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ITGABER, He will overcome 1993
2 X 85 minutes | video | Colour | 4:3 |Stereo | 1993 / Location : Israel / OV : Hebrew

Interviews with Professor Leibovitz, in two parts

On science and values
“It is man’s will that makes him Man”. This phrase is the key to the thoughts of one of the most provocative thinkers of the end of this century, and the one that sets the tone for these discussions. Using vocabulary that can be understood by everyone, the philosopher opens himself up with a critical reflexion about what makes Man : his will power, his freedom, what he chooses, the tasks he sets himself, and how by “Triumphing over Oneself”, he goes above the others of this world.

On State and laws
“The honest man should know that he should never respect the law too closely”. Professor Y. Leibovitz, spiritual leader of the Israeli soldiers who refuse to carry out their military national service in the Occupied Territories, who has always been very attached to the notion of divine law, develops, a  provocative position vis-à-vis the state in general, and power in particular. Following the traditions of the Prophetes, his caustic tone makes us think about our responsibilities as human beings and citizens.


Yeshayahu Leibovitz - An uncompromising man for almost a century

Y. Leibovitz was born in Riga, Lettonia in 1903. He grew up in a rich, orthodox, Zionist, Jewish family. Educated by tutors from an early age, he spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Russian and French. A childhood we can no longer imagine, surrounded by open, profound and refined culture.

In 1919, when he was 16, a civil war opposed Red and White Russians. He emigrated, as did many of his contemporaries, to the young Weimar Republic where the intense intellectual and artistic life seemed highly attractive.

He studied bio-chemistry at the University of Berlin, where no less than five of his Professors were Nobel prize winners. This was also where met his future wife, Greta, who was studying mathematics.

In 1928, he fulfilled a dream and left for Palestine. But he only stayed there for a short period, returning to Berlin to continue his medical studies. He was then obliged to finish these in Switzerland, when the Nazis came to power. Never, he points out, was he subjected to antisemitic discrimination, neither at university, nor in the street.

It was in 1934, that he finally settled in Palestine with his wife Greta. He immediately began teaching neuro-physiology and headed the biochemical department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

In 1948, he took up arms to participate in the creation of the State of Israel, or what he referred to as a “framework of national independence for the Jewish people”. But even at that early stage, he called for the separation of religion and the State, in order to save religious values from the clutches of the politicians. A profoundly religious man, he always supported his non-religious compatriots, who were appalled by attitude of the orthodox Jews.

As soon as the 1967 war was over, he denounced the occupation of Arab territories, which he saw as the introduction of a system for the repression of one people by another. Could the children of Israel be sliding dangerously towards becoming “Jewish-Nazis”?

This sombre, pessimistic and imprecatory man belonged to no particular political movement: “The moral progress of Man does not exist and History is merely the chronicle of man’s crimes, follies, and misfortunes”, and he adds, “if you cannot bear this terrible world, then you should commit suicide…”

Since life’s only meaning is in individual acts: “The most noble part of History, is man’s struggle against crimes, follies and misfortunes. A constant and eternal struggle, with no finality.”

In the 1970’s, he was offered a chair in Philosophy at the Hebrew University.

People came to hear him speak, to talk to him: “Hundreds of people, from all walks in life come to see me, write to me or telephone me. I now realise just to what extent I have become “the voice” of the voiceless, those who either don’t know how, don’t dare, or who cannot express their thoughts and their feelings. They are very happy for me to help them to define these thoughts and feelings. That I know, but I don’t think that anyone has changed their opinions for all of that.”

Yeshayahu Leibovitz welcomes all to his modest home in Jerusalem, at any time of the day or night, all those who want to talk to him: a confused soldier, with problems of conscience, a religious person with doubts about his belief, a person with a drug problem… He also welcomes intellectuals of all outlooks and all nationalities.

His words are clear. He is a powerful speaker, tirelessly giving seminars and conferences, taking part in debates and also tirelessly denouncing. His anger is his strength.

At the time of the invasion of Lebanon, in 1982, during a conference where he was alone on stage, he said: “I ask every honest person here to stand up and declare with me, in a loud and clear voice, that he is a traitor. That he betrays the values that are revered today in this country. I call for an uprising, for a revolt.”

Yeshayahu Leibovitz is never alone. His wife, Greta, supports him in the background. She accompanies him everywhere, she knows all his speeches, and corrects his mistakes.

“The most important thing in a man’s life, is his wife”, he says.

In 1993, his nomination for the Israel Prize, a high distinction, caused general uproar. Yeshayahu Leibovitz refused the prize.

He died in August 1994.

For 15 years, Professor Leibovitz was responsible for the editing and development of the Hebrew Encyclopaedia for which he wrote a number of articles.

Besides a considerable number of scientific works, he has also published several collections of articles, essays and public speeches.

His work includes :

• Faith, history and values
• The faith of Maïmonide
• Conversations about science and its values
• Evolution and genetics
• Body and soul; the psycho-physical question
• Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel

© Les films d'ici [FR] | Images et Compagnies [FR] | Amythos Films [ISR] | FR3 [FR]


2 X 85 minutes | video | Colour | 4:3 |Stereo | 1993
Location : Israel
OV : Hebrew
Sub-titles : French, English, Italian, Spanish, German

Eyal Sivan

Director of Photography
Rony Katzenelson
Amir Buverman
Eyal Sivan & Charlotte Tourres
Ruben Korenfeld

« The film preserves an oratorical art, made of imprecations, brisures, silences and repetitions, peculiar to the subtle and grandiloquent prophets the Jewish people has always had. (...) The cathodic dimension is never lost, Leibowitz is set face to face with previous shootings, through a video - tape recorder. This device attempts to shake up a thought system, as well as tracking itNot fooled but fascinated, this document exasperates and delights.

Original because despite of the strong personality of his interlocutor, the director succeed in keeping a loyal distance which doesn't deprive the spectator of his freedom of perception. In front of Eyal Sivan's camera, Yeshahyaou Leibowitz casts many roles : the scientific philosopher delivers the argued fruits of his thoughts and knowledge, the citizen fires against the established order, the interviewed returns the questions to the interviewer and comments it. The whole thing is to be heard and watch with delight.

Whether you side with Leibowitz' thoughts or feel a fierce hatred towards him, this film instructs and shakes you up. Rare qualities in this day and age.
Journal des lettres et de l'audiovisuel

03/26/2003 - "Democratic values and heroism about Itgaber" by Mireille Mendès-France (Rencontres Palestiniens/Israéliens, Que peut le cinéma?)

01/27/1998 - "Planète Itgaber" by Catherine Humblot (Le Monde)

01/27/1998 - "La volonté du professeur Leibovitz" by Annick Peigné-Giuly (Libération)

12/01/1993 - "Leibovitz-Sivan : Entretien entre ciel et terre" by Chérifa Benabdessadok (Différences)

12/01/1993 - "Leibowitz, l'imprécateur en vidéocassette" by Michèle Kahn (L'Arche)

08/04/1993 - "Les imprécations de Yeshayahou" by Antoine Perraud (Télérama)

07/15/1993 - "L'essentiel dans la vie d'un homme, c'est sa femme !" (Actualité Juive)