Israeli television features many programs commemorating the fallen on Remembrance Day and celebrating Israeli life on Independence Day. In Israel, Remembrance Day is observed from sundown on April 24 to sunset on April 25, when celebrations for Independence Day begin and continue for 24 hours.
The classic Israeli movie to watch on television on Independence Day is Avi Nesher’s The Troupe (Halahaka), the story of an Israeli army entertainment troupe, which Israeli families view together the way Americans watch It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas.
But this year on Remembrance Day on the Yes Israeli Movies Channel, you can watch a very different movie by Nesher, Rage and Glory (1984), which will be shown several times throughout the day.
What Israeli Remembrance Day and Independence Day movies will be screened on TV?
It is a complex story of the Stern Group, pre-state underground fighters in the early forties who operated against the British during the Mandate period. The film generated a great deal of controversy when it was released in Israel, drawing fierce criticism from both the Right and the Left. It tells the story of the charismatic and ruthless Eddie (Juliano Mer-Khamis, a Jewish-Arab actor who was murdered in 2011, presumably by Islamic extremists), a fighter who is sent to Jerusalem to assassinate a British officer.
In spite of the controversy at home, it was hailed by critics abroad as a masterpiece and, in a 2017 interview on the occasion of the release of a digitally remastered version of the film, Nesher said that some leading figures who had served in the pre-state underground, among them prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, privately praised the film’s authenticity to him.
Another Nesher movie, which would be appropriate viewing for both Remembrance Day and Independence Day, is his latest film, Image of Victory, which is available on Netflix (although, unfortunately, it only has Hebrew titles). Released at the height of the Omicron wave of the pandemic in late 2021, it somehow managed to attract viewers back to theaters, but if you missed it then, it’s worth seeing now on Netflix.
Set during the War of Independence, this fact-based drama tells the story of a group of young Jews living on Kibbutz Nitzanim near the Egyptian border who did not evacuate as the Egyptian Army advanced, and eventually fought a tough battle. A parallel story, of an Egyptian photojournalist embedded with the troops and tasked with creating government propaganda, is woven together with the kibbutz story.
Many critics, me included, feel this is one of Nesher’s best movies. It stars some of the best young actors in Israel, including Joy Rieger, Amir Khoury, Meshi Kleinstein, Tom Avni and Ala Dakka.
Another movie showing on the Yes Israeli Movie Channel on Remembrance Day several times is Late Summer Blues (1987) by Renen Schorr. Schorr went on to establish the Sam Spiegel School for Film and Television, and this was his first feature film, which won him huge acclaim.
Set in the early summer in 1970, during the War of Attrition, it tells the bittersweet story of a group of high school seniors who are about to be drafted. They plan to stage an anti-war protest show at the end of the school year, and their conflicts over their military service are mixed with typical coming-of-age dramas and rebellions. It’s an interesting look at the home front during a war that has been portrayed in fiction much less than many other conflicts.
On YesDocu at 9 p.m. on April 24, a new documentary, Alex’s Group, directed by Yonatan Nir, will premiere, and it will also be shown on YesVOD and StingTV. It tells the story of a group led by Israel Prize-winning photographer Alex Libak, who meets with a group of four men and women who are all suffering from different kinds of trauma related to war and conflict. Libak’s photos, as well as pictures that the members of the group take themselves, all explore the long-term effects of trauma.
For a celebration of the essence of Israeli identity, you can watch a new four-part documentary series, Life According to HaGashash HaHiver, on YesVOD, StingTV and the Yes Israeli Movie Channel.
HaGashash HaHiver, literally, “the Pale Tracker,” was Israel’s most beloved comedy sketch group, whose skits appealed to just about everyone, from highbrows to lowbrows. Founded over 60 years ago by Yisrael “Poli” Poliakov (who died in 2007), Yeshayahu “Shaike” Levi and Gavriel “Gavri” Banai, who won the Israel Prize, the trio delighted generations of audiences, and anyone who wants to have a good grasp of modern Hebrew has much to learn from their wordplay and sense of humor. The series was created by Eliav Lilti, Shai Lahav, Arik Bernstein and Moshe Edery.
Throughout Remembrance Day, Hot 3 and Hot 8 (as well as Hot VOD) will feature a program of nine films to commemorate losses in Israel’s wars as well as those who were killed through terrorism. These include stories of Israeli tourists killed in an attack in Bulgaria, photojournalists who died while working and, of course, soldiers who fell in the line of duty.
On April 23, Hot 8 will broadcast the documentary In His Image by Tami Ravid, at 9:15 p.m. It tells the complicated and heartbreaking stories of parents who lost sons during their military service and are now trying to find women who would carry children to be conceived using their sons’ sperm, which was collected before they died.