9 Movies to Watch for Tish B’Av

Before the Jewish community reaches the High Holy Days, Tish B’Av is marked as a solemn occasion to remember the destruction that has befallen the Jewish community across the generations. 

While the Fast Day may not scream movie night, there are movies that provide the opportunity to reflect on our past and how we can shape our future. Often occurring in the heat of the summer, the pain and discomfort are a reminder of the somberness of the Day.

Some Background:

Tish B’Av occurs on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. Historically, it commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in 586 B.C.E, and 70 C.E respectively. The day is marked by the reading of the Book of Lamentations.

Tish B’Av occurs on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. Historically, it commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in 586 B.C.E, and 70 C.E respectively. The day is marked by the reading of the Book of Lamentations. As this is a time of mourning, Tish B’Av is typically marked by fasting from food, social media, or any other excesses. It’s also tradition to refrain from bathing, wearing any leather-based attire, and having sexual relations.

There is a discussion to be had in modern times regarding the point of mourning a City when today, Jerusalem is a thriving centre of Jewish life. However, many Jews today focus on the historical tragedies that have been inflicted on the Jewish people, and less on the Temple specifically.

At it’s core, Tish B’Av serves as a visceral reality check for all of us. What destruction in the modern-day must we reckon with, and make an effort to repair? Collectively and individually, what can we do to confront the broken world we still inhabit?

With all of this in mind, here are 9 movies you can watch for Tish B’Av.

A Tale of Love and Darkness (2015):
Photo Credit: United King Films

Padme Amidala and Jane Foster fans who need more Natalie Portman in their lives can check out this 2015 adaptation of Amos Oz’s memoir of the same name. This movie is appropriate for Tish B’Av since it chronicles the deep pain and fearless hope that marked the founding of the State of Israel.

The mirroring of Oz’s mother’s mental health struggles with the birth of the State of Israel is an effective parallel to remind audiences of the very real pain that preceded the founding of the Jewish State. To anyone who idealizes the State of Israel in any way, A Tale of Love and Darkness is a powerful reminder of some of the costs that went into making this dream a reality.

To Life (2014):
Photo Credit: Elzévir Films

To Life chronicles the story of three women who survived Auschwitz who reconnect 15 years after the War on a beach in France. The premise is simple enough. The emotional depth, however, is both painful and enthralling. 

To Life is ultimately a reflection of the fact that Tish B’Av makes space for us to grieve collectively if we want any hope of building a better future. This movie is a reminder that grief can’t skip steps. If there is any hope of moving forward with one’s life, the trauma and impact of the past must be fully acknowledged.

La Rafle (2010):
Photo Credit: Wide Pictures

Since Tish B’Av is a time of solemn reflection on the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people across the generations, it’s only appropriate to turn our minds to one of the most recent of these, the Holocaust. There is no better time to remind ourselves of the horrors of the Holocaust, and the importance of making the refrain ‘Never Again’ a reality.

La Rafle is a story of the horror of the Vel D’Hiv round-up of 1942. The fact that the story is told through the eyes of children only adds to the visceral disgust and urgency to prevent such catastrophe for future generations. The performances throughout this movie really drive home the reality, though it is a fictional take on a true story. The ending is nothing less than devastating, and will absolutely put anyone in the mood for Tish B’Av.

Children of the Sun (2007):
Photo Credit: Fortissimo Films

Another deep dive into the formation of the State of Israel, Children of the Sun chronicles the first generation of kibbutz-born children. The children featured here were part of a social experiment, being separated from their parents and raised according to the principles of communal child-rearing and collective education.

Children of the Sun holds the truths together, that are characteristic of Tish B’Av. that The movie showcases the bitterness and gratitude of the people chronicled throughout. It’s a unique look at the forming of the modern State of Israel. The ultimate benefit of this way of living is left up to the viewer for interpretation. 

Strange Fruit (2001):
Photo Credit: Toronto Jewish Film Festival

Strange Fruit is another documentary, this one chronicling the story of Abel Meeropol, the Jewish school teacher who penned the lyrics to the iconic song made famous by Billie Holiday. The song itself is a necessary opportunity to reflect on the brokenness made manifest in our society, and the legacy of slavery in North America and around the world. 

The documentary, while spotlighting the songwriter himself, is also a reflection on the song’s legacy. This work of art woke the world up to the horrors still being experienced by the Black community in the United States specifically. The song, being a mournful look at the destruction and horror of lynching, is sobering. One can’t help listening to the words without being compelled into action. 

Shoah (1985):
Photo Credit: New Yorker Films

If there’s ever a time to watch ‘s epic, Shoah, it’s Tish B’Av. Again, this is a period of mourning and reflection. It is only natural that our minds should turn to the destruction of the Holocaust, and the impact it continues to have on Jews around the world today. Shoah introduced an entirely new generation to the horrors of the Holocaust, when collective memory was already failing.

As we enter generations where first-hand accounts of the Holocaust will no longer be accessible, it is more important than ever to meditate on this destruction, what caused it, and how to never allow it to occur again. If nothing else, watching Shoah in its entirety is one way to advance 10 hours of your fast.

Operation Thunderbolt (1977):
Photo Credit: EMI Films

Operation Thunderbolt details the Israeli Defense Force’s operation of the same name. Following a plane hijacking, the IDF was called into action to rescue Jewish hostages when the plane was being held in Uganda, with the permission of then-dictator Idi Amin. The film’s signature song ‘Eretz Tzvi’ has become a legend all of its own. 

Operation Thunderbolt is another sobering reminder of the pain that has continued to be a part of the hope that is the State of Israel. While this fictionalized account is often romanticized, the point remains that threats against Israel have always been a part of its very existence. Whenever this story is re-told, it’s clear that the loss of Yonatan Netanyahu, brother to former Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, represents the loss of an entire Universe.

The Fixer (1968):
Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

John Frankenheimer compiles a story about Jewish identity in The Fixer that’s very appropriate for Tish B’Av. This movie also reflects on the antisemitism that pervaded so much of Europe into the Twentieth Century. Specifically, this movie examines the phenomenon of blood libel and a man who was falsely accused of murdering a young Ukrainian boy. This conspiracy theory alone has been responsible for so much death and destruction throughout history. The movie is based on the real trial of Menahem Mendel Beilis, novelized by Bernard Malamud.

What The Fixer really drives home is the fact that the Jewish community shares in joy and sorrow as one. It doesn’t matter if we’re secular or religious, born Jewish or converts; we are all Jewish. While this truth comes with a massive sense of community that brings great comfort, it also comes with a warning that our fate is tied together. Though this story is set in the past, it’s a sobering reminder of what the consequences of antisemitism have always been. 

Children of Hiroshima (1952):
Children of Hiroshima

Tish B’Av often falls on or near the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Children of Hiroshima is a sobering distillation of the impacts of these atrocities on the Japanese people. In particular, the movie spotlights the impact of the atomic bombings on Japanese children. It was a sobering reminder for viewers at the time of the cost of victory in World War 2.

In many ways, this movie represents the beginning of a reckoning within popular culture of the real-life destruction of nuclear weapons. It elevates the discussion above the myriad of hypotheticals posed during the Cold War and beyond, and instead recognized the human impact that these weapons have already had in destroying our world. An important point to consider during Tish B’Av, to be sure. 

Tish B’Av is a sobering opportunity to stop and grieve. In a culture that so often discourages the expression of loss, the day becomes more and more significant. Tish B’Av isn’t solely about getting lost in one’s grief, however. It’s a powerful reminder that we can acknowledge the past while firmly working toward a better future. Tish B’Av is ultimately a reminder that the best is always yet to come. 

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