Israelism’s Jewish “Identity Crisis”

17th Dallas International Film Festival

By Roderick Crowder


Israelism” is a powerful new documentary that explores the evolving and complex issues facing young Jewish Americans as they grapple with the relationship of Israel and Palestine.

It highlights the growing number of young American Jews who are questioning the traditional narrative surrounding the conflict and advocating for a more just and equitable solution. The documentary brings into focus this generational divide, as younger American Jews often have a more critical view of Israeli policies towards Palestinians than their elders.

“Israelism” is the directorial debut of Jewish filmmakers Eric Axelman and Sam Eilertsen, who co-produced the documentary alongside a talented team that includes Brian Kates, Tony Hale, Nadia Saah, and Libby Lenkinski.

Brian Kates, who worked on the editing for the film, is a two-time Emmy award winner whose credits include “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Tony Hale, another talented editor on the team, has won an Emmy award for his work on “Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story.”

Nadia Saah, who served as a producer on the film, has an impressive resume that includes work on films such as “Mo” (Netflix), “Omar,” and “5 Broken Cameras.” Libby Lenkinski, the VP for Public Engagement at the New Israel Fund, was also involved in the production of “Israelism.”

A key themes explored in “Israelism” is the indoctrination of Jewish youth to view Palestinians as staunch opponents of Israel. The film shows how this is messaged through educational materials, schools and communities, summer camps, and other cultural institutions. This has a profound impact on young Jewish Americans, shaping their understanding of the conflict and their relationship to Israel.

The film also examines the recruitment efforts of American Jewish youth to join the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), with interviews from young American Jews who have made the decision to enlist. The documentary shows how this effort is often tied to a sense of duty to protect Israel, and how this has evolved over time in the face of changing political realities.

As the documentary progresses, it explores the evolving views of the occupation of Palestine territory from the perspective of American Jewish. The film features interviews with young American Jews who have visited Palestine and have been confronted with the harsh realities of the occupation. Many express feelings of disillusionment and confusion, as they struggle to reconcile their Jewish identity with their newfound understanding of the conflict. The film demonstrates how some young American Jews who have served in the IDF have come to question the morality and effectiveness of Israeli policies in the occupied territories. 

It also shows how some young American Jews who have not served in the IDF have become more critical of Israel’s policies as a result of increased exposure to the realities of the conflict. Through social media and other forms of communication, these young people are able to see and hear firsthand accounts of the suffering of Palestinians living under occupation.

As a result, the documentary argues that the pro-Israel stance that was once the default position for many American Jews is becoming less prevalent among younger generations. The documentary suggests that this shift in attitude is a direct result of the changing political realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the ongoing operations of the IDF in the occupied territories.

The documentary examines the establishment pushback against young Jewish American’s changing views on Palestine. The documentary features interviews with prominent members of the American Jewish community, who express concern over the growing numbers critical of Israeli policies and supportive of Palestinian rights.

Some within the Jewish community accuses other Jews that break with establishment orthodoxy as “self-hating”. This label is employed to dismiss Jewish individuals who are critical of Israeli policies. The documentary makes a case for its use as a means of silencing dissenting voices within the Jewish community and stifling meaningful dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Overall, “Israelism” is an impressive first effort for Axelman and Eilertsen. It provides substance to the ongoing about Israeli-Palestinian conversation. Given that the co-producer were shaped by the same experiences of the individuals of the documentary, its provides a layer of authenticity and underscores the generational divide within the American Jewish community concerning the Palestinians. It is a deserve an audience of anyone interested in understanding the ongoing conflict and the role of American Jews in it. The documentary challenges viewers to deeply reflect and to engage in meaningful dialogue about the future of the region.

15th Dallas International Film Festival