The longer the war, it may be said, the more a soldier is changed. By that reasoning, the Six-Day War, the 1967 conflict between Israel and neighboring Arab states, should have been brief enough that those who fought in it were able to reflect on it without breaking down. The documentary “Censored Voices” presents us with the voices of several young Israelis who participated in that conflict, capturing, in their own words, their still-fresh reflections on the virtues of victory.
Director Mor Loushy’s style is simple and effective: Shortly after the war, the novelist and Six-Day War veteran Amos Oz recorded conversations with his fellow soldiers. Although originally censored by the Israeli government, those conversations have finally been made public. Loushy films the soldiers, now in their seventies, as they listen to themselves speak back then. As we listen to the men describe their experiences, Loushy uses archival footage to highlight what the war entailed.
All of the soldiers seem to have felt guilt, to some degree. Some of them empathized with the enemy, while others appear shocked at the violence and death they encountered. Loushy never judges, letting the weathered faces of the old men speak, silently, in ways that augment their recorded words. The most common reaction is one of shame, or a subtle nod of acknowledgment. That Oz was able to record this history is almost miraculous. In many other conflicts, the wounds would be too deep.
“Censored Voices” opens in the desert, before shifting its focus to Jerusalem and to the Arabs who were displaced from their homes. The voices on the recordings are articulate, cynical and bitter. One former soldier remembers a dead friend, noting that the man’s mother would likely have traded the Western Wall to have her son back. Another predicts that the war will only foster more bitterness.
In 1967, as today, no one thinks it will end. “Censored Voices” is an essential documentary. Its subject is nothing less than loss of innocence, the seeds of hatred and the illusory nature of victory.
Zilberman is a freelance writer.
Unrated. At Landmark’s Bethesda Row Cinema. Contains coarse language and images of violence. In Hebrew with subtitles. 87 minutes .