My Herzl Film and Discussion Guide
Many of us have a vision, a passion, or something that we greatly believe in or value, but very few, if any of us turn that into reality. Herzl was an ideas man, and he not only put his vision into action, he tirelessly fought to gain support for it by travelling around the world to meet royalty, presidents, prime ministers and politicians. His passion and belief in Zion, our right to have our own state in our land was a driving force in his determination. This influences us to this very day, in how we see Israel and life in Israel itself.
To Eli, a Jerusalem documentary filmmaker, Herzl is a washed out icon. In the eyes of his Canadian brother-in-law, one of the world’s most avid collectors of Herzl memorabilia, Herzl is an inspiring superstar. David attempts to convince his Israeli brother-in-law of the relevance of Herzl. But will he succeed…?
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- The idea for the film itself began when the filmmaker’s brother-in-law David Matlow, a prominent Canadian attorney who is also the [self-described] owner of the world’s largest private collection of Herzl memorabilia, took 27 of his closest friends and family members to a trip to Basel, Switzerland – a locale seminal to Herzl’s history as the site of the first Zionist Congress. Most would never have made the journey otherwise. The same can be said about the March of the Living journeys to Poland or the Birthright initiative which introduces Diaspora Jews to Israel through a 10-day experience both of which are life-changing. It beckons the question: does one need to travel all the way around the world to step foot in a historical place in order to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning?
- How important were historical writings to the development of the film’s plot? Why is having first hand resources so important to trying to understand the relevance of the past to our identity today?
- David is a collector of memorabilia, but also a collector of memories. How can these memories and artifacts be used to tell the honest story of Jewish nationalism in a world where Zionism and Israel are increasingly demonized by the world.
- The interviews with Herzl scholars help anchor the discussions of Zionism and pair well with the more personal reflections of Matlow. Would you feel confident talking about Herzl, Zionism, Jewish history, Israel with someone that possesses more knowledge than you do? AntiSemites and AntiZionists are sometimes highly educated with a mastery of both facts and debate skills. What can help you become more confident in engaging in such discussions?
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Herzl once wrote, “Dream and deed are not as different as many think. All the deeds of men are dreams at first, and become dreams in the end.” Herzl’s dream was strong enough to overcome the immense challenges in fighting for Jewish rights at that time. David’s dream was to engage in a modern exploration of why this leader from history is still relevant to us today.