Culture, Israel

Old school Israel in Living Colour: give us the night’s bright colors, give us the greens of summers

Have you ever wanted to see how the newly-founded State of Israel looked in colour?  Now you can. 

During the first few decades of the State, Fred Monosson, a well-healed American Zionist, attempted to capture the everyday life in the newly minted State of Israel and the joie de vivre of the early pioneers on colour film stock. The footage (sampled in this video) also includes images from the ruins of post-war Europe.
The recent recovery of this rare footage—very nearly trashed after being discovered  in  the attic of the deceased Monosson’s Boston home—constitutes a story in its own right.   Thanks to Israeli filmmakers Avishai Kfir and Itzik Rubin, the film and the story of its recovery has been immortalized in a fascinating documentary, אני הייתי שם בצבע,  I Was There in Color, which premiered this April in the US. 
As producer Itzik Rubin suggests in the video, it is always fascinating how our collective memory of a particular historic period is irrevocably coloured and shaped by the media with which we associate it. We tend to imagine certain periods in the past as eternally “black and white,” with the somber, formal quality of standard history textbook illustrations. Part of the shock and beauty of this footage is precisely the everydayness of the images it offers.
On the other hand, these images are not exactly random or everyday: we see some of the state’s most celebrated political and military figures gracing Monosson’s lens, and the crowd scenes he captures are exuberantly happy—all this during a period of great suffering and struggle.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this clip happens at about 11 minutes in, as current Israeli President Shimon Peres recalls a warmer, less materialistic Israel of a bygone era.  Peres’ bittersweet comment about the old mentality, while it may also gloss on the social realities of the times, at least nods to what is not being said elsewhere here, namely, the shifting of attitudes and values in today’s Israel.
Does Monosson’s footage then filter early Israel through rose-coloured glasses?
Perhaps, but this is still some rather remarkable footage certainly worth watching.
“…makes you think all the world’s a sunny day”
(Hat tip to Dr. Grace Cohen Grossman, who brought this footage to my attention.)

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