The Way of Man – Martin Buber (directed by Jacob Lifshin and Aharon Lipetz) is a fascinating and worthwhile documentary portrait (52 minutes), providing a complex and extensive look into the thinking of one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. In this film, Martin Buber is compared to Marx, Freud and Einstein, as a great thinker with wide-reaching influence.
Born in Vienna, Buber (1878-1965) was raised by his paternal grandfather, a Talmudic researcher, who took the child to visit in different Hassidic courts. This is seen as providing him with the basis for his later research and work on Hassidic tales. He studied in Zurich, lived for many years in Heppenheim, Germany until 1938, and then went to live and teach in Jerusalem.
Although the film uses mostly interviews – with such erudite scholars as Prof. Uriel Simon, Avraham (Pachi) Schapira, Prof. Paul Mendes-Flohr and more – it develops into a fascinating documentary story of one man's thinking in the realms of education, religion, Zionism and politics. There are so many of his principles and values that can still be relevant to our lives today – democracy and equality among human beings, listening one to the other, dialogue or affinity with fellow humans, the dangers of nationalism, and the value of meeting or relationships between people as described in his foundational work, I-Thou.
Young adults, members of the Dror Israel movement in contemporary Israel, articulately discuss their use and adaptation of Buber's educational principles and values, in their work in educational institutions, work with youth at risk, and work in bringing together Arab and Jewish youth.
The viewer learns about Buber's Zionist, theological and political thinking --
- In Zionist thinking there are two extremes of thought -- On the one hand, we have Jabotinsky's slogan: In blood and fire, Judea fell. In blood and fire Judea will arise. On the other extreme, Buber's Zionist slogan can be summed up in the quote from Zechariah 4:6, 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts. Both of these points of view have found expression in contemporary Zionist circles.
- Buber's theological thinking when dealing with the Shoah speaks to many Jews today. During the post-Shoah period, when the ultra-orthodox were blaming the Zionists for the Shoah, he called the Shoah a period of the concealment of the face of God.
- In the area of politics, Buber advocated a bi-national state in the Land of Israel – one nation for two peoples. He was supportive of the return of the Jewish people to its land, but he believed that the new political entity should not hurt the lives of the Arab people who were already living there.
The Way of Man – Martin Buber is a bio-pic of one of the great Jewish thinkers of all time. The film is available from Ruth Diskin Films.