|Directed by:||Ayelet Heller||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||1992||Running Time:||50 mins|
|Language:||Hebrew with English subtitles||Genre:||Documentary|
|More Info:||Wikipedia on the history of Yemenite Jews||Category:||Israel|
Zionist forefathers forced off their land and nearly forgotten in history finally have their story of injustice voiced. The Unpromised Land exposes the plight of Jewish Yemenites who settled the Holy Land at the turn of the twentieth century, only to have the fruits of their labor – and the credit – taken away.
“Our hearts are on fire,” a Yemenite Jew writes. “We’ve tilled this land and we loved it and suffered and we died for the land. We cleared out the rocks and planted Eucalyptus and watered them with tin jars. We suffered…”
In 1912, a group of Yemenite Jews left their native country to pursue their Zionist dream and establish a new home for themselves in Galilee near Lake Kinneret. But only a few years later, the land they settled was contracted out to a group of Russian Jews who were to establish Israel’s second kibbutz, Kibbutz Kinneret. For a short while the Yemenites and the kibbutznikim lived side by side. But when resources became scarce, authorities pressed the Yemenites to leave. While the kibbutz’s founding fathers are remembered as heroes, the Yemenite pilgrims, who struggled and died trying to cultivate the land, have been nearly forgotten. The Unpromised Land tells the true story of what happened, unearthing a controversial history of injustice that’s been ignored and shrouded in lies.
The Jewish pilgrims who paved the way to make the Holy Land livable suffered greatly for the dream they believed in. The Yemenites settled next to a swamp that was infested with malaria. Not only disease, but torturous heat, scorpion bites and hard labor took the lives of many of the settlers.
But the physical suffering that the Yemenites faced was slight compared to the emotional torture of being forced off the land that they had struggled to tame. When kibbutz leaders wrote to authorities, saying, “We have no other land for a banana plot except the Yemenites’ land, which we must have,” trucks and buses were soon sent to take the Yemenites to Rehovot, and their fields were plowed over for the kibbutz’s use. The Yemenite settlers lost the dream to which they had dedicated their lives , and all their physical suffering for the sake of the land seemed to be in vain.
Instead of loudly protesting, many of the Jewish Yemenites grieved in silence. Afraid of suffocating his family with his sadness, one of these original settlers, like many others, swallowed his pain and tried to raise his daughter in a positive, loving atmosphere. Only as an adult did she learn that her father had been forced to leave a home that had meant everything to him.
As unjust as it is, the establishment of a new nation often involves the oppression of a minority group. So what’s perhaps most disturbing is that many of the modern Kinneret kibbutz inhabitants willfully ignore the truth of their past. The documentary catches a teacher lecturing a group of young school children on the history of their home. The children sit attentively and are eager to correctly answer her questions. When the filmmaker interrupts to confront her on the fact that she’s entirely avoided mentioning the Yemenites, the teacher smiles knowingly, saying, “I won’t deal with that.”
Ultimately, the story of the Jewish Yemenites undermines the notion of Jewish solidarity. The two groups of Jews couldn’t find a way to live together on the land they both loved. Instead of being united by the soil they both wanted to till, because it linked them to the same ancestry and the same faith, they were divided by cultural differences and competition — unholy behavior on the holiest of lands.