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Tel Aviv University
[TAU & OpenU, Cinema] Yael Munk “Breaking the Silence”: Reflections on Israeli Soldiers’ Guilt and Responsibility

Editorial Note

Dr. Yeal Munk is a lecturer of Cinema in both the Israeli Open University and Tel Aviv University. Her Ph.D supervisors were the anti-Zionists Prof. Judd Ne'eman and Dr. Orly Lubin. Munk will deliver a talk in the event in Tel Aviv University entitled The Dynamics of Images in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, organized with the French Research Center in Jerusalem.  Her lecture is “Breaking the Silence”: reflections on Israeli soldiers’ guilt and responsibility, where she will be speaking about the "soldiers-victimizers confessing their crimes". 

Yael Munk Ph.D.
1) Open University, Department of Literature, Language and the Arts
      E-mail: yaelmu@openu.ac.il
2) Tel Aviv University Film And Television, FACULTY OF THE ARTS
,    Email: 



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French Research Center in Jerusalem – Department of Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences, Tel Aviv University

Monday November 7, at the French Research Center in Jerusalem, 3 Shimshon St., Bakaa
Tuesday November 8, at Tel Aviv University, Hall 004, Ground Floor, Naftali Building

NOVEMBER 8, 2011, Tel Aviv University
11:45-13:30 Session 6: Images beyond news media
Dr. Yael Munk (Open University of Israel): “Breaking the Silence”: reflections on Israeli soldiers’ guilt and responsibility

Yael Munk

The Open University of Israel

“Breaking the Silence”: Reflections on Israeli Soldiers’ Guilt and Responsibility

Breaking the silence is the metaphor used to describe the victim’s confession of a violent act he/she underwent in his/her domestic or other protected environment. “Breaking the Silence” is also the name of an organization of former soldiers who use their personal experience to illustrate what they perceive to be the folly of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories. Finally, “Breaking the silence: Israeli soldiers talk about Hebron” (2005) is the title chosen for a collective documentary following an eponymous exhibition held in Tel-Aviv in 2003. Just like in the exhibition that preceded it, the film reveals, through a series of testimonies, moments in which Israeli soldiers posted in Hebron during the Second Intifadah, acted violently. This mostly ‘talking head’ documentary depicts the faces of the soldiers-victimizers confessing their crimes to the visitors of the exhibition as well as to the camera. The documentary’s only credits are of the photographers – Philippe Belaiche and Sylvain Biegeleisen – and the editors – Biegeleisen and Avi Mougrabi.

In this paper I wish to demonstrate that this collective documentary represents a breaking through in a new depiction of the Israeli soldier’s relationship to his commanders and to the State in general. Just like children that have been victim of violence in the space they consider theirs, “Breaking the Silence” aims to reveal to the world these young men and women’s painful realization of guilt, an ethical approach they wish to achieve through their confession to the camera. But mostly it becomes a way to convey to other Israelis the everyday life in the hidden cities of the occupied territories.

Mea Culpa: Visual Confessions of Israeli Soldiers
Ilana Szobel, Yael Munk, Shirly Bahar

Last modified: 2011-03-12


Documentaries that feature confessions of Jewish-Israeli combat soldiers (both men and women) about their military service and their participation in violent acts against Palestinians have become a major trend in current Israeli cinema. The soldiers’ decision to speak and confess in front of the Israeli camera is part of a concerted effort to rethink Israel’s acts at the Palestinian occupied territories.

This panel aims to explore this central cinematic phenomenon and to examine its cultural and ethical implications. The panel focuses on issues of shame, blame, and complicity, and explores the juxtaposition of gender and national identity in its cinematic representation. It raises questions such as: To what extend do these documentaries challenge Israeli nationalism? How does gender play out within these cinematic forms of confession? In what way do the continuous reproduction and reinterpretation of myth and traumatic memories incorporate into the establishment of Israeli culture?

Yael Munk’s talk, “’Breaking the Silence’: Reflections on Israeli Soldiers’ Guilt and Responsibility,” focuses on the documentary film “Breaking the Silence: Israeli Soldiers Talk about Hebron” (2005), and examines the soldiers’ painful realization of guilt and the way it affects their military identity construction. Ilana Szobel’s paper “Personal Memory, Collective Masculinity: Documenting Israeli Soldier's Confessions” addresses issues of masculinity and explores the ideological, national, and mainly gendered role of the confession mode in Israel of the 21st century. Shirly Bahar’s presentation “To Show that I’m Shaming: Shame Confessions in the Film To See if I’m Smiling” centers on “shame confessions,” and probes the specific usages of shame and confessional mechanisms at work in documentary films depicting soldiers’ encounter with Palestinian civilians.

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