Close to Home

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“Close to Home” is a film about two Israeli female soldiers and their time in the military service. This  movie is interesting if you have prior knowledge about Israel and its situation. If not the film is boring because it focuses on the security process in the country and how people are responding to it. Overall, it is a good movie to learn about Israeli security tightness, people’s responses to the security and  the role of women in the armed forces.

It will be boring if you don’t know the history of Israel and its location. Israel is surrounded by Arab countries and had found wars with them since its founding in 1948.  The country is in need of every available man and woman to be ready for any hostile situation. There is a conscription law for every man and woman to serve in the armed forces for three years. This law exempts religious people and Arab women.

The main characters Mirit – “dutiful” and Smadar “rebellious” are serving in the military security and patrolling unit. They have to check the ID of every Arab-looking man and write down their information to prevent terrorist attack in Jerusalem. That action serves as the deterrent for any suspicious person and activities. However, racial profiling is annoying for any Arab-looking men and disturbing for the normal people as the film portrayed. It is the discrimination against Arab. Additionally, I find it perplexing that some Israelis who I know would brag about how peaceful and safe their country is when discrimination is prevalent. Peace will not last long in Israel as long as Palestinians or Arab-looking are discriminated and treated unfairly under Israeli authority.

As the movie began with a soldier checking every item of Arab women and unwrapping gifts, it showed the frustration of the female soldiers and Arab women at the “camp” or security checkpoint.  I would be really upset if that were done to me. Perhaps, I would not wrap the gift with anything. A woman named, Dona – a famle solider, her needs to see a psychologist by letting every Arab woman pass through without checking them. This scene showed that checkpoints frustrate not only those being checked but also those who are performing the check.

At one scene, a man wearing a brown jacket missed a bus and going to be late for work when he refused or delayed to show his ID. There was also a scene at which Mirit asked one Arab man, who is carrying a vegetable box standing next to her in order avoid the rain, to show his ID. That scene makes me feel like one need to carry their ID all the time.

You can also see the frustration of a woman with the child who had not eaten anything but had to throw away the food because her kid had carried the food into the body screening room. It seems like that woman could not read the sign, which stated “do not enter with food” in three languages – English, Arabic and Hebrew. Or perhaps, that was the first time for her to go through the security checkpoint with her kid. I think, that scene implied that the Arab woman did not know how to read or/and strict procedure for the security or the scene just simply conveyed Smadar’s meanness.

I am not sure whether Jewish culture and society is male dominant or not whereas the Arabs culture and society is male dominant. In Arab culture men tend to think women are subordinate although men may love the women so much that they want the women to stay at home. In the movie, (the two Israeli soldiers) Mirit and Smadar only checked the IDs of the Arab looking men as they left home for work. I assume no Arab women go to work or they have been checked at the checkpoint. The last scene portrayed a clash when a man disrespected two female soldiers by refusing to show his ID.

You can also see the similar disrespect at one scene on the bus, a man (Israeli, perhaps) faked his bag as the bomb and frightened Mirit and Smadar. The scene made me think how paranoid Israelis are about the bomb threat and security. I ponder why? Did he do it because they are women? What if they are men? What can a soldier do to a man who gave false alarm?

If the security is the real concern, why aren’t Israelis and Arabs (especially Palestinians)  making peace? According to “Splendid Isolation” by Karl Vick in Time magazine, “Surveys have shown that fewer than one in 10 Israelis regard the conflict over territory with the Palestinians as the “most urgent” concern. Israelis built the fences that surround West Bank and Gaza to keep Palestinians “largely out of sight and increasingly out of mind”. Due to the fences and tight security checkpoint, Israel has not seen any suicide bombing in their soil according to the “Splendid Isolation”. It seems like the strategy of deterrence is working against terrorist attack.

However, in the movie, there was a bomb explosion and Mirit was around there. Except for that scene, one cannot know what they are defending  or what is “the looming shadow of terror” as it was advertised on the DVD’s cover.

Another aspect of the movie is about their love life and how they interact with men. It seems strange to me that Mirit, a shy girl, who doesn’t even dare to ask the name of a guy whom she liked, accepted the invitation to dance from a stranger (or perhaps, a foreigner who speaks English). Maybe that was because of the peer pressure from Smadar. I don’t know for sure what caused her to abandon her duty and dance with him.

For “rebellious” Smadar, it seems that she is just having fun with her life. She told her boyfriend that “we didn’t plan our life”.  She made her boyfriend steal things from the grocery store for fun. She went and called that “stud” guy, whom Mirit liked, to meet Mirit when she was in jail. She would sneak out of her duty and sometimes, get a haircut for free. It seems that Israeli soldiers are respectable and shopkeepers would offer free food, hot tea, and free services, or sometimes, help to inform about Dubik, their supervisor. When I first watched this movie, I thought Smadar is an Arab woman. However, in deeper thought, I realized that she cannot be an Arab woman as she is serving in the army and without veil.

It seems like Jewish culture is family-oriented like the Arab and Asian cultures in which you stay with your family until you are married as I have watched Mirit stay with her family. However, it is different for Smadar since she lives separately from her family and moreover, she had premarital sex with her boyfriend. I am not sure that practice would be abhorred by traditionalists in Jewish culture. But, in the western world it is accepted more freely except for the religious people. However, in the Muslim world, it is still a norm – not to have premarital sex.

Another thing that I realized from the movie is the population of men. Due to several wars, men population might be reduced and lower than the women. Is that why Julia, a female soldier from their unit,  is leaving to marry someone from Russia? Since I cannot tell the difference between Arab and Jewish man, is Dubik and Smadar dating an Arab man? Is that why Smadar said “I don’t know what an Arab looks like”? Those are unresolved questions that still loom over my head after watching the movie.

The movie ended when they – Mirit and Smadar – left a guy ,who refused to show his ID and was probably beaten by a group of people. I don’t know when the directors are going to end the movie if they don’t end there. If their intention is to show the role of the women as the soldiers, security tightness such as passing everything in the X-Ray machine and how people are responding to it especially Arab men and women, the movie has done the job well.

for those who would like to read New York Times review.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/02/16/movies/16clos.html

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