Treasure Trove: David Matlow on Israel’s first feature film, ‘Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer’

Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer was the first feature film produced in Israel. Released in 1955, the movie tells the story of four soldiers in the War of Independence who are on their way to defend a strategic hill overlooking the highway to Jerusalem.

The main characters represent four archetypes of those who fought for Israel in 1948: David Airan, a concentration camp survivor who engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a former Nazi serving in the Egyptian army; Allan Goodman, an American tourist who stayed to join the struggle for independence and was evacuated from the Old City when it fell to the Arab Legion; James Finnegan, a police officer in Mandatory Palestine who switched sides due to his sympathy with Israel’s struggle and his love for a Jewish woman; and Esther Hadassi, a Yemini woman born in Israel.

This promotional photograph displayed in a movie theatre lobby portrays a scene where two United Nations Truce Supervision officials meet with an Israeli and an Arab officer to finalize the ceasefire lines at the foot of Hill 24. One of the UN officials says, “Looks like it’s easier to start a war than to end one.”  

The film ends as the truce comes into effect, and instead of the usual “The End” appearing on the screen, the viewer sees “The Beginning” signifying the start of a new era in Jewish history with the birth of the State of Israel (or perhaps anticipating the beginning of endless wars and conflict). You need to watch the movie and decide for yourself: