The promotional material for this production promises an exploration of “the complex relationship between American Jews and Israel.”
Oh? This hour-long offering pretends to be a documentary, but is actually a shameless travelogue designed to encourage Jewish Americans to visit Israel for their summer vacation. It is difficult to locate complexity in endlessly wistful statements of the “living history” in Israel’s celebrated tourist attractions, or the joys of buying religious paraphernalia in a flea market, or the comfort of being in a surrounding where the majority of people belong to the same religion.
But not everyone is ready a natural marketing spokesperson on the subject, as the film discovers a pair of little girls who giggle cluelessly on why they are going to visit Israel (their respective parents audibly cue them from off-camera on how to answer).
The real Israel – a modern, Westernized and predominantly secular multi-ethnic society – barely shows up here: a group of tourists pitch in at a Tel Aviv soup kitchen (a very rare acknowledgement of poverty in the Land of Milk and Honey), while a young American woman joins a remarkably docile protest by Palestinians at a military checkpoint. When an occasional voice of crankiness turns up, such as a female American rabbi bemoaning the gender segregation at the Western Wall, the film abruptly switches to a let’s-go-shopping mode.
“Eyes Wide Open” will inevitably cause the view to rub their eyes in disbelief.