Saturday, January 28, 2006


Today is Sunday and a day of rest. I'm going to do a movie review and get back to the new J.D. Robb book I'm reading.

On Thursday, a good friend and I went to lunch and a movie. We're trying to work our way through all the films that will probably be nominated for Academy Awards next Tuesday. That day, we saw "Munich."

My friend is married to a man from Israel, and she converted to Judaism when they wed. I was glad I saw the film with her because she was able to answer some of my questions about things I didn't understand. One of my questions was about the frequent use of a word that I "heard" as zabra. She was able to explain that sabra is the word used to describe a Jew born in Israel. The word's origins are an interesting commentary on how the people of Israel see themselves.

According to Wikipedia, sabra "is derived from the Hebrew word, tzabar, the name of the 'prickly pear' cactus (also known as the 'cactus pear'). . . The allusion is to a tenacious thorny desert plant with a thick hide that conceals a sweet softer interior."

"Munich," based on a true story, describes the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympic tragedy. A group of Palestinian terrorists calling themselves Black September had taken the Israeli Olympic team hostage. Eleven Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered.

In retaliation, the Israeli government under Golda Meir secretly recruited five Mossad agents to track down and kill the terrorist leaders "off the books" as it were. The film follows the small cell led by a young man named Avner as they go about their awful task of revenge.

This film reminded me of another movie I'd seen: David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence." I blogged on that movie on 10/9/05. Both films make the same two points: First, that violence has consequences that last long after the violence itself and, second, that violence should never be a choice, no matter how severe the provocation.

I will confess to some surprise. I suspect that--subconsciously--I was anticipating a much more "slanted" film from Steven Spielberg. I found the movie remarkably even-handed, and I admired Spielberg's determination to not produce an overtly pro-Israeli film.

I walked out of the theatre feeling a terrible sadness that we live in a world in which attack and counter-attack are frequently the options to which our leaders revert. Golda Meir even speaks the line, "To get peace, we must show them we're strong." I found it disconcerting to hear that line coming out of a woman who so strongly resembled my tiny Italian grandmother.

Much like "A History of Violence," "Munich" plays tricks on the viewer with respect to what makes a hero or a villain. Avner began the film as a gentle soul who obviously had questions about his mission, which he chose not to voice to his comrades or superiors. However, as the film progresses, he hardens until he is able to exact a terrible, graphic and sexually explicit revenge on a target not originally identified by his handlers.

I explained in my October blog that "A History of Violence" stayed with me until I went back alone to see it for a second time three days after my first viewing. I suspect that I will return to see "Munich" again as well. Maybe it's Catholic guilt motivating me. Maybe it's wishful thinking--longing for a world in which we move beyond the need for revenge when confronted with evil--and, yes, I do equate violence against another with evil.

Even with the best intentions, when we choose violence, we change the nature of our mission/goal/principles.

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