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Dimona Twist

The women of the desert: how did these modern young women start a new life and a build a society in the middle of the desert in the early years of Israel? Michal Avid's doc is a tribute to female strength and resilience

Immigration has often been an act of desperation but also an act of hope – desperation due to the tough living conditions in the home country and hope for a better future and a promising life. These people have often encountered unpredictably harsh circumstances and unwelcoming environments in their host countries. Such was the case for a wave of Jewish immigrants who migrated to the Israeli town of Dimona in the 1950s and 1960s.

Dimona, a city in the middle of Negev desert, in Israel, was settled in 1955, mostly by Jewish immigrants from the Northern Africa. Michal Aviad’s documentary is an unusual and extraordinary story of migration and settlement through the eyes of a group of women. Seven dynamic female characters tell their exciting and often dangerous stories. Most of them – with the exception of Hana Levinstein who came from Poland – left countries in North Africa – in particular Morocco and Tunisia – in search for the “promised land”. The documentary is structured through five chapters – each of them revealing a different period of life in Dimona. With the guidance of the narrators we explore the extreme circumstances and the difficulties of settling down in the new inhospitable city.

Dimona Twist contains a large amount of archive footage and photographs. Combined with the voice-over of the seven women, the images of the physical locations take us on a beautiful journey from the Northern Africa of the 1950s to the establishment and gradual development of Dimona.

What is incredibly interesting and extraordinary is the degree of freedom and independence that these women used to have when they lived in North Africa. Morocco and Tunisia, colonised by the French till the 1950s, were countries in which Jewish women had a high level of freedom and autonomy: they lived alone, they worked, they went to the cinemas and to theatres – they were modern, independent and dynamic women. “Who could marry me off? I’d let someone marry me off? I was modern, everyone was modern there” explains Solange Saranga who arrived from Morocco at the age of 27.

In a period when it became very common and “trendy” for Jewish people to migrate to Israel, these young characters – some of them still underage – decided to leave Northern Africa and search for a promising future in Israel. However, upon their arrival, they were sent directly to the recently established town, Dimona – an empty desert with just a few blocks of buildings. Isolated from the rest of the world, they started from scratch to create a new life and a new society literally from scratch.

What is particularly admiring is the psychological resilience and the determination of the protagonists to make their life better, their decisiveness to build a new life and make the new land their new home. Their positive attitude and strength can be an inspiring example for all women that attempt to take their lives on their own hands, stand on their own feet, follow their dreams and succeed.

Dimona Twist showed earlier this year at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and it has now been acquired by Go2Films. Just click here for more information about the film and how to view it.

By Lina Samoili - 12-08-2016

Lina Samoili is a Greek writer, researcher and film selector based in London. She moved to the UK in 2012 in order to study film and pursue a career in cinema. After completing a Masters degree in Fil...

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