Amos Gitai: Kippur, War Requiem
The sirens cutting through the silence of Yom Kippur on the early afternoon of 6 October 1973 caught Amos Gitai, who had only recently completed his army service, on the cusp of his second year of architecture studies at the Technion. Gitai picked up his friend from the IDF Egoz Unit and drove north to the Golan Heights to look for the war. Unable to find their unit, they joined an airborne rescue team – a pilot, co-pilot, physician, and four members. For five consecutive days, they flew to evacuate wounded soldiers from the Golan battlefields. Back and forth, they carried the stretcher to the helicopter and the hospital. On the sixth day of the war, 11 October (Gitai’s 23rd birthday), they were sent to rescue a pilot whose airplane had been hit and he had ejected into Syrian territory. During that flight, a Syrian missile hit the helicopter. The co-pilot, Captain Gadi Klein, was killed instantly, and the pilot managed to land the helicopter on Israeli ground. Gitai, also injured, was hospitalized with the rest of the team. After several days he slipped out of the hospital and began his afterlife.
In the conventional sense, the Yom Kippur War ended in victory. However, the surprise attack's impact and the Israeli leadership's failures marked this war in Israeli consciousness as a traumatic event, after which nothing would ever be the same. The war was a defining event in Gitai’s life – it changed his path and led him to filmmaking. In Gitai’s oeuvre – internationally acclaimed thanks to a copious filmography that includes many dozens of documentaries, feature, and experimental films – the Yom Kippur War returns in telling moments, both personal and political. The exhibition presents the short Super-8 films Gitai made during the war; the intense pastel drawings he created after it as real-time witness accounts of sorts; segments from the documentary film Kippur: War Memories (1994); and the opening shot of the feature film Kippur (2000). All these foreshadow the new video installation, Kippur, War Requiem, created especially for the exhibition. These returns to Kippur – differing in length, genre, and focus – are where Gitai explored the elusiveness of memory and the impact the war had on those who participated in it in his quest to convey a sharp image of war as chaos.
The 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War is occurring in one of the most tempestuous years in the country’s history. The legislation pushed by the government is threatening to turn Israel into a hollow democracy and is brutally polarizing Israeli society. Among the hundreds of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets to fight for the country’s character, the Yom Kippur Veterans group stands out – as those who paid the price of that war with their bodies and souls and the loss of their friends. They are a community of memory fighting for the memory of the war and its meaning.
The installation Kippur, War Requiem includes sights and sounds that might be PTSD triggers.
The exhibition was made possible thanks to the generous support of Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, London · Paris · Salzburg · Seoul
Special thanks to Eva Schwarz and Edouard Sterngold for their contribution to the publication of the catalogue