Magazine article Tikkun

Burning the Self in the Community Bonfire: Joseph Cedar's Campfire

Magazine article Tikkun

Burning the Self in the Community Bonfire: Joseph Cedar's Campfire

Article excerpt

Burning the Self in the Community Bonfire: Joseph Cedar's Campfire

The year is 1981. Under the aegis of Menachem Begin's first government and, in particular, of its Minister of Agriculture, Ariel Sharon, the right-wing settlement movement enthusiastically looks forward to prospects of unprecedented construction and growth in Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. At the same time, the movement finds itself in an escalating conflict with the very same government over the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord, the proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, and the dismantling of the Jewish settlements there. Moving back and forth between construction sites and protest marches, the settlers highlight the link between the desire to build a home-personal as well as national-and the struggle over the borders and boundaries of the State of Israel.

In the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Va-Gan, a hub of the national-religious camp, Rachel Gerlik has just ended a year of mourning over her husband, and she and her two teenage daughters, Tami and Esti, struggle to rebuild their home and family and to redefine their relationships with their friends and their community. Eager to assert her position within her community and fearful of being left alone, Rachel seeks to join the founding group of a new settlement in Samaria to which many of her friends belong. Yet, the acceptance committee, headed by her friend Motke, a prominent figure in the Religious-Nationalist camp, is reluctant to admit her as a full member.

Joseph Cedar's Campfire follows the Gerlik women as they are caught between their personal needs on the one hand, and communal values and ideals on the other. While in his earlier film Time of Favor (2000), Cedar focused on the political dangers of right-wing religious radicalism, in his new film he puts into relief the personal price paid by those who do not fit the ideals of their Religious-Nationalist community.

Early in Campfire, the acceptance committee interviews candidate couples for the new settlement. "Why would you like to join the new settlement? " they are asked. "We feel that this is the need of the hour," they respond, but also, they immediately add, "quality of life for the kids; we couldn't afford that in the city." "It's really important to us to have a house with a lawn," another couple stresses. "And who would you like your neighbors to be?" is the next question. "People like us," they all agree. "People like you," answers Rachel at the end of her interview. The settlers are thus motivated less by their ideological commitment to the ideal of the greater Israel than by the bourgeois dream of moving from their apartments to a house with a lawn and their desire to distance themselves from those who are unlike them.

Who are the people from whom the settlers of Campfire would like to dissociate themselves? Most directly, they are women like Rachel. In the absence of a husband and a father, her family is seen as incomplete. Without a husband, she is told, her family cannot participate fully in settlement life: "it is one less man for the duty guard, one less man for the prayer quorum," Motke tells her. As Rachel discovers, her friends' empathy for her loss does not lead them to include her as an equal member in the community; on the contrary, as a woman and single mother in a religious society, she finds herself marginalized and even excluded. She therefore yields to her friends' pleas and agrees to date men with whom they match her.

The first is Yossi Moraly, a fifty-year-old bus driver who has never married. During one of their conversations, he admits to Rachel that he has never even slept with a woman. As a bachelor, he cannot find his place within his religious community, and he finds himself ever more removed from his sisters and friends whose lives revolve around the ideal of the family. The second is the self-centered and pompous Moshe Weinstock, a world-renowned cantor. …

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