Khirbet Khizeh
Fiction by Israeli writer S. Yizhar
02/1978
Israeli Channel 1

Khirbet Khizeh (or Hirbet Hizeh or Hirbet Hizah, Hebrew: חִרְבֶּת חִזְעָה) is a Fiction by Israeli writer S. Yizhar which was published in 1949, and deals with the expulsion of the fictional village of Khirbet Hiz'ah, practically representing a depiction of all Arab villages whose inhabitants were expelled during the Nakba in 1948.

The story was later made into a 1978 TV drama on Israeli Channel 1, and sparked a public debate in Israel on whether it should be broadcast or not.

Early in 1977, director Ram Levi persuaded the Israel Broadcasting Authority to sponsor a made-for-television movie of the novella, and filming got underway by spring. During filming, on May 17, Menachem Begin's Likud came to power. When the film was supposed to air, in January 1978, the government postponed the broadcast; but when the new air date neared, the new education minister, Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party, cancelled the broadcast altogether. All hell broke loose. Opposing the ban on "Khirbet Khizeh," MK Yossi Sarid declared that "the flag of freedom of speech in Israel has been lowered to half-mast; it's going to take a lot to hoist it back up again."

Supporting the ban, journalist Tommy Lapid, who a quarter of century later would become justice minister, wrote that, "even if the Fatah Information Bureau were headed by a genius, he couldn't have come up with a better one than this. And even if Goebbels were directing Arab propaganda efforts, they couldn't have had greater success. And even if a fifth column were operating in our television studios, they couldn't have performed a better service to aid the enemies of our state."

In Lapid's scorched-earth prose, Yizhar was a Nazi propagandist. In Sarid's acerbic oratory, Hammer was a book-burner. Even among less incendiary pundits, "Khirbet Khizeh" had become a partisan matter. There were many reasons why this was so. For one thing, the story's 1978 television audience was different from what its readership had been. In 1949, Yizhar's readers had scraped through the 1948 war, absorbing the ample tragedy it produced for Jews (first and foremost) and for Arabs.

Director: Ram Levi
1978
Hebrew with Hebrew subtitles.

To read more about the story
The price of return / Haaretz
Rereading: Khirbet Khizeh by S Yizhar / The Guardian

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