Jerusalem, Take One! Memoirs of a Jewish Filmmaker is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of documentary filmmaker Alan Rosenthal, the maker of over sixty films including Day of Peace, Out of the Ashes, A Nation Is Born, and On the Brink of Peace. As a witness to so much recent Israeli history through a camera’s viewfinder, Rosenthal himself makes as much of an interesting subject as the events he documents.
Born in London in 1936, Rosenthal studied law at Oxford before beginning his work in television directing in Israel and the United States. By the 1960s he was an established young filmmaker who had participated in the filming of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961. He returned in 1968, initially for just one year, as part of a team invited by the Israeli government to set up the first television network; that year turned into the thirty-plus years that inspired this book.
The Eichmann trial, the development of Israel Television, the Oslo agreement, the search for the menorah from the Second Temple, the history of Zionism on the television screen, and the Yom Kippur War and Project Renewal are but a few of the recent moments in Israeli history that Rosenthal and his camera have witnessed. As he recalls these events with humor and wit, Rosenthal’s words recapture the emotions and feel of those times as vividly as his lens recorded their passing.
This is a memoir, not a history textbook, and Rosenthal himself is the true subject of the book’s most intensely personal and introspective moments, stories of growth and learning, of England and family, of love and loss, of ideological disappointment and renewed hope. Rosenthal’s tale is one of progress toward the man he wishes to be, the films he feels he must make, and the cultural identity he seeks to develop for himself and all Jewish people.