SALEM – A new documentary, “Upheaval: The Journey of Menachem Begin,” which premieres June 7, provides an unvarnished look at the life of Israel’s sixth prime minister, documenting his early struggles as a young Zionist in Poland to his controversial invasion of Lebanon decades later.
The late Robert I. Lappin, founder of the Lappin Foundation in Salem, is listed as an executive producer.
On June 10 at 8 p.m., OpenDor Media, the Lappin Foundation, and the Skolnick Family Charitable Trust will hold an exclusive virtual screening. (Go to upheavalfilm.com for information.)
A panel discussion will feature Noam Weissman, senior vice president and head of content for OpenDor Media; Erica Brown, director of the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership; Yair Rosenberg, an American journalist and senior writer at Tablet Magazine; and Andrew Lappin, son of the late Bob Lappin. Andrew Lappin serves as trustee of the foundation named in memory of his father, a well-known businessman, former owner of Shetland Park in Salem, and Jewish philanthropist.
The first English language feature documentary on Begin’s life could serve as a primer on the most recent conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians.
One need only look to the segment in the film that explains the “Begin Doctrine” to see why Israel responds so forcefully to existential threats today.
“There won’t be another Holocaust in the history of the Jewish people. Never again, Never again!” says Begin, peering through his distinctive oversized glasses.
Begin was a native of Brest, Belarus, a survivor of a Soviet gulag, a Holocaust survivor whose father was machine-gunned by the Germans with 500 other Jews, an ardent Zionist and Irgun leader who fought the British but refused to fight other Jews in a civil war. He spent decades taking on his political rivals in Israel until he finally came came to power in 1977.
For the sake of peace, he agreed to return the Sinai to Egypt, and led peace talks that resulted in a treaty with Egypt in 1978. He won the Nobel Peace Prize with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated in 1981.
“Begin deeply believed that the Jewish people faced existential threats, that the threats to Israel’s existence were real, and that as the prime minister of Israel he would reserve the right to defend Israel at extreme cost against those existential threats,” said Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, explaining the “Begin Doctrine” in the film.
When the film’s producers were asked in an email what lessons can audiences draw from the film after the latest Israeli-Arab conflict, the film’s “visionary,” Executive Producer Rob Schwartz, responded: “Begin made an ironclad commitment to protect the honor and physical safety of all Jews, but in particular Israel. He witnessed the destruction of European Jewry and his entire family. While Hamas continues to use money to build tunnels and buy missiles to kill Jews, Israel has no choice but to follow the Begin Doctrine, which is to strike as a preventative, counter-proliferation policy when their enemies possess and are prepared to use weapons of mass destruction. Jewish blood will not come cheap.”
Jonathan Gruber said in his director’s statement: “My vision as director was to bring a new dimension to the telling of his journey. To do so, we used a blend of emotionally gripping archival footage, animation, dynamic interviews, and cinematic footage that chronicles Begin’s life, while also bringing to fore the diverse beauty of Israel and its people.”
At the end of the film, the name of “Robert Israel Lappin z”l” flashes on the screen as an executive producer.
Andrew Lappin, 67, who lives in the north Chicago suburb of Glencoe, said his father, who died last year at age 98, was not directly involved in the film’s production.
“It was produced by myself and [Lappin Foundation Executive Director] Debbie Coltin in his honor and memory,” he said in an email. “Our motivation was to tell the story based on the tumultuous straits that we as a people and Israel as the Jewish State find ourselves today.”
“Like Menachem Begin himself,” Coltin said in an email, “Bob Lappin’s dedication to Israel and to the Jewish People was boundless, especially when survival of both were at stake. Jewish people of all ages, especially young people, should know Menachem Begin the man and the leader. The documentary was a worthy project to support for the sake of educating people about a great Israeli leader, who was an influential world leader as well. Begin was a leader of deep conviction and passion, as was Bob Lappin. It is an honor to dedicate this film to Bob Lappin’s blessed memory and holy work.”
“Menachem Begin was a leader with a Jewish soul,” Andrew Lappin said, “who against all odds prevailed against the combined forces of Arab intransigence and hatred, British scheming and cruelty, and Jewish perfidy. Despite these forces arrayed against him and those desperately seeking to bring the Jewish State into creation, he prevailed after a fight which due to a shortage of vital material(s) was always hanging in the balance. Most importantly he did his job with a love for the Jewish people in his heart, vowing despite substantial breaches of trust by the Ben-Gurion government never to split the Jewish people with civil strife.”