For his 1975 Bar Mitzvah in Toronto Jason Sherman received as a gift a certificate issued by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) that a tree had been planted in his honour in Israel. Not having any real emotional connection with Israel Sherman became curious about this tree. With some effort Sherman searched JNF records in Toronto and with a certificate from the JNF issued to his brother on his Bar Mitzvah and the help of a researcher in Jerusalem he took an educated guess it might have been planted in Canada Park in Israel. Canada Park was created by the JNF to plant trees donated by Canadians.
Sounds innocent and purely charitable but Sherman discovers that Canada Park was planted around and over an Arab village Imwas. Imwas residents were forcibly evicted by the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) in 1967 and the forest planted over it and surrounding lands. Over 90 other Arab villages suffered the same fate being buried under forests and 600 villages destroyed. In Canada Park there is no signage indicating the Arab eviction. The JNF refuses to speak to Sherman rather strange for a registered tax-free charity which is also one of the biggest land developers in Israel.
Sherman meets the sheik of Imwas and his son and is told of the 1967 eviction of residents and of the bulldozing of the village. Trees as weapons! The greening of Israel buried under what some Israeli critics call ethnic cleansing and an Israeli occupation of Palestine. Sherman feels as if innocence has been stripped away and looks for rabbinical guidance in Toronto and is told that by all means come to grips with what has happened and deal with it as his conscience dictates but if you deny the existence of Israel you are moving towards anti-Semitism. He feels there has been an injustice committed which needs a repair. Imwas was in the Canadian media but was quickly forgotten. As in the 1970’s with Palestinian “terrorism” Palestinians were not well regarded by many and not deserving of compassion.
I suppose Sherman’s recounting his story is an attempt at repair. It is a story worth listening to and it is not new except Canadian Jews were never told the human cost attendant to the JNF greening of Israel.
A fascinating story of the rise of Zionism, the development of the JNF, the harsh treatment of the Palestinians, the lack of transparency of the JNF and the history of Israel. It also exposes the existence of an increasing amount of Israelis calling for rapprochement with Palestinians. As many of us know the Israeli and Palestinian problem can only deteriorate beyond repair unless both sides sit down and really listen to and understand each other. As matters stand sadly this does not look like it will happen.
The documentary proposes no solution of the Israeli-Palestinian divide but offers a glimpse of the psychiatry propelling both sides without being overly polemic. With hatred and extremism there will never be peace.
I was expecting a lighthearted story but in reality not so.
Written and directed by Jason Sherman.
There will be a limited theatrical release on July 29th and availability digitally as well.
You can watch the trailer here https://vimeo.com/713383521
RKS Film Rating 91/100.