Going on its 75th anniversary, Israel is as complex as it is young. This collection of documentaries and features from Israel’s top directors explores some of the country’s tensions and dividing lines through both fact and fiction.

  1. The Prime Ministers

To lead a country like Israel, with all of its challenges and diverse population, requires a great amount of leadership. The Prime Ministers is a seven-part miniseries that looks at some of Israel’s most iconic prime ministers — their beliefs, the choices they made and even the regrets they had.

From a long-lost interview with David Ben-Gurion to a chilling dramatization of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, from a look at how Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt to Ariel Sharon’s pullout from Gaza, from an examination of Rabin’s most private thoughts to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rise to fame —this series goes deep into the heart of who they were, and why they did what they did.

The films tell us more about how Israel has gotten to where it is, as each prime minister inherited what the previous ones left behind. With such acclaimed filmmakers as Amos Gitai (Kippur), Dror Moreh (The Gatekeepers), and Yariv Mozer (Snails in the Rain) at the helm, this is essential viewing for anyone.

Watch The Prime Ministers on ChaiFlicks

  1. Time of Favor

Israel’s Official Academy Awards entry in 2001, Time of Favor is the debut film of acclaimed filmmaker Joseph Cedar (Footnote, Norman). Menachem (Aki Avni) is the model IDF soldier: a dashing commander whose men look up to him. But unlike the sabras of old, he is religiously observant and a “settler” — living in a  West Bank settlement. Along with his friend and fellow soldier Pini (Edan Alterman), he falls under the spell of a radical preacher, Rabbi Meltzer who dreams of starting a holy war. Meltzer is played by none other than Assi Dayan (son of Moshe Dayan), who in addition to directing such classics as Hill Halfon Doesn’t Answer, also acted in such films and shows as My Father, My Lord and In Treatment.

The closer that he gets to Meltzer, the more his circumstances worsen. While the Rabbi has matched his daughter Michal (Ravit Rozen) with Pini, Menachem cannot resist his attraction to her and the two begin to see one another in the shadows. Meanwhile, the Israeli Security Service are also closing in on Meltzer’s fanatical movement, and Menachem gets caught in the middle.

This heart-stopping thriller is a terrific exploration of religious extremism among Jews in Israel. With powerhouse performances from an all-star cast, Time of Favor brings us into a world of heightened emotions, where the fate of history and, indeed, of the whole world feels at stake.

Watch Joseph Cedar's Time of Favor starring Aki Avni on ChaiFlicks

  1. Colliding Dreams

There is perhaps no more storied ongoing conflict than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While it is a battle about land and religion, it is also a challenge of narratives: both Jews and Palestinians have their own chronicles of who they are, what has happened, and who is morally in the right. It is this understanding that lies at the center of Colliding Dreams.

Looking at the conflict from the perspectives of different people, as well as sweeping through amazing historical footage, the film presents Israel and the Palestinian territories as divided not only by ethnicity, nationality, and religion, but by everyone’s take on history and what society should look like. Not only do we learn about the history of Zionism, but about how that history affects the people today.

Directors Jack Silberman (Monihyan) and Oren Rudavsky make Colliding Dreams into a film that challenges simplicity when it comes to thinking about Israel. Instead of good-and-evil caricatures, we meet real people with real experiences, and however anyone may feel about each person’s beliefs, we can also understand them. This film is a must-watch for anyone interested in having a better grasp of the complexity of Israel.

Stream documentary feature film Colliding Dreams on ChaiFlicks

  1. Beneath the Silence

Military service in Israel is seen as a rite of passage, the ultimate expression of patriotism and solidarity. But another, darker aspect of army life, suppressed by so many for so long, is the trauma which remains with those who's serve long after they've returned home. This is the subject of Beneath the Silence, starring Amos Tamam (Srugim, The Girl from Oslo) as Menashe, a veteran of the Six-Days War whose trauma has left him estranged from everyone around him.

The film takes us to 1973, with Menashe working as a truck driver to support his wife Daphna (Adva Bolla) and their son Shlomi. His struggle with trauma causes him to be distant, while Dapha has come to accept it and tries to keep the peace. But the Yom Kippur War is breaking out, and some things can’t stay buried.

Under the sensitive direction of Erez Mizrahi (False Flag) and Sahar Shavit (Blackspace), Tamam’s heartbreaking performance is the centerpiece of this film about living with trauma. It is both a personal story, and one that evokes a reality so many Israelis are living through. Today, with IDF veterans fighting for recognition and respect, this is a film that so gut-wrenchingly depicts what it is to live after war.

Watch Beneath the Silence starring Amos Tamam on ChaiFlicks.

  1. Beaufort
poster for Israeli Academy Award nominated film Beaufort from director Joseph Cedar

The first Israeli film nominated for an Academy Award in twenty-three years, Joseph Cedar's 2007 feature film Beaufort is a powerful depiction of Israel’s contentious 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon — told through the story of one army unit who’s part of that historical change of guards. The film begins with the arrival of Ziv (Ohad Knoller, Srugim), a demolitions expert in charge of dismantling landmines. It doesn’t take long for him to butt heads with unit commander Liraz (Oshri Cohen, Lost Islands) as the stress mounts on both of them.

As the troops edge closer towards evacuating from the old fort, they face more threats from Hezbollah, and the fatalities build up. And yet, Cedar is always restrained, putting the character of each individual soldier before any action scene. We get to know who these young men are, how they survive under such overwhelming pressure, and what their views on the war are.

This is a powerful war film, one less about battles and more about loss. It questions the price of endless war just as much as it honors the sacrifices of the fallen. Cedar brings us into their enclosed world, and whether they are celebrating at dinner or fighting off an attack, we stand besides them.

Watch Joseph Cedar's Beaufort on ChaiFlicks