Documentary on ‘Settler Leader’ Sparks Interest Around the Globe

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By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 3 October, 2019

A documentary produced on the life and times of Benny Katzover, one of the leaders the Israeli resettlement of Samaria after the Six-Day War, has sparked interest around the world and has been featured in international film festivals, including one in Indonesia.

Katzover, 72 and a resident of Elon Moreh in Samaria, was one of the founders of the Gush Emunim movement in 1974, which advocated Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria by means of a massive civilian presence in those areas.

He was one of the leaders of a group of Israelis who attempted to establish a community on the ruins of the Sebastia train station in Samaria. After seven attempts and six forced removals from the site by the IDF, an agreement was reached according to which the government allowed 25 families to settle in the Kadum army camp southwest of Shechem (Nablus).

This agreement was a turning point that opened Samaria to Jewish settlement. The group of 25 families eventually became the large municipality of Kedumim, and the Sebastia model was subsequently copied in Beit El, Shavei Shomron, and in other places.

The film, titled “The Driving Spirit,” was directed by Katzover’s daughter, Menorah Hazani. She was born around the time of the Sebastia struggle and therefore has no memories of the “fun and experiences,” as she termed it.

In her film, she describes the revolution in Judea and Samaria, led by her father and his friends, “against all odds and the opposition of Israeli government and world leaders.”

The film, which was translated into English and French, was screened at the Beyond Earth Festival in India, as well as at the International Film Festival for Spirituality, Religion and Visionary in Indonesia. A request has been made to translate the movie into Chinese.

Most recently, Hazani was very pleased to receive the news that her film will be screened at a festival in Arizona later this month, and at the Chambal International Film Festival in India in January 2020, through the services of Noa Cacharel of the NOA – International Film Marketing.

“The movie is very important to me,” she told TPS.

Her father and friends “are heroes, honest people and influential leaders,” she said. However, the mainstream media “has done them a disservice for years and presented them in a distorted and ugly way. It was important to me to correct this injustice and bring them to the viewer as I know them,” she said.

She shared that making the film was “a tremendous experience” which enabled her to “get close to them and learn from them.”

Remarking on the international interest in this very Israeli film, she said she was “very excited and surprised when the film was accepted for a festival in a Muslim-Indonesian state. This is a country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. On the other hand, people all over the world seek spirituality and it bridges gaps.”

She explained that the movie has a universal spiritual element, and therefore can appeal to people around the world. Similarly, many Christians with an avid interest in Israel displayed curiosity about seeing the movie.

About a year ago, former Arizona Senator Barbara Leff visited Hazani and told her about the state’s support for Israel and a law that limits BDS activity which she promoted. The film was subsequently chosen for screening at the Mesa Film Festival in the state.

“I really appreciated this and I’m very glad that the movie is being screened there now,” Hazani said.

Her work as a film director is “very important for her,” she said. She has directed three other documentaries on modern Israeli history with a focus on events in Judea and Samaria.

She said her mission is “to tell the story of the Jewish people, a people returning to its country after 2,000 years in exile. There is no other such a nation that was dispersed in so many countries for so many years and yet has returned to his country. This is our story and it is unique and exciting.”

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