Theater of Cruelty

Crazy in the streets of Jerusalem

Our Boys
Regissør: Joseph Cedar

THE BOYS / Israeli docu-drama takes care of the traumatic wave of violence and revenge that led to open war in the summer of 2014.


A heavily battered corpse is found in a wooded area on the outskirts of West Jerusalem. Identification is difficult because the person has been burnt alive, but it turns out to be Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a young Palestinian from Shuafat, a residential neighborhood in the eastern part of the city.

"Jews do not burn children, I know Israeli racism, but Jews do not do that," says the officer in charge of the investigation. Early that morning, the boy was abducted from a human street outside his home, and in the given situation it is natural to suspect radical Jewish settlers to stand behind, but the cop's initial reaction smells far away from denial. Or maybe it's just deep and real disbelief. The question is open.

The gruesome killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir was part of a chain of events that shook Palestine and Israel in the summer of 2014. Ultimately, it led to the widespread military invasion of the Gaza Strip, where more than 2000 Palestinians lost their lives in July and August. year. Now, Israeli director Joseph Cedar has created a miniseries that over ten episodes dramatizes the tragic development. Using volumes of original footage of the real-life events, it provides a unique and disturbing insight into the psychological processes that once again led to a violent upturn in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Out of control

Cedar has chosen to use the abduction of three young Israelis as a starting point in his narrative. One dark night, they hitchhiked outside a settlement on the West Bank in the hills surrounding the city of Hebron. They were picked up by Palestinians affiliated with Hamas. Not unexpectedly, this led to a massive search, and while it stands, we follow the popular reaction. The abducted teens were students at a yeshiva, a Jewish Bible Academy, and in this religious world it is a natural reaction to pray. The affair is gaining much visibility, and thousands of religious Jews are flocking to joint prayer for "our boys," the title of the miniseries.

This is presented as a dilemma. On the one hand, common prayer can be seen as a strong signal of solidarity with the boys' families, but on the other hand, it appears to be a dangerous phenomenon that can quickly bring the situation out of control. Which is exactly what's happening.

Our Boys Instructor Joseph Cedar

“What will happen if the prayers remain unanswered? What if the boys do not come home alive? ” asks Shimon of Shabak, the Israeli security service. His area of ​​work is to monitor Jewish extremism, and he has no doubt that there will be a reaction from this shadow world. He tries to calm the situation down by asking representatives of the affected families to refrain from calling for more common prayer, but on the other hand – the boys' families go through hell and if they dare to cling to the extreme human hopes, to see the boys come home alive, we accuse them of agitating the situation, Shimon is told by colleagues from the service.

As the bodies of the boys are found 18 days after they disappeared, hell breaks loose. People are going crazy in the streets of Jerusalem, shouting "Death over the Arabs!" concerned. That same night, Muhammad Abu Khdeir is abducted.

Abu Khdeir

Large sections of the Israeli population were left in shock, paired with deep anger – but for various reasons. The abduction and killing of the boys was a horrific act and the grief of the families is despair is deeply understandable. But were they innocent when they were related to the settlements and thus also stood as a concrete expression of the occupation?

It is probably difficult to talk about innocence in this regard. Yet many participated in the hatred and found that the ensuing war in the Gaza Strip was a natural consequence. But at the same time, the assassination of Muhammad Abu Khdeir exceeded all previous limits of violence, which in Cedar's view is a clear demonstration of the abysmal distance between the parties to the conflict. That kind of indescribable evil had not been seen before. But one of the suspects, Yochai Har Zahav from the radical settler youth, claims that revenge is a natural and human reaction. It is a central biblical theme, he believes. "The problem is that, in your opinion, Jews are unable to use violence against the enemy," he says when he is brought in for questioning.


This is creepy, but it's the apparent reality. In the episodes that have been shown so far, we get a clear sense of Shimon's moral considerations, but he is up against the whole system and not least political backbone. “To them death is holy, to us life is holy. For us, human compassion is sacred. That is the secret of our strength and the basis of our unity, "we hear Prime Minister Netanyahu say at the funeral of the boys.

Joseph Cedar illustrates this line of thinking by describing how the two cases are being handled by the Israeli authorities. As the three Jewish boys are abducted, there is no shadow of a doubt that this is an act of terror. But as the Palestinian teenager disappears from his home in Shuafat, police send a single patrol car to investigate and all possible motives are brought to the scene. The boy's despairing father is treated with utmost mistrust.

The current Israeli debate here in Israel about the miniseries reflects the same shared feelings. Yair Netanyahu, the Prime Minister's son, tweeted about his deep frustration with Joseph Cedar, who in this way exposes Jewish extremism, while others praise him for touching on such a sensitive issue. The miniseries, which will run on HBO Nordic sometime in October, is still a "developing story", but it is not too early to say that Cedar has said something extremely important, just as he has created a masterfully told story that at the same time is a necessary tool for understanding the tragic emotional dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The series is now on HBONordic. The criticism is based on those
first two episodes.

Hans Henrik Fafner
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Ny Tid. Residing in Tel Aviv.

You may also like