“Each loves peace, but each loves freedom more.” This is how Yehuda Avner described the subjects of his 2010 book, “The Prime Ministers,” now a documentary film produced by Moriah Films, a division of The Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Premiering on May 7 at the AMC Lincoln Square theatre in New York, the film featured the voices of Sandra Bullock, Michael Douglas, and Leonard Nimoy. Subtitled “The Pioneers,” this is the first half of a two-part production and focused on the era of Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol (voiced by Nimoy) and Golda Meir (voiced by Bullock).
The film’s premiere appropriately ushered in the Israeli holiday of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), which commemorates the unification of the City of Jerusalem under Israeli control at the end of the Six-Day War, during Eshkol’s term in office.
“The Prime Ministers” provides an insider’s account of early Israeli politics and a behind the scenes view of many of the stories Zionists and Israelis grow up hearing. This documentary features interviews with Avner who had been secretary and speechwriter to five Israeli prime ministers and also served as Ambassador to Australia and the United Kingdom. Woven in with the interviews is historical footage and readings from personal and political correspondence.”
What makes this documentary stand apart is Avner’s own “fly on the wall” perspective – observing world leaders at work and collecting the materials they passed off as insignificant. One example is a note President Lyndon B. Johnson quickly wrote to Secretary of State Dean Rusk during a 1968 meeting in Texas. In the meeting Prime Minister Eshkol pleaded with the President to support Israel’s defense against the Russian backed Arab powers, primarily Egypt. The note, abandoned on the table as everyone left, merely said “Dean, go slow on this thing, L.” This simple statement between the President and his cabinet member gives us greater insight into the American government’s perspective at the time. Such details won’t be found in an average documentary.
“The Pioneers” is a fitting title for a film that delves into the lives of the third and fourth Prime Ministers of Israel, both having worked on a Kibbutz, both having had a hand in the creation of the Jewish State, both having faced criticism, controversy, and dissent in their efforts to protect their people.
The film is an earnest and inspiring Zionist portrayal of leaders who loved peace but fought for freedom.