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Shamir remembered in new film

CM 31/07/2021

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 When he died in 2012 at age 96, Yitzhak Shamir was honored by one of his protegés and successors, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

“Yitzhak Shamir will be remembered among the nation’s great leaders who dedicated their lives to their people and their homeland, and thus he will be written in the history of the people of Israel,” said Netanyahu
Shamir had been out of the public eye since the mid-1990s and had slipped from the memory of an entirely new generation who grew up with Netanyahu as the visible symbol of political and Zionist Israeli leadership. 
That was one of the reasons that filmmakers Igal Lerner and Erez Friedman decided delve into Shamir’s story and produce Yitzhak Shamir, His Way, a new documentary. They felt the younger generation needed to be “reminded of the example of a man who dedicated more than 60 years of his life for Israel and the Jewish people.”
“Both Igal and my sons grew up in the years of Netanyahu,” said Friedman in a recent interview.

Lerner added, “That’s all they know about politics and leadership. We felt it’s important to see a type of leadership you can’t easily find these days, the example of servant leadership, servant of the Zionist idea.”
Lerner and Friedman knew, however, that making a full-length documentary about Shamir required gaining the confidence, support and cooperation of his family. They approached Yair Shamir, the oldest of Yitzhak and Shulamit Shamir’s two children with a proposal to make a film focused on the events of 1991, the most dramatic year of then-prime minister Shamir’s years in political leadership. It turned out their timing was perfect as Yair and his sister Gilada were realizing that telling their father’s story ultimately was up to his family, who loved and revered him.
The filmmakers’ mission was to track Shamir’s driving personal quality which “was never about him, it was always about the Jewish people and Israel,” says Erez. 
“While researching and making the film we realized Israel was nostalgic for a leadership style before the Netanyahu era. His focus was never to become the leader of Israel, he never focused on himself, this is one of the differences from the leaders of today.”
There is no doubt the example of his life’s values were embraced by Shamir’s immediate family. In conversations with son Yair and grandson Elad Shamir, who both appear in the film, it is clear they were raised by a warm and loving father/grandfather “who never made himself the center, the focus was always his family’s lives,” Elad remembers.
“The film is the first step in opening our family story to the media, we’re opening slowly, maybe a bit unnaturally so others can know the compass by which he led his life.”
Those who knew Shamir best describe him with terms such as modesty, integrity and a profound Jewish identity with respect for Jewish tradition, values of Torah and core beliefs of tikkun olam (repairing the world) through your actions. Although he was raised in a secular home and raised his children in a secular home, Shamir’s father ensured that in Poland where he grew up, his son would receive his education in the Jewish schools including Bialystok, where he came into contact with Ze’ev Jabotinsky and the tenants of Revisionist Zionism. It was classmates from Bialystok who formed the pre-state Zionist resistance group known as Lehi (acronym for “fighters for the freedom of Israel”) a group that left Menachem Begin’s Irgun over ideological differences.
As a young man in his 20s, a very recent immigrant to Palestine to attend Hebrew University, Yitzhak Shamir showed himself to be a man of action, with a determined temperament, ability to always remain discrete, accomplish the mission and emerge as a natural leader. It was typically his compatriots in every endeavor who promoted him to leader, a position he never sought.
More than 40 years later, when prime minister and Likud Party leader Menachem Begin unexpectedly resigned, it was Shamir’s colleagues who encouraged the then foreign minister to run for party chair and thus replace begin as prime minister.
“He was known and will be remembered for surrounding himself with talented people, young people, he would give them a chance, and what they achieved in my father’s years as prime minister was unbelievable!” said Yair.
The film highlights two such achievements in facilitating the release of Jews from the Soviet Union and their successful immigration and absorption into Israel, and the rescue and absorption of Ethiopian Jews through “Operation Solomon” in 1991. The evidence of the success of these two initiatives can be seen not only in Israel but in Israel’s contribution to the world.
Herzi Makov, CEO of Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center and former chief of staff to prime minister Shamir in the 1980s, recalled Shamir’s entry into Begin’s Herut Party in the early 1970s. 
“Shamir opened Herut to Mizrachi members living in development towns who grew the party and he led the emphasis on the rescue of Jews from the Soviet Union,” Makov recalled.
“He was a man of zero ego yet people responded to his forceful personality, attention to detail and focus on results.” 
Shamir recognized that he wasn’t the most effective spokesman for Israel before the international media so he put a young Netanyahu forward during the 1991 Madrid conference, after American television had embraced him just months before during the Gulf War’s Operation Desert Storm. 
He also brought Netanyahu to the Madrid peace conference, but when the opportunity arose to state Israel’s case before the world leaders assembled there, he gave what many believe was the speech of his career. As the film brings the story back to life, the Madrid Conference was forced upon Israel by American president George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state James Baker, who believed the coalition of Arab countries built to confront Iraq and win the Gulf War had created a new opportunity for face-to-face negotiations and recognition of Israel.
Historian Avi Shilon says of the Madrid Conference, “Shamir wouldn’t have done it himself; it had been forced upon him, but he was very pragmatic, he embraced the opportunity to defend his ideological stance and explicitly state exactly what he believes, his perspective of Zionist history, the moral justification of Zionism.”
Now 30 years from the Madrid Conference we have a new film for a new generation of Israelis and friends of Israel abroad on a legendary Zionist and leader of the Jewish people to remind us that qualities of personal character are more relevant than ever. 
Last week, Lerner and Friedman received a certificate of recognition from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog at a ceremony held at the President’s Residence.
Yitzhak Shamir, His Way will be broadcast on Israel’s Channel 8, and released to Israeli cinema and to Jewish/Israeli film festivals abroad later this summer.
It’s available for viewing on demand on the History Channel VOD..
For more viewing information go to www.noa-international.com/films/shamir-his-way

Source: Jerusalem Post

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