Avi Naiman of Tenafly wants to show Israel to the world.
Specifically, he wants to show what it was like for a million and a half Israeli civilians when they were under attack during last summer’s Hezbollah rocket attacks. That’s why he spent eight months and $1’5,000 to make a documentary called "Scorched Summer," which features the stories of several people, including Karnit Goldwasser, whose soldier husband, Udi, was kidnapped by Hezbollah.
Avi Naiman, center, stands with the fathers of two soldiers captured by Hezbollah: Tzvi Regev, left, father of Eldad, and Shlomo Goldwasser, father of Udi.
"I hope this will resonate with people, so that in the future when there are more conflicts, they will remember and help," says Naiman, who is a retired professor of computers and psychology and co-founder of UJA’s Partnership ‘000, which paired Bergen County with Nahariya in northern Israel.
Naiman’s documentary, "Scorched Summer," had its world premiere in July in Haifa, hosted by the mayor and the Israeli minister of social welfare and diaspora affairs. Among the footage is the shelling of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, during the conflict.
Although he had no filmmaking experience, Naiman happened to be in Israel last summer when the rocket attacks began. He went to the north, "so I could figure out what our community could do about it." When he returned to Bergen County, he began giving talks to schools, synagogues, interfaith groups, Hadassah groups, and JCCs, using a PowerPoint presentation he had put together with video clips. "I realized that there’s only so much one person can do, so I approached various Israel and American Jewish organizations about getting the word out on a larger scale. But I didn’t find much enthusiasm." Undeterred, Naiman decided to make his own documentary, which he planned to distribute to the world for free.
The trailer for "Scorched Summer" is now on the Website www.scorchedsummer.com, and soon the entire film will be online there, with copies available for only a shipping and handling fee. Naiman hopes to make 500,000 copies to send to high schools, colleges, libraries, politicians, journalists, and clergy all over the world, and in seven languages. "If one out of 10 opens it and one out of ‘0 screens it, tens of thousands of people will have seen it," he says. Naiman says the film is strictly for educational purposes, and primarily for those in the non-Jewish world, although he acknowledges that the Jewish world could benefit from learning about last summer’s conflict as well. He is talking to various Christian groups about distribution and plans to create a new version of the film for TV broadcast.
"I want to increase people’s awareness of what Israel is about how it produces tremendous advances in science, in humanitarian aid. How people have all sorts of rights there that they don’t have in other countries."
Naiman, who spent part of his childhood in Israel and who plans to spend the next year there with his family, believes in understanding Israel from a personal level. "I don’t think every Jew should be in Israel, but I think Israel should be in every Jew," he said.