In Search of Peace Focuses on 1948-1967

David Ben Gurion (center) in In Search of Peace: Part One - 1948-1967. Courtesy of Moriah Films.

In Search of Peace is a documentary that takes a look at the first two decades of Israel’s existence, starting with its 1948 founding.

Filmmaker Richard Trank bases his script on original material written by both Sir Martin Gilbert and Rabbi Marvin Hier. I like to think that I’m pretty knowledgeable about Israeli history–the key events at the very least. However, the film did fill some blank spots for me. I’m not going to dive into all of the history but the film does a solid job at explaining the events.

Israel’s founding in 1948 would lead five Arab countries to almost immediately declare war in what we know as the War of Independence. Nineteen years later, another war would follow in the Six-Day War of 1967. The time in between would also include the Claims Conference and King Abdullah I’s 1951 assassination. Anyway, there’s so much that one can pack into the film’s 105-minute run time but Richard Trank and company focus on the most important. It is not solely a focus on government officials or the multiple organizations that would form the basis of the Israel Defense Forces. However, there are some things that are new to me. One such event is a secret meeting between Golda Meir and King Abdullah I. The other is that King Abdullah I supported the UN Partition Plan.

Here’s an example of something that I learned for the first time. Shula Cohen, a longtime spy, would send her children from Lebanon Israel, making them among the earliest to make Aliyah. Nobody knew what the future would hold for Jews living in Arab countries at the time. But in any event, she promised that she would follow them a short time later after smuggling in other Jewish children from Arab countries. Cohen would be imprisoned briefly, arrested again, and then sentenced to death. She would ultimately be released in a prisoner exchange following the Six-Day War.

When it comes to the Six-Day War, it would be a massive game-changer in the conflict. While thousands died, Israel would come to gain control of the Old City. This includes Judaism’s holiest site at the Western Wall. For the first time in some 2000 years, Jews would be able to pray at the Western Wall. Listen, I know that other controversy would follow the Six-Day War. However, this doc is about the first two decades of Israel’s existence. There are arguments whether it was a preventative war as a case of self-defense or a war of aggression. What I learned for the first time is how Russia played a role in getting Egypt to mobilize its defenses in the Sinai Peninsula. It turns out that Russia fed Egypt false information about Israel massing up along the Syrian border.

Shortly thereafter, Leonard Bernstein made the trip to conduct the Israel Philharmonic at three different stops–including Mt. Scopus–to commemorate the Reunification of Jerusalem. Isaac Stern was the featured soloist. Interestingly enough, Bernstein had previously conducted the orchestra in Beersheeba on November 20, 1948. Bernstein’s first trip in to then-British Mandate Palestine came in 1947. You wouldn’t have known any of this from watching Maestro!

In Search of Peace adds more context and insight into Israel’s first 19 years as a country.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Richard Trank
NARRATOR: Michael Douglas
CAST: Edward Asner, Anne Bancroft, Richard Dreyfuss, Miriam Margolyes, Michael York

Seventh Art Releasing released In Search of Peace in theaters on September 21, 2001. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.