Raised to be Heroes
Through the example of Israeli Refuseniks we learn what happens when soldiers act out of conscience.
Directed by Jack Silberman
Produced by Tracey Friesen
Written by Jack Silberman
Edited by Rafi Spivak
Cinematography by Rudolf Kovanic
Executive Produced by Rina Fraticelli
Narrated by Babz Chula
A National Film Board of Canada Production
They will fight for their country, they will die for their country, but not in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And although they act on conscience, they pay a steep personal price. Featuring haunting accounts from the front lines, Raised to Be Heroes introduces the latest generation of Israeli soldiers to selectively object to military operations undertaken by their country.
"A superb addition to courses concerned with Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict, ethics, or state-society relations." Daniel Lieberfeld, PhD, Center for Social and Public Policy, Duquesne University
After years of executing missions against the Palestinians, often involving violence and oppression, some soldiers now believe their country's actions are inhumane. They're confronted with an excruciating dilemma: do they obey orders and continue a cycle of aggression and revenge? Or do they refuse to serve, risking vehement backlash and condemnation from family, friends and society? Through a series of raw and emotional testimonies, a group of Refuseniks lay bare the moment that they finally, and courageously, drew the line.
Their gripping stories are intertwined with that of Matan Kaminer, one of five high school seniors that together refused to enlist in the army because they believe Israel's actions in the Territories are wrong. Awaiting trial, Kaminer reflects on his controversial decision and the consequences he faces.
There are more than 1,600 Refuseniks in Israel and this number is growing. Many Israelis condemn them for failing their nation; however, they stand by their conscience in the hopes of ending the occupation. "The time I spent in jail was the most important time I served for my country; for my friends in my unit, for my family, for the security of Israel," says Major Chen Alon. Capturing a moment in the ever-changing political landscape of the region, Raised to Be Heroes uses the unforgettable experiences of Refuseniks to inspire an essential dialogue about peace, democracy and personal responsibility.
Produced by the filmmaker of Bombies.
Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2007
Copyright Date: 2006
DVD ISBN: 0-7722-1216-3
VHS ISBN: 0-7722-1252-X
"Convincingly challenges conventional portrayals of Palestinians as unprovoked antagonists and Israelis as victims...Provide[s] insights into discussions and debates on the occupation that are more open in Israel than they typically dare to be in the United States. Divided opinions and the fact that a peace movement even exists in Israel--much less that reserve soldiers are in its vanguard--will come as a surprise to many U.S. viewers. As a powerful exercise in critical thinking, the film force[s] viewers to go beyond black-and-white representations of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and into realms where principle meets practice. The film provide[s] opportunities to explore the meaning and exercise of such important social concepts of conscience, racism, human rights, victimhood, myth-making, national defense, justice and patriotism."
University of Helsinki, Review of Middle East Studies
"This documentary is a powerful, gripping examination of citizen-state obligations in a democracy. The eloquent testimony of Israeli refuseniks makes the moral and political dilemmas involved in Israel's control of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza real for viewers. It honors the complexity of the issues--notably citizens' obligations to serve in the military when elected officials so decide, along with the government's obligation to use the military in ways that actually serve the security of the state and comply with international law. Raised To Be Heroes is a superb addition to courses concerned with Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict, ethics, or state-society relations."
Daniel Lieberfeld, PhD, Center for Social and Public Policy, Duquesne University
"A powerful film, told from an Israeli point of view and filled with sympathy for the soldiers refusing to serve in the occupied territories as well as for the problems Israeli society at large faces in the continued conflict. A perfect introduction for college audiences, especially Hillels and other Jewish groups into a much-needed debate over the realities of Israel's actions in the Territories today."
Mark LeVine, Professor, Dept. of History, University of California-Irvine, Author, Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, An Impossible Peace: Oslo and the Burdens of History, and Reapproaching Borders: New perspectives on the Study of Israel-Palestine
"The refuseniks highlighted in the film are all articulate, rational, and passionate, and present their cases well...the VO narration going from 1948 to the 1990s is a fair overview of the situation that bends over backwards to be evenhanded, although the starting position is pro-Zionist (that the creation of Israel was fine, although tragedy for the Palestinians followed). The filmmakers are careful to make sure that they are only condemning the occupation policy and not Israel's other historical and military policies...This cautious narration is good, because it keeps the focus on the refusenik issue."
Michelle Mart, Associate Professor of History, Penn State, Berks-Lehigh
"Informative, vivid and moving, this film challenges us to put aside stereotypes and think more deeply about human dignity -- and justice. Raised to be Heroes probes difficult truths that illuminate the continuing Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Where standard U.S. news accounts give short shrift and evade, the film lingers and confronts. The result is a troubling documentary that manages to be intimately personal and incisively political. Along the way, it transcends any culture or conflict to address fundamental matters of conformity, complicity and conscience."
Norman Solomon, Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy, Author, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning us to Death and Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State
"Raised to be Heroes is a film that will no doubt generate a great deal of controversy. No clear answers are given, but it is an excellent look at what happens when people act out of conscience. The main voices in the film are all experienced soldiers. Their names, rank and company are all identified...The refuseniks all feel that their refusal makes them human. How important is humanity? That could be a good discussion starting point in any senior level class. Highly Recommended. "
Frank Loreto, St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, CM Magazine
"Israel's prolonged occupation of the West Bank, and previously Gaza, has resulted in suffering and countless human rights abuses of Palestinians. It is no wonder that perhaps hundreds of soldiers, including officers, have become outspoken dissidents. Many have refused to continue serving in the Palestinian territories. Typically they are incarcerated for challenging the authority of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In this presentation they speak out, telling of some of the worst abuses. Surprisingly perhaps, two sides of the issue are clearly presented in this documentary. Thus this serves as a stimulating and useful introduction to Israel's ongoing security dilemma and the moral questions that soldiers confront."
Paul Conway, Professor of Political Science, SUNY College at Oneonta
Awards and Festivals
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film and Video Festival
Silver Audience Award, Amnesty International Film Festival, Vancouver
Hot Docs Film Festival
Society for Visual Anthropology, American Anthropological Association, Film Festival
Calgary International Film Festival
Vancouver International Film Festival
Cork Film Festival
International Film Festival (Norway)
Whistler Film Festival
Independent Film and Video Festival (Victoria, Canada)
Human Rights Film Festival
Middle Eastern Studies
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... more Reviews
"One can't help but be moved...An interesting facet of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that invites serious debate, Raised to be Heroes is recommended."
"A sober and serious piece of work."
"A powerful accounting."
The Midwest Book Review
"A balanced view of the refusenik's dilemma."