Guest Submission: ‘Israelism’ Film Opens Up Important Conversations in Davis Community

by If Not Now Norcal*

Over 160 people filled Davis Varsity Theater to watch the award-winning film, “Israelism,” on Monday, May 27, 2024. The film was screened by the Northern California chapter of If Not Now, a Jewish organization that advocates against Israel’s apartheid policies and for Palestinian equality.

The award-winning film depicts the journey of two young Jews as they become increasingly uncomfortable at the contradictions between the values of their Jewish faith, their unquestioned loyalty to Israel and the brutal reality they witness firsthand of Israel’s occupation, and its impact on the indigenous Palestinian population. Through their personal courage to confront difficult questions, and by meeting and listening to Palestinians face-to-face, they find new ways to hold to their Jewish identity by standing in solidarity with Palestinians.

The event was opened by UC Davis Professor of Religious and Jewish Studies, Seth L. Sanders, who spoke of the multiple historic shifts in Jewish religious and cultural relationships to the idea of Israel.  He explained how historically there has been a healthy culture of debate within the Jewish community about issues such as Zionism that certain groups in the 20th century had tried to shut down. Thanks to a new generation of Jews, including at UC Davis, important conversations were now opening up again. The film shares some of those critical discussions, featuring voices on all sides of the debate.

As Professor Sanders pointed out, the movie was finished several months before the Israeli military’s current mass bombing and starvation of Gaza and escalation of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. The film in Davis was screened one day after the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) bombed a refugee camp in Rafah and killed 45 people including women and children who were burnt alive in their tents. As Professor Sanders noted, “I hate to even say this, the movie depicts an almost idyllic situation in comparison to current events.”

The movie also raised $500 for the Middle East Children’s Alliance to support Palestinian children who have now faced a devastating nine months of war. The screening drew a diverse Davis crowd of many faiths and backgrounds, and, judging by the lively discussion as people emerged from the film, had prompted many important conversations. One person, who had been harassing the speaker, was excluded from the screening for safety reasons.

For those who missed the film, Israelism will be available for streaming in early June on Amazon Prime or Apple TV. More information at:

* If Not Now, NorCal, was one of the sponsors of the film screening.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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