Aaron Davidman wrote and stars in “Wrestling Jerusalem,” an acclaimed play-turned-movie that will be shown at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. (Juneau Empire File)

Aaron Davidman wrote and stars in “Wrestling Jerusalem,” an acclaimed play-turned-movie that will be shown at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. (Juneau Empire File)

Movie coming to Juneau explores complexities of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

‘Wrestling Jerusalem’ and discussions kick off a Juneau Jewish Film Festival

Conflict between Israel and Palestine is bigger than any single person or perspective in “Wrestling Jerusalem” an adaptation of Aaron Davidman’s one-man stage show that stars the actor and writer.

Davidman, a Berkeley, California writer and actor with Sitka ties, embodies multiple facets of the conflict by portraying a number of characters in different countries in the film set to debut in Juneau on Jan. 10.

“It’s a unique film,” Davidman said in a phone interview. “It’s not like a film most people have seen.”

But they may have seen the one-man show version, which premiered in California in 2014.

“Wrestling Jerusalem” was performed as a stage show in Juneau in 2016 at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. The film version premiered in San Francisco later that year.

It received support from the San Francisco Film Society, religious organizations and a crowdfunding campaign.

In the show and the film made by Dylan Kussman, Davidman, who is Jewish, said the goal is to offer a nuanced take on an issue that is often discussed in broad strokes.

The film is set in a theater, dressing room and a desert.

“The filmmaker really made a film out of it,” Davidman said.

Davidman said he created the show as a way to portray multiple human faces of a conflict that is often presented as black and white, explore his own thoughts and start dialogues.

[Show explores Israel-Palestine conflict]

“I think that we’re living in a time of such political polarization,” Davidman said. “I’m offering a softening of our hard shell.”

“Wrestling Jerusalem” will be screened 6:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Gold Town Theater. The movie is being shown through collaboration by the Gold Town Theater, Congregation Sukkat Shalom and Juneau People for Peace and Justice.

Each screening of the 90-minute movie will be followed by a discussion, which Davidman said tend to be a highlight of the experience.

“Having a conversation after the piece has been super rich,” Davidman said.

The Thursday and Tuesday screenings will be followed by a live discussion with Davidman. Saturday’s screening will be followed by a discussion with Rabbi Jeff Dreifus, who is currently in Israel, and Saralyn Tabachnick, member of the Juneau Jewish community.

“I don’t know that we will come up with any answers here,” Tabachnick said. “But it will be a good discussion.”

Rich Moniak of Juneau People for Peace and Justice will be facilitating the discussions. Moniak said he anticipates candid conversations about a topic that people can have a hard time reconsidering.

“If you’re not aware of the conflict, you might not come and see the movie, if you are aware, you need to come prepared to hear something you might not like,” Moniak said. “What ‘Wrestling Jerusalem’ does is it challenges you to listen to those view points. There’s very, very emotionally charged moments. It’s very hard if you and want to resist the side you don’t want to hear.”

[Local synagogue honors Pittsburgh victims]

Moniak said the screenings are timely, not only because of recent increases in instances of anti-semitism, also because the film and the discussions afterward encourage considering a polarized topic with empathy.

“The important part of this is no one is going to solve anything without those nuances,” Moniak said. “No one is going to solve anything without listening to both perspectives. Without making your mind that one side has to be right or wrong. We have to listen. This play really challenges people to listen to something that may not be comfortable.”

More to come

“Wrestling Jerusalem” is the first in a series of Jewish films that will be shown at the Gold Town Theater in 2019.

The other films included in the Juneau Jewish Film Festival are: “Who Will Write Our History,” which will be screened on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27; “Au Revoir Les Enfants,” which will be screened on Jan. 3, Feb. 2 and Feb. 5; “The Cakemaker” will be screened Feb. 20 and Feb. 23; and “Dough” will be screened March 16 and March 20.

The screening of “Dough” will coincide with the Jewish holiday Purim and the traditional pastry hamantash will be served.

The series is being sponsored by congregation Sukkat Shalom and Gold Town Theater.

Tickets cost $12 for general admission of $10 for Sukkat Shalom members, MGM members, military personnel, seniors and students.

Admission to “Who Will Write Our History” will be free, but there will be a suggested donation at the door.

The movie will be shown as part of worldwide event including livestreaming of speeches, prayer and a panel discussion afterward. The event will start at 4:30 p.m., and the film will be shown at 5:05 p.m.

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the film will also be screened simultaneously at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and at Auschwitz, among many other locations.

“It’s not really something we want to charge people for,” said Natalee Rothaus of Sukkat Shalom congregation.

Know & Go

What: “Wrestling Jerusalem” screening and discussion

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Where: Gold Town Theater, 171 Shattuck Way Suite 109.

Admission: Tickets cost $12 for general admission of $10 for Sukkat Shalom members, MGM members, military personnel, seniors and students. The box office will be open one hour ahead of the shows.


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


Aaron Davidman wrote and stars in “Wrestling Jerusalem,” an acclaimed play-turned-movie that will be shown at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. The play was performed at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center in 2016. (Juneau Empire File)

Aaron Davidman wrote and stars in “Wrestling Jerusalem,” an acclaimed play-turned-movie that will be shown at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. The play was performed at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center in 2016. (Juneau Empire File)

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