Balfour film can be used as an educational tool

MELVYN Lipitch had no experience whatsoever in making films.

But it didn’t stop the antique dealer from writing and co-producing A Letter from London.

Directed by former BBC producer Doug Dalgleish, the 50-minute documentary explores Britain’s role in the creation of Israel.

It covers the events just prior to the Balfour Declaration, in 1917, to the proclamation of the new state in 1948.

The Londoner told me: “I have travelled to Israel quite a lot over the past decade as my wife, Etty, is Israeli.

“One of the things which surprised me was how little the Israelis knew about the period from the Balfour Declaration to independence.”

Melvyn contacted an old friend and they put the wheels in motion. Originally, they were just going to post it on YouTube.

Melvyn said: “Because it was the centenary of the declaration, I decided to broaden it and make it into a proper film, telling the whole story.”

The film features interviews with historians Martin Kramer, Professor Colin Shindler, Prof Geoffrey Alderman, Prof Eugene Kontorovich, Benny Begin, son of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and ex-Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, among others.

It is interspersed with archival footage, found by Doug at London’s Imperial War Museum, including a never-seen-before film made by Thames Television in the 1970s about British involvement in the creation of Israel.

There are also interviews with the survivors of the 1929 Hebron Massacre, when more than 60 Jews were killed by Arabs, and interviews with former members of the Jewish freedom fighting groups Lehi and Palmach.

“We added a small section in December, which was the re-enactment, 100 years later, of Allenby’s entry to Jerusalem and subsequent celebration,” Melvyn explained.

“During the filming, I discovered that the song, Hava Nagila, was especially composed for this event, so I added it to my script.

“It is not propaganda — everything in the film is an absolute solid fact and there is no political stance, as we haven’t put our impression on it.

“Hopefully, it can be an education tool for people to learn about what happened between 1917 and 1948.

“I was surprised at the awful conditions many Jews lived in and the bravery of those people who fought for their existence.”

The 70-year-old was also interested in the story Efraim Halevy told him about NILI, the secret, pro-British spying organisation, which operated under Turkish rule in then-Palestine during the First World War, under the leadership of agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn.

“Chaim Weizmann thought so highly of Aaronsohn that he invited him to Downing Street when the Balfour Declaration was handed over,” Melvyn said,

A Letter from London has already been shown in London, Brighton, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

“It has been well-received, especially the Q&A we do after each performance,” Melvyn added.

“One of the consistent remarks we have been told is how much in the film people weren’t taught at school, which I find quite remarkable.”

A Letter from London will be screened in Manchester on Tuesday (8.15pm) at Whitefield Hebrew Congregation, organised by the Zionist Central Council, Social@WHC and UK Lawyers for Israel.

It will be followed by a questions and answers session with Melvyn.

* Details: or telephone 0161-766 3732 or email

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