OpinionArts & Entertainment

A  ‘Legend of Destruction’ for our time

A new film about the fall of the Second Temple reminds us that our disputes must never be allowed to deteriorate into a rift resulting in destruction.

An image from the film "Legend of Destruction," directed by Gidi Dar. Credit: Courtesy.
An image from the film "Legend of Destruction," directed by Gidi Dar. Credit: Courtesy.
Rabbi David Stav
Rabbi David Stav
Rabbi David Stav is the chief rabbi of the city of Shoham, and founder and chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization in Israel.

“Legend of Destruction,” a unique full-length Israeli animated film, is about to be released in the United States in its English-speaking version. As the name suggests, the film tells the story of the destruction of the Second Temple and the terrible war of brothers that preceded it. The film draws its inspiration from the Talmudic legends of destruction.

The time of the Three Weeks, Bein HaMetzarim, culminating in Tisha B’Av, is not a favorable one for Jewish education: Most schools are closed, and children are on long vacations. They are at the beach, the pool and everywhere in between. Preoccupation with heavy historical questions seems disconnected from any relevant context.

The outcome is incredible ignorance regarding the destruction of the Second Temple. As a result, a large part of Jewish history that has enormous influence over shaping our Jewish identity is buried. While the religious world handles the subject relatively successfully due to the mourning customs of the Three Weeks, including two fasts that open and close the period, the general public has no regard for it and is all but completely indifferent to these days and their historical significance.

It is not by chance that the question of shutting down places of entertainment like restaurants from operating on the night of Tisha B’Av has been a major public controversy in Israel in recent years. The growing feeling of disconnection and alienation causes discomfort concerning the meaning of the destruction, which seems to have nothing to do with anything. If only for this reason, the work of Gidi Dar, an acclaimed Israeli director and a secular Tel Avivian who made the renowned film “Ushpizin,” deserves serious attention.

However, the real reason every Jew should watch this movie is completely different.

It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to view an artistic work dealing with history that looks like it was taken from the headlines of today’s newspapers. This is almost exactly the viewer’s experience while watching “Legend of Destruction.” The film, which was released in Israel in 2021, deals with the days before the destruction of the Second Temple and the tensions between the different groups in Jerusalem. The Roman enemy stands by and watches from a distance; they can’t believe that their work is being done by the hands of the Jews themselves. With superb craftsmanship, the film follows the religious and social elites in Jerusalem, their relationship with Rome, and how they relate to the other classes and their leadership.

Not every claim made by the film is necessarily historical truth, and one can argue with some of its assertions. The clear and simple conclusion is that disputes, no matter how fierce they are, must never be allowed to deteriorate into a rift resulting in destruction.

The film was made before the controversy over judicial reform and the Oct. 7 war that followed. Nevertheless, the film seems to touch on all the issues that define the internal disputes that have been dividing the people of Israel in recent years up to today. It seems as if the words of the heroes of the past were taken almost word-for-word from those characters who are today deciding our future here in Israel and the whole world.

The fact that a secular, modern Israeli filmmaker chooses to deal with Jewish material from the distant past—materials that are usually disconnected from everyday Israeli existence—in the way he does is wonderful news to anyone interested in the continuity of Jewish identity in our nation. I recommend that every Jewish community encourage its members to watch this film.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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