Exodus (1960)

 

 

Director:    Otto Preminger.

Starring:    Paul Newman (Ari Ben Canaan), Eva Marie Saint (Kitty Fremont), Ralph Richardson (Gen. Sutherland), Peter Lawford (Maj. Caldwell), Lee J. Cobb (Barak Ben Canaan), Sal Mineo (Dov Landau), John Derek (Taha), Hugh Griffith (Mandria), Gregory Ratoff (Lakavitch), Felix Aylmer (Dr. Lieberman), David Opatoshu (Akiva Ben Canaan), Jill Haworth (Karen), Marius Goring (Von Storch), Alexandra Stewart (Jordana Ben Canaan), Michael Wager (David Ben Ami).

Based on the book by Leon Uris. It deals with the Jewish fight for a national homeland in Palestine with Paul Newman as a resistance leader.  Ernest God received an Oscar of the Best Score.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

The American Mrs. Kitty Fremont has recently lost her husband, a news photographer; killed in the violence of the Middle East.  The stress caused by his death probably aided in her loss of the baby they were expecting.  Kitty is touring different places and is currently visiting Cyprus, which is under the control of the British.  She has most recently completed a tour of duty as a nurse with the U.S. Public Health Service in Greece. 

Jews heading to Palestine, also controlled by the British,  are caught or detained by the British and sent to Cyprus.  There is a large detention camp for them at Karaolos. The young and defiant Dov Landau arrives with his friend Karen on Cyprus.  He is extremely defiant and tries to escape from British custody, but fails.

Kitty's husband Tom was friends with the British commander on Cyprus, General Sutherland.  She meets with him and they discusses the current situation.  She also meets the General's right-hand man, Major Caldwell.  Kitty volunteers to work as a nurse for a few days at Karaolos. 

An Israeli  operative, Ari Ben Canaan, arrives.  He works with the organization called the Haganah to bring as many Jews to the future Israel as possible.  Recently 611 people on the ship, the Star of David, arrived.  Ari wants to take these people aboard a ship directly to Palestine without British interference.  The United Nations will soon vote on the Palestine question and his organization wants to make a positive statement in support of the drive for independence for the building Jewish state.

At Karaolos, Kitty meets the director of the camp, David Ben Ami, who is in love with Jordanna, sister of Ari.  She then meets 14 year old Karen, who lost her mother and two brothers at Dachau.  She wants to go to Palestine to find her father.  Kitty takes an almost instant liking to the pretty, blonde Karen, and considers adopting her.  Karen enjoys the attentions of Kitty, but is still committed to go to Palestine. 

Ari manages secretly to take the 611 recent arrivals and place them onto a ship called the Olympia, which Ari renames the Exodus.   But as the Exodus starts to leave Cyprus, the British catch on to the ruse and block the harbor so that there is no escape for the ship.  Those aboard the ship decide to go on a hunger strike to place pressure on the British to release the ship.  Kitty gets herself involved in the negotiations between the British and Ari.  She is a bit disappointed to learn that Karen still wants to go to Palestine rather than to America with her. 

The British relent and the ship sails to Palestine.  General Sutherland asks to be relieved and he is.  Kitty decides to stay on the ship and go with Karen to Palestine.

Onboard the ship, Dov talks with Karen about his desire to join the organization known as the Irgun, which uses terrorism as its weapon.  He talks of killing as many Brits as possible.  In Palestine the British take him into custody.  In Palestine Karen is assigned to the village of Gan Dafna, named after Ari's deceased girlfriend, Dafna, who refused to give the Arabs any information on the village and was tortured and killed.   At the village they have a ceremony at which they introduce Barak Ben Canaan, father of Ari, who was greatly responsible for the establishment of the settlement.  At the celebration they also honor the Arab Taha who also helped with the establishment of the village.  Taha grew up with Ari. 

The British release Dov and he heads for Gan Dafna.  He follows up on his desire to join the Irgun and is grilled by members of that organization.  One of them is Akiva Ben Canaan, an uncle of Ari's.  Akiva is able to break through Dov's defenses and the young man anxious to kill Brits admits that he worked with the Nazis at Dachau and was used by them as a male sex slave.  Dov feels so guilty about what happened that he wants to fight for something greater than himself, the creation of a Jewish nation.  Dov is accepted by the organization. 

Ari wants to arrange a meeting with Akiva, who is in hiding.  He wants Hagana and Irgun to cooperate and coordinate their efforts for the upcoming United Nations vote.  While doing this, he meets Kitty again and starts to take a real liking to her.  He agrees to accompany Kitty to Gan Dafna to see Karen. Ari's dinner is disturbed by a telephone call that sets up the arrangement for Ari to meet with his Uncle Akiva.  They have a political discussion over the merits of terrorism compared to population building.  Ari believes that the bombings and killings hurt the Jewish cause with the United Nations: "A year ago we had the respect of the whole world.  Now when they read about us it's nothing but terror, violence, and death."  Akiv answers that terror, violence and death are often the midwife of free nations. 

Ari takes Kitty to meet his family.  They like Kitty.  Jordanna asks her brother to use his influence with Haganah to bring her boyfriend David back from Cyprus.  We also learn that Barak is very alienated from his brother Akiva over the use of terror.  After the dinner, Kitty and Ari kiss, but Kitty still feels that she is an outsider in Palestine and is not sure of the relationship with Ari. 

Karen finally gets to meet her father.  But the poor man is virtually catatonic. Later Kitty  breaks the relationship with Ari over her continued feelings of alienation. 

There is a big explosion at the King David Hotel.  Dov is deeply involved in the terrorist act.  The death toll rises to 91.  The British arrest Uncle Akiva and two others.  Dov escapes the dragnet. The three terrorists are sentenced to hang.   Barak meets face-to-face with his brother in prison, but does not say anything to him.  Ari plans an escape for his uncle, and others.  To work on the inside, Dov gives himself up and is imprisoned.  David Ben Ami, returned from Cyprus, is there to help.  The plan works, but in the chase Akiva is mortally wounded and Ari is badly wounded.  Kitty nurses Ari after the removal of the bullet.  In nursing Ari, Kitty realizes how deep her feelings for him are and she wants to stay with him in Palestine. 

May 15, 1948.  The United Nations agrees to the separation.  Barak tells a large crowd that in five and a half days, the Brits will leave Palestine forever.   In hindsight, Ari seems very naive saying that Arab and Jew will work together as equals: "We have to prove to the world that we can get along together."  The Grand Mufti has decided that the Arabs will fight and he wants a quick victory in Gan Dafna.  Taha warns Ari about the situation, but he says he must stay with his people.

Gan Dafna has only eight weapons and its people are virtually defenseless. Dov arrives to help.  They ask for reinforcements.  Ari is able to lead the children out of the village to safety. Sixty Palmachniks arrive complete with weapons.  Dov goes on guard duty where he is joined by Karen who tells him she loves him.  He returns the love, but tells her she must go back to the village.  On her way back she is captured and killed by the Arabs.  After delivering the children to safety, Ari returns to the village to lead an attack on the Arabs.  On the offensive, they find Taha hanged by the Arabs for telling Ari about their planned attack.

They bury Karen and Taha side-by-side.  Over the grave, Ari says "The day will come when the Arab and Jew share in a peaceful life.

And almost 60 years years later, this goal has still not been achieved.  In fact, the situation has worsened with the United States involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Good movie.  Seen in hindsight, the optimism of the movie seems terribly naive.  The movie reminded me of the fact that in the struggle for Palestine, terrorism was used.  And the movie basically sanctions that by portraying the cooperation of Ari with Dov, the vicious terrorist responsible for the death of 91 people.  But it's all politics, isn't it.  One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.  If you are pro-Jewish, you will be favorable to the movie.  If you are pro-Arab you are not going to like it.  If you are more neutral, you will find the terrorism angle interesting and the movie worth watching, despite its naiveté.  Paul Newman as Ari was a little hard to swallow, but the point is that Jews do not all look alike.  (But when I see television pictures of the Israeli army, there are not too many Nordic types among them.  Nothing wrong with that; just mentioning it.  You have to be very nuanced when dealing with such hot political topics.) 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background for Modern Israel:

Zionism--the movement to establish a nation for Jewish peoples based on their right to Palestine given to them via God's promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

after 1903  -- the development of the Labor Zionism movement in Palestine.  It was created by David Ben-Gurion.  They helped absorb new Jewish immigrants.

1915-1916  --  in correspondence with Husein ibn Ali of Mecca, the British promise the Arabs a national status independent of the Ottoman Empire following WWI. 

1917  -- the British, needing the help of the Jews, in the Balfour Declaration promised them a Jewish “national home” in Palestine.

1917-1918  --  aided by the Arabs, the British capture Palestine from the Ottoman Empire.

1920-1948  --  the period of the British Mandate.

1922  --  the British deny Zionist claims to all of Palestine, but continue support for a Jewish national home.

1935 --  escaping Hitler, nearly 62,000 Jews enter Palestine.

1936-1939  --  fearing Jewish domination, the Arabs revolt. Britain again restricts Jewish immigration.

World War II  -- the Holocaust makes the need for a Jewish state an urgent one.

1944-47 --  Jewish-British War. Jewish Palestinian groups under men like David Ben Gurion try to push the British out of the area. (Ben Gurion's forces later became the Israeli army.) Two separate military groups (one led by future Israeli leader Menachem Begin) use assassination and bombings that kill many British soldiers and Arabs.

1947 April  --  Britain turns the Arab-Jewish problem over to the United Nations.

1947 November  --  the United Nations develops a plan, rejected by the Arabs, to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.

1948 May 14  --  in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaims the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. Ben-Gurion's Labor Zionism guides Israel through the next thirty years.

1948-49  --  Arab-Israeli War.  Five Arab nations (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq) attack Israel.  Israel prevails. 

1956 -- in the Suez War (Britain, France, and Israel against Egypt) Israel seizes Egypt's Sinai peninsula, but has to give it back under pressure from the US and USSR.

1967 June -- the Six Day War gives Israel control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem..  This encourages the growth of new Israeli national movements, led by Gush Emunim and Rabbi Moshe Levinger, that support Jewish settlement in all of Israel.

1969-1974  --  Golda Meir of the Labor Party is Prime Minister of Israel.

1973 October  --  the Ramadan or Yom Kippur War.  The war went badly at first for Israel with the Israelis being pushed back in the Sinai peninsula and on the Golan Heights. but they prevailed.  Beginning of Israeli disenchantment with the then dominant Labor Party.  Arab oil states start a boycott creating big economic problems for the world.

1977 May  --  Menachem Begin's Likud Bloc unseats the Labor Party.

1977 November  --  President Anwar Sadat of Egypt travels to Jerusalem.  Later Begin and Sadat sign the Camp David Accords (that proposes eventual Palestinian autonomy).  The Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel ends hostilities between the two nations.

late 1970s and early 80s  --  increasing violence in the occupied territories.

1981  --  Likud electoral victory allows Begin and his new minister of defense, Ariel Sharon, the chance to take a harder stance toward the Arabs in the territories.

1982 June 6  --  Israeli troops move into Lebanon and Begin sets out to destroy the major base of operations of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  The war was not widely supported in Israel.  Massacre of unarmed Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps (the blame partly going to future Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon). The US participates in a peace-keeping force but leaves in 1984 after an explosion kills 24l Marines.

1987 --  The Palestinian Intifada (uprising) begins in the Occupied Territories.

1988 --  the PLO recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism.  Yitzhak Shamir elected prime minister.

1991 -- in the Gulf War the Allies kick Iraqi dictator Sadam Hussein and his forces out of Kuwait.

1992 --  Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party becomes prime minister of Israel.

1993 September 13 --  PLO leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the United States sign a peace accord, calling for limited Palestinian self-rule in Israeli-occupied territories beginning in 1994.

1995 September  --  the PLO and Israel sign another peace accord; this one expanded limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank.

2001 September 11  --  Arab terrorists destroy the Twin Towers in New York City, killing about 3,000 people.  The US is soon at war with Afghanistan and Iraq. 

2006  --  Israel bombing raids and shellings do a great deal of damage to Lebanon.  Israeli troops have an excursion into Lebanon to destroy the many tunnels used the Hezbollah.   

Shttp://www.bigchalk.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/ WOPortal.woa/Homework/

High_School/History/Jewish_History/History_by_Chronology/Modern_Jewish_History_17102.html

Prime Ministers of Israel:

David Ben-Gurion (1948-1953)
Moshe Sharett (1954-1955)
David Ben-Gurion (1955-1963)
Levi Eshkol (1963-1969)
Golda Meir (1969-1974)
Yitzhak Rabin (1974-1977 )
Menachem Begin (1977-1983)
Yitzhak Shamir (1983-1984)
Shimon Peres (1984-1986)
Yitzhak Shamir (1986-1992)
Yitzhak Rabin (1992-1995)
Simon Peres (1995-1996)
Benjamin Netanyahu (1996-1999)
Ariel Sharon (1999-2005)

 

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