Armed with Glasses

Armed with Glasses

Epoch Times
March 18, 2008

One person looks at everything in an optimistic light
That's not good, they say, it's even pretty bad
Another looks at everything in a gloomy light
It's another form of the same disease
Don't wear glasses- either happy or gloomy ones
Look at everything with eyes wide open .

Eyes Wide Open opens with these words from Nathan Alterman's song "Armed with Glasses," sung by Erik Einstein , with music composed by Miki Gavrielov. The Israeli premiere took place on February 28 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, a month after the world premiere in New York. This film is as Israeli as it comes. Even though, the movie focuses almost entirely on American Jews. This contradiction highlights the great love, longing and deep sense of identity that American Jews feel toward Israel.

The film producers, director Paula Weiman-Kelman, scriptwriter Stuart Schoffman and producer Jon Lopatin undertook a courageous and difficult project: how could they express an objective opinion on Israel's policy in the territories and the Israeli-Arab conflict, without sounding opposed, cowardly or revolutionary? The solution is a brilliant one--to do so through the mouths of others. The movie has almost no narration - it is composed almost entirely of spontaneous interviews with American Jews vacationing in Israel. Director Paula Weiman- Kelman follows them with her camera and interviews a wide spectrum of American Jews--from religious Jews of Brooklyn to lesbians, to every-day grandmothers.

The genius of the film stems from the ability of Paula Weiman-Kelman to identify and capture those very Israeli moments that we all are so familiar with., and present them from a different angle: through the eyes of American tourists. Things we have so gotten used to, that we hardly notice anymore. A katyusha rocket falling in the north or before-Shabbat shopping are transformed, through American eyes, into moving, larger than life episodes.

An especially amusing scene that evoked thunderous laughter from the audience shows an American tourist who runs into a religious Jew who tries to convince him to put on tefilim. There are very few Israelis who have not had the same experience. Of course in the end the American tourist happily puts on the tefilim as is becoming for a good Jew that respects his religion.

However, in spite of Zionism and a deep affinity with the Land of Israel, even Americans have their doubts, One of the scenes focuses on a young girl that participates in a demonstration against the security fence separating East and West Jerusalem. The ultimate question is raised again here: how can the people of Israel, who survived the Holocaust, treat the Palestinians this way?

The film maintains a balance and makes sure to present voices from both sides. An American tourist in his 60's explains that the State of Israel cannot exist without severe security measures to protect it from its neighbors.

The film, which is about one hour long, is entertaining and light-hearted, but at the same time also thought-provoking. It raises questions we perhaps never wanted to confront. Both we Israelis as well American Jews were educated on the myth of "the righteous and heroic Israel standing steadfast against the armies of our cruel enemies that surround us on all sides." And here comes this film and tells us : "Stop Let's look around. What exactly is happening here?"

Once You Visit Israel, Everything Looks Different