Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

SF Jewish Film Festival: ‘Scratched’ Israelis featured in “Flipping Out”

Posted by Oyster on August 3, 2008

India is a “hit” with Israelis.

When I was a student at UC Berkeley, I had a good friend by the name of Udi “Chamoodi” Nuri. He was a very experienced back-packer, having been through India, Thailand, and a whole host of small nooks & crannies in between. He would tell me stories of Israelis that would become “scratched”, as he put it, due to their experimenting with hallucinogenic & mind-altering substances while thousands of miles away from home. It was understandable, considering the pressure-cooker of an environment they had just come from, where even when not serving in the army, they were never really too far from the front lines. Israel’s a small place! So, having been just released from armed service, and now being with friends in a remote corner of the world, they feel more at liberty to have a total escape from the stress and trauma of their combat experiences. They play with stuff that they really don’t know too much about, and either become “scratched” from the get-go, or become worn down after repeated abuse. I even read about these special teams of rescuers that would go from Israel to hunt down & bring back home Israelis that became “scratched” and had stopped contacting their family. In the JPost article, they described how there are special rehabilitation homes built on a kibbutz not too far from Caesaria, where the calming waves of the ocean help restore their inner peace and grip on reality. Another friend of mine is an Orthodox Jew who grew up in Bangkok, Thailand, and would often assist the Chabad Rabbi in bribing the local jail to release hapless Israelis.

*Sigh* Israelis live under so much pressure, and they live in such a tiny country. Add to that the fact that most Israelis are well-read, so they know about the whole rest of the world that they’re missing out on. This makes back-packing all over the globe irresistible. I just pray that they stay out of trouble, and don’t become irreversibly ‘scratched’.

With that in mind, I highly recommend that everyone goes to see the movie “Flipping Out” that is playing on Sunday, August 3rd in Berkeley at the Rhoda Theatre at 9:30 PM as part of the SF Jewish Film Festival. Here’s a description of the movie:

Every year, the cloud forests of India’s Himalayan foothills provide the ideal escape for some 30,000 young Israelis just released from mandatory military service. With a pocketful of discharge money and a socially sanctioned time-out from concerns back home, 90 percent of these travelers will take drugs, and some 2,000 will end up needing psychiatric care for what has become known, even in Hebrew, as “flipping out.”

Talented verité documentary filmmaker Yoav Shamir follows up on his two earlier, extraordinary accounts of Israeli military life—Checkpoint (SFJFF 2004) and 5 Days (SFJFF 2006)—by hanging out in the mountains (and, during the rainy season, in coastal Goa) with these young men and women as they decompress from the impossible stresses of military service during the occupation and clashes with Lebanon. Stories unfold before his ever-present camera; recently “ex-” soldiers try to express their feelings, but for most, they are still far too close to the experience—or they are far too stoned—to offer much insight. That perspective is provided by the small band of Israeli social workers, barefoot rabbis, guidance counselors and consular officials who have followed what they fear is a “lost generation” to their Shangri-La in order to keep them from going off the edge. Most fascinating is Hilik Magnus, a former Mossad agent, hired by Israeli families to find their wayward children and bring them safely home. Flipping Out is an unsettling picture of collective numbing-out, and of the peculiar safety net provided by a tight-knit society to its members in free fall.

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