second is a brilliant mathematician from Latvia, and the third is the enfant terrible of modern Israeli art. But they are all, in their own unique ways, outsiders. Their struggle for recognition took on different shapes, and enjoyed, of course, different degrees of success. But whether it’s the hora-dancing circles at Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’Emek or the hallowed galleries of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel Story’s latest episode shows us just how far we go to feel as if we belong.
In the prologue, “Yeled Chutz,” Eli Amir takes host Mishy Harman back to the early 1950s, and to the closed world of socialist kibbutzim. Amir and his family had just come to the nascent state of Israel from Iraq and were placed in a ma’abara, a refugee absorption or transition camp. Life there was hard, and before long, 12-year-old Eli was sent off to lead a better life on a Shomer Ha’Tzair Kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley. What followed was an endless string of culture shocks, and the kibbutz old-timers made sure Eli never forgot he was only a yeled chutz, an outside child. But still, Amir—who is now one of Israel’s most beloved novelists—had but one wish, “to become one of them.”
Act I: “Skipping the Torah.” Shlomo Maital delves into the world of intellectual peripheries and asks what it’s like when your ideas are considered so far out that you lose credibility. The unusual story of Eliyahu Rips begins in Riga with a radical act of political defiance. And it ends almost 50 years later with a tired if persistent math professor fighting for academic legitimacy.
Act II: “The Guerrilla Artist and the Guard.” Long before Banksy became a mysterious international star, Eliezer Sonnenschein from Haifa was being called an “artist-terrorist.” Zev Levi enters the heart of staid institutional art and brings us a tale of one man who decided he would go as far as he possibly could to leave his mark.
The original music in “Skipping the Torah” was composed and performed by Ruth Danon. The final song, “Yeladim Kamonu” is by Elai Botner and Yaldey Ha’Chutz. The episode also features music by Karolina, Tristan Lohengrin, Dana Boulé, and Robert Schumann. It was edited by Julie Subrin and mixed by Sela Waisblum and Aviv Meshulam.