Israeli filmmaker and 2012-2013 University of Michigan Knight-Wallace fellow Shai Gal presented his documentary film, The Jewish Underground, about right-wing extremist groups in the early 1980s who conspired to destroy the Temple Mount, one of the holiest religious sites in Jerusalem. Following the screening Monday night, Gal engaged in a question and answer session moderated by Jim Bernstein, director of screenwriting at the University of Michigan. 

LSA freshman Bradley Harrison attended the screening to build on his understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“I am excited to be here because I think the history of the conflict is extremely intriguing and looking at this film from another perspective could provide me with additional understanding of it,” Harrison said.

Gal discussed the difficulties in the process of convincing former members of the Jewish Underground to agree to an interview, deciding how to include multiple perspectives while still staying loyal to his intent of examining Israeli society and how extremism affects the current Israeli government. 

Ann Arbor resident Elaine Pitt drew connections between the story of the members of the Jewish Underground and stories of extremist terror from around the world.

“This story, although so pertinent to Israel, has ramifications for so many other countries in the world and we shouldn’t get stuck just focusing on Israel, but learn from it,” Pitt said.

Gal concluded by discussing his experience presenting The Jewish Underground at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. There, he realized through conversations that although his film was an Israeli story, its message was intended for a wider global audience. Democracies in the West are handling the exact problem where countries are seeing extremist ideas finding their way into mainstream politics. Gal stressed how not drawing a red line between opinion and terror needs to be treated with caution globally.

“Life is complex. It is full of grays and it’s a question of what we do with the edges of the grays,” Gal said.

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