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Hats of Jerusalem

Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Orna Raviv and Jonathan Aroch
Directed by Nadi Adler
VHS, color, 52 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Area Studies, History, Jewish Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Religious Studies

Reviewed by Rue McKenzie, Coordinator of Media Collections, University of South Florida, Tampa

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 10/27/2006

To begin this review by acknowledging that Hats of Jerusalem is a comprehensive examination of the significance of hats in this holy city would be quite an understatement. While the program definitely lives up to its title, there is much more to be learned and appreciated than head coverings. Therefore, this review will begin with rating “Hats of Jerusalem” as highly recommended for any library with a diverse collection, and for most viewers. The technical quality of this program is excellent throughout. The amiable, straightforward, and discerning narrative could not be improved upon. Writer and director Nadi Adler provides a clearly organized exploration of history, culture, politics and religion.

The program reviews the long and at times painful history of hats for Jews. Topics include the Pope Innocent decree of 1215 requiring Jews to wear yellow patches and hats for distinction (and humiliation), the Middle Ages law in Holland compelling lepers to wear foxtails which is discussed as ultimately evolving into the large round fur shtreimel hats of today, to the style of the caps worn by the Israeli Army provided by American hat makers. The program expands the subject further with accessible complexity to compare past and present Jerusalem, traditional and progressive religious beliefs, the roles of a variety of religious leaders, and the roles of women and men. The filmmaker uses scheduled and “on the street” interviews, archival film, photos, and visual art to provide examples of striking and subtle diversities. Jewish, Turkish, Israeli, Palestinian, Armenian, Islamic, Greek, Ethiopian, Jordanian, and Christian customs, ideas, and hats are included. Examples of the diversity of conversations include a lovely young woman being fitted for a wig to cover her hair while her adoring husband looks on, the Armenian monks “kicking back” and listening to System of a Down (an American popular music group with members from Armenian descent), and the young woman who has not walked away from her faith, but has moved away from the traditional exterior trappings of the history and outer-wear of her religion.

It is difficult to find the right “wrap-up” paragraph for this review. “Hats of Jerusalem” reveals elements of the history and many stories behind the region’s headwear that offers a sense of identity to Jerusalem’s citizens, and at the same time reflects distinct religious and political beliefs. The film’s illustration of the beautiful variety of hats and head coverings combined with the open communication by people of so many cultures and religions conveys an even deeper sense of belonging to this extraordinarily diverse city.