Viewpoints from Israel: speakers at Emerson

by Beacon Staff • February 22, 2006

Emerson Hillel, a Jewish student organization, is co-sponsoring a visit from independent filmmaker Michael Yochai, a former commander of the Israeli Defense Force's (IDF) Spokesperson's Film and Photography Unit from 1993 to 2004, as well as prominent Jerusalem Post Executive Editor Amotz Asa-El.

Hillel President Yonatan Vendriger, a junior film major, said he thinks these speakers are important in light of both world events and the recent controversy surrounding the Danish cartoons published in last week's issue of The Berkeley Beacon.

"Students should come hear diverse international viewpoints," Vendriger said. "Both [speakers] are highly respected and accredited professionals who have each received accolades for their work."

Vendriger also cited a number of reasons he thought Yochai's visit to Emerson was a good fit with the school's curriculum.

"It combines Israel, Judaism, the conflict and film," he said. "That was a perfect combo [with Emerson]: politics, as we see now, communication and Judaism."

Frames Per Second (FPS), a student run organization that aims to teach professional film production, is also a co-sponsor.

On the official IDF Web site (idf.il), Yochai explains that in the Israeli army, the filming unit is considered a branch of the military.

They state: "Wherever the IDF operates, the film unit is also present," Yochai said. "When the IDF spokesperson soldiers are in the field, they are part of the fighting forces. They move with the forces in APC's (armored personnel carriers) and tanks."

Among other duties while with the IDF, Yochai juggled news footage of IDF actions to Israeli and international media while also teaching his creation, "Field News Coverage," to IDF troops.

Yochai has produced and directed everything from features and documentaries, to educational films and publicity, during his employment with the IDF, and more recently as an independent filmmaker. He will be speaking today at the Bill Bordy Theater at 7 p.m.

While serving in the Search and Rescue for the Home Front Command Unit, Vendriger did not have the opportunity to work under Yochai.

"I interviewed with him and talked with him," Vendriger said. "I wasn't accepted [into his unit] but it was an honor."

On Monday, Asa-El will be speaking in room 230 of 120 Boylston St. from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

According to Arinne Edelman, director of regional student services of the Hillel Council of New England, "The Media and the Middle East: an Israeli Editor's Perspective,"