Israeli Ministry to Film 1.5 Million-shekel Oral History of ‘Legends of Settlement’

Government initiative to entail interviews with hundreds of people involved in establishing and developing West Bank settlements ■ 'This is another step toward sovereignty'

File photo: Rabbi Moshe Levinger (L), Gush Emunim leader Hanan Porat (R) and fellow activists celebrate the government's agreement which allows all settlers to relocate to a military camp near the Arab village of Sebastia and additional locations in the Samaria region.
MOSHE MILNER / Government Press Office

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel plans to allocate 1.5 million shekels ($413,000) from her ministry’s budget to a project that will collect video testimonies from veteran West Bank settlement activists and make them available to the public. As part of the initiative, which will be announced Monday evening, interviews will be conducted with hundreds of people who were involved in establishing and developing the settlements.

“The project will document the ‘legends’ of settlement, people like Daniela Weiss, Ze’ev Hever, Benny Katzover, Miriam Levinger and Israel Harel,” an associate of Gamliel’s explained. “Testimonies will also be taken from people who have never before spoken publicly and were part of the founding nucleus of communities like Kedumim and Karnei Shomron.”

The ministry estimates that during the project’s first year some 100 interviews will be conducted, in which the subjects will review their personal history and tell about how they founded the settlements and the challenges they face. The videos will be edited and uploaded to a dedicated website and to a cell phone app.

Gamliel at a settlement jubilee celebration, last year.
David Bachar

At the same time, the project’s steering committee, which includes representatives from the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria and the Begin Heritage Center, is expected to choose a number of topics to be the subject of 15-minute films on the “heritage of settlement.” The initiative will be accompanied by a team of academics who will research the history of the settlements and present information that will augment the testimonies collected.

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“As someone who has accompanied the settlements for years, I see importance in recognizing the great contribution made by the old timers and founders of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria,” Gamliel said. She added: “This national-pioneering enterprise hasn’t been documented and told until now, and the time has come to correct this. This is the purpose of the testimonies project – to give expression to the significant role of the veterans of settlement in Judea and Samaria in fashioning the moral and Zionist image of the State of Israel.”

Sources in the Social Equality Ministry said they were inspired by the ambitious project funded by American director Steven Spielberg that collected video testimonies of Holocaust survivors describing their lives. “This is another step toward sovereignty,” said a source close to Gamliel. “This isn’t a project initiated by a nonprofit or an organization, but by the state itself.”

In response to the Haaretz report, MK Leah Fadida (Zionist Union) attacked Gamliel for funding a project documenting settlements using taxpayer funding. "What is the connection between the original goal of the project, which was meant to document various Jewish communities, and a promotional video for settlements?" she said.

The poster.