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      Op-Ed: Israel at 65: Thumbs Up

      Published: Saturday, April 13, 2013 10:55 PM
      Upon the recent passing of the second half of America’s most famous film critiquing pair, Siskel & Ebert, the writer offers a ‘sneak preview’ of their next endeavor.



      Roger Ebert walks into a huge empty movie theater with a giant screen and sits down next to Gene Siskel.

      SISKEL: You’re late, Roger. We’re on in five minutes.

      EBERT: What are you talking about? I just died about a week ago.

      SISKEL: Yes, and I died in 1999. I’ve been waiting for you for 14 years! I thought we were a team: ‘Siskel and Ebert’! We reviewed movies together for 23 years and then you go and get yourself a new partner?! ‘Ebert & Roeper’, come on!

      EBERT: Gene, you were dead. What was I supposed to do? I had to keep reviewing movies with somebody.

      SISKEL: Never mind. You’re back now. But you’re still late.

      EBERT: I know. I was about to get in here but then that ‘Iron Lady’ pushed her way in.

      SISKEL: You mean to tell me that Oscar winner Meryl Streep is dead?

      EBERT: No, not her. The woman she portrayed in the movie, the actual ‘Iron Lady’, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, died.

      SISKEL: Oh, that’s a relief. Now get yourself ready. We’ve only got two minutes till air.

      EBERT: Till what goes on the air? ‘Siskel and Ebert’ stopped taping when you died. Where are we anyway? Is this heaven?

      SISKEL: No, it’s Iowa.

      EBERT: Very funny, Gene. ‘Field of Dreams’, I get it.

      SISKEL: You know, that film is now available in a special DVD boxed set with commentary from stars Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones. You should check it out.

      EBERT: Great, Gene. So I guess this is heaven. But why am I back in the theater with you? (Roger feels his big stomach). And why am I fat again? I lost all that weight after you died. What happened?

      SISKEL: Apparently ‘the man upstairs’, and I don’t mean the projectionist, is a big fan of ‘Siskel & Ebert’, believe it or not. How do you think we got such high ratings all those years on TV? You think it was our unique banter? No, viewers liked watching a fat guy and a skinny guy argue about movies. And you, my friend, were ‘the fat guy’.

      EBERT: This is so unfair. (Roger tries to get out of his seat, but he can’t, he’s stuck.)

      SISKEL: Shhh…we’re on in 10 seconds.

      Red light goes on.

      SISKEL: Hello, I’m Gene Siskel, film critic from the Chicago Tribune...

      EBERT: (unenthusiastically) …and I’m Roger Ebert, film critic from the Chicago Sun-Times.

      SISKEL: And we’re back, after quite a long break, to review all the new movies coming out this week at theaters nationwide. Our first film is entitled ‘Israel at 65’. Yes, I know it sounds like a Woody Allen film about a Jewish guy who is about to retire at the age of 65, but it’s not.

      This film tells the dramatic story of a tiny nation that emerged from the horrors of the Holocaust to become a world leader in the sciences, arts, technology, and more. The film traces the birth of the Jewish state of Israel from its inception on May 14th, 1948 till present day, 65 years later. It’s being released now, just in time for Israel’s Independence Day. In one of the film’s opening scenes we see David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the fledgling state of Israel, declare independence in Tel Aviv.

      Clip is shown.

      EBERT: (shifting into ‘reviewer’ mode) I really liked this film. It’s got a little bit of everything: action, drama, comedy, strong central characters, an unbelievable story –

      SISKEL: I’m going to stop you right there, Roger. It is unbelievable. A little bit ‘too’ unbelievable. That bit about the ‘Six Day War’ was like something out of a Disney movie. All the nations around Israel attack it, but Israel manages to defeat them all in just six days, come on!

      EBERT: Gene, that’s just it! Israel defies the odds. You can’t explain it, you just have to believe. I believed it. There were other parts of the film, like the repeated Palestinian terror attacks, which I thought were a little bit too graphic.

      SISKEL: I agree with you on that, it was hard to watch. But I want to touch on character development. Throughout the film we see Israel as strong, but these attacks against everyday Israelis show Israel’s vulnerable side. It shows Israelis to be human and relatable. Israel is a place where they must constantly defend themselves, although they truly do seek peace.

      EBERT: Speaking of ‘peace’, in this clip we see the peace treaty Israel signed with Egypt in 1979.

      Clip of Begin-Sadat treaty signing at the White House is shown.

      SISKEL: You know Roger, it turns out to be a ‘cold’ peace.

      EBERT: Yes, as cold as this popcorn here under my seat. (He picks it up and examines it.) How long has this been sitting there?

      SISKEL: About 14 years. Now, one of the things I liked about this film was that it had lots of strong Israeli characters: David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, etc.

      EBERT: What about Bar Refaeli? She’s Israeli too.

      SISKEL: Easy, Roger, easy. You’re dead, remember?

      EBERT: Dammit, Gene. Did you have to remind me. Anyway, I liked the film and it’s quite amazing how far Israel has come in just 65 years. Israel has multiple Nobel Prize winners, Olympic medals, amazing hi-tech inventions…

      SISKEL: Did you use Israel’s famous app ‘Waze’ to find your way to this theater? You would have arrived earlier if you had.

      EBERT: You’ve got some hutzpah, Gene.

      SISKEL: It’s pronounced ‘Chutzpah’, Roger. I am Jewish, after all.

      EBERT: So, ‘mazal tov’, to you for that, Gene. Let’s sum up our review.

      SISKEL: Although some of its characters are pushy and aggressive, I think that’s what gives ‘Israel at 65’ its charm. Such a small country has achieved such great things. I am giving ‘Israel at 65’ a ‘thumbs up’.

      EBERT: For a change, I agree with you this time, Gene. I also liked ‘Israel at 65’ and I am giving it a big thumbs up. Sure, there are some things it could have done better or differently, but overall, it’s really good.

      SISKEL: So, that’s ‘two thumbs up’ for ‘Israel at 65’.

      EBERT: (to Siskel) Great, can I go now?

      SISKEL: (in a hushed tone) No, Roger, we’ve got an eternity of films to review together.

      EBERT: (whispering) You’re kidding, right?

      SISKEL: (with a straight face) Roger, do I ever kid?

      EBERT: (clutching his head) Oy vey!

      SISKEL: (to camera) After this short commercial break, and after my partner takes some aspirin, Roger and I will be back to review Sylvester Stallone’s latest film. This time he portrays a 75 year old retired boxer living happily in Florida. But, when some local youths hassle him on the way to his weekly Bingo game, he decides to lace up the gloves once again in: “Rocky 13”. Stay tuned.