SJCA: The Lemon Tree Film Discussion

Saratoga Jewish Community Arts, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and sponsored by Temple
Sinai, presents its March 23 rd program Lemon Tree in cooperation with Skidmore Jewish Student Life. Lemon Tree, an Israeli film written and
directed by Eran Riklis and Suha Arraf, is a political film on a small scale. Politics is human drama on a large scale as there are vast numbers of people affected by political decisions (or indecisions). The chief focus of this story is the ramifications of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the very personal lives of a handful of individuals on different sides of the divide. The full range of human drama is all there: love, hate, injustice, prejudice, loneliness, perseverance, the will to live, and the dark wall that separates us all.

Some consider this a feminist film…although not the writer/director. The key characters are two women, both sympathetic to the audience in contrast to the male characters. Salma, portrayed as an outcast, is a lonely Palestinian widow who can’t rely on the support of her children and whose rights as an individual are abused by both the Israeli state and her fellow Palestinians. Mira, the Israeli defense minister’s wife, is also a sort of outcast: living mostly alone (not counting the security guards) in a place that looks and feels more like a fortress than a home, at odds with her husband, and left alone by her 32 year-old daughter. While the story shows us about the individual against the system, it’s even more about loneliness and solitude. Each of these women live in their own little world…and yet they mirror one another. They do not represent every Palestinian or Israeli. The audience can view their circumstances as people and identify with them. They can relate the situations to their own surroundings, families, and personalities of those on the screen. You don’t have to be an Israeli or Palestinian to understand what they are experiencing. The director tries to focus on the ways the lives of individuals are affected by decisions made by governments, whether local or global. Those decisions can, and most frequently do, have a dramatic effect on individual lives.

Although initially a loser in Israel, perhaps because it seemed too political, the film was received well in many other countries. However, those who later viewed the film in Israeli theaters loved it and it continues to do well on DVD and television. “Here is a film,” says Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of SJCA, “that doesn’t provide easy or satisfying answers. There are situations on both sides that the audience, whichever political side they sit on, can defend or renounce.”

The film is available for viewing in Davis Auditorium at Skidmore College at 6:00 PM on March 23rd with Zoom access to the live discussion at 8 PM. It can also be seen on Amazon or Apple TV for a 3.99 rental.

Registration is required by emailing A $5 donation is requested from non-Skidmore faculty and students if attending on