The Crises of Israeli Men – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

The Crises of Israeli Men

As Cedric Johnson, assistant professor of political science and director of the Fisher Center, pointed out, this year’s Fisher Center lectures have examined the theme of “engendering crisis” from a variety of standpoints.

Exploring, as Johnson said, “crisis as a turning point, the political uses of crisis and who gets to name and define the nature of crisis,” the lectures have taken on the economic crisis of Argentina, how democracy relates to present global crises, the social crises faced by African-American men and, in the most recent talk by Israeli film theorist and documentary filmmaker Dorit Naaman, the crises of Israeli men and traditional Israeli identity constructions.

In her lecture, “From Mr. Baum to Waltz with Bashir: New Masculinity in Contemporary Israeli Cinema,” Naaman, who teaches at Queen’s University, Canada, discussed the way the cinematography, soundtrack and content of several Israeli films represent the country’s notions of masculinity and political and moral responsibility.

Focusing on the films “Walk on Water” and “Waltz with Bashir,” which focus on military conflicts between Israel and neighboring countries, Naaman said that “these films challenge notions of Israeli masculinity.  They provide a new or revised view of masculinity.”

Naaman discussed various factors that she said bear upon the traditional Israeli male identity, including Zionism; military service; the exoticizing and feminizing of the Lebanese and Palestinians by the Israeli military; and the phenomenon of “shooting and crying” in which soldiers feel “forced” to fight and subsequently feel regret.

In her analysis of “Walk on Water,” which depicts a Mossad agent coming to terms with his violent past and his wife’s suicide, Naaman examined the way in which the protagonist conformed to the ideals of the “sabra,” an Israeli born Jewish man, stereotypically defined as the plant he is nicknamed-prickly on the outside, sweet on the inside.

“Living on a kibbutz, raising his son and growing melons-his past as an assassin is all but forgotten,” Naaman said, drawing attention to the lack of political and social critique suggested by the ending of the film and tying it back into the discussion of soldiers’ ethical reflections.

Naaman’s research focuses on Palestinian and Israeli cinemas and media, primarily from post-colonialist and feminist perspectives. She is currently working on a book on the visual representation of Palestinian and Israeli women fighters, “Angels, Monsters, and Heroes: The Visual Representation of Palestinian and Israeli Women Fighters” (Austin: University of Texas Press, forthcoming). Her documentary work is about identity politics and the politics of representation; her format of short videos is titled DiaDocuMEntaRY. Naaman is also an activist for a just solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

The Fisher Center lecture and film screenings are sponsored by the Media and Society Program, the International Relations Program and the Religious Studies Department.

Andrea Tone, the Canada Research Chair in the Social History of Medicine and professor of history at McGill University, will be the next Fisher Center speaker of the semester, giving a talk, titled “Elusive Elysium: Women, Men and Anxiety Over Time,” on Wednesday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m., in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.

Tone’s scholarship explores women and health, medical technology, sexuality, psychiatry, and industry, particularly the intersection between patient experience, cultural contexts, and technological and economic change in 19th and 20th-century America. She is the author of several books and edited volumes, including “Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America,” “Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs in History,” with Elizabeth Siegel Watkins. Her work has been featured on ABC News, PBS, National Public Radio, the CBC, the History Channel, and in the New York Times.

The Fisher Center was endowed with a $1 million gift from Emily and the late Richard Fisher, whose son Alexander graduated from Hobart College in 1993. Creation of the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men reflects a perfect intersection of the Colleges’ coordinate history and trends in the study of gender throughout academe.