“By the Grace of Heaven” is a documentary movie that offers a rare glimpse into the Haredi community of Bnei Barak during the COVID-19 crisis.
As part of our Izzy Stream for Educators series, we watched this eye-opening movie and put together a handy guide for educators. You can stream the movie by subscribing to IZZY.
Theme: Haredim in Israel
Length: 54 minutes
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the capital of Israel’s Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] community — Bnei Brak — pays an especially high price.
Why you should watch it:
Few documentaries on IZZY challenge the stereotypes many secular Israelis hold about Haredim better than this one. Beginning in March 2020, at the onset of the COVID crisis, the film follows residents who pray on balconies as they prepare for Passover and the officials, health care and service workers, relief volunteers, and members of the military who deal with the crisis.
“The coronavirus plague was, essentially, an ‘excuse’ for me to discover the richness and diversity of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish identity, and to engage with the complexity of this community and the values that dictate its life,” writer-director Yariv Mozer said. “I went to Bnei Brak with the common image of ultra-Orthodox society as it is sometimes presented in the secular media. During the coronavirus pandemic, the media created severe injustice and antagonism towards an entire society, which this film seeks to correct, albeit slightly.”
- Bnei Brak, located 20 minutes from Tel Aviv, with a population of 250,000, is Israel’s ninth-largest city and the capital of the country’s Haredi community. What did you know about the city before watching this film?
- After watching, what surprised you most about the people of Bnei Brak?
- What comment do you feel the director is trying to make about how to improve the relationship between Haredim and the IDF in Israel?
- What do you think of the suggestion made by Rav Kanievsky’s wife that wearing more modest clothes, or the scene that showed the “black wedding” in the cemetery, can defeat the coronavirus?
- For Hebrew speakers, watch this series by N12 journalist Yair Cherki and reflect on how it echoes and challenges the narrative presented in “By the Grace of Heaven.”