Black to the Promised Land

BLACK TO THE PROMISED LAND follows 11 African-American teenagers from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan, Israel.

The 6 boys and 5 girls, ages 15 to 18, are students at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Street Academy, an alternative high school in one of New York City’s toughest neighborhoods. Led by their Jewish teacher Stewart Bialer, the teenagers, full of misgivings (“Taking black kids to Israel?”), leave impoverished lives to spend 3 months as working kibbutzniks.

On the 1,500 acre kibbutz, the students, many of whom had never been outside of New York City, rise at 6 a.m. to tend cattle, turkeys, fish, and fruit orchards. As they work side by side with Israelis, the wariness felt by both groups about the other (“We stared at them, they stared at us.”) breaks down. A young Israeli who thought “stealing, selling drugs” was the students’ way of life decides “without them it will be terrible here. There will be no life.” When the 3 months have passed, the Israelis are deeply attached to their guests. The American teenagers do not want to go home.

BLACK TO THE PROMISED LAND challenges myths and stereotypes. It is a fascinating study of the value of alternative education on disadvantaged youth, and a powerful portrayal of the importance of cross-cultural exchanges.

“This heartfelt look at the successful juxtaposition of two diverse cultures will be a real crowd pleaser.” – Booklist

“The students teach dances to the Israelis, and in turn learn Purim dances. It’s mesmerizing to watch how easily bridges can be built between cultures.” – Village Voice

“****[4 Stars – Highly Recommended] A unique documentary that challenges common African-American and Israeli stereotypes… The scenes depicting daily life of the kibbutz are wonderful and inclusive… Libraries with an emphasis on multi-culturalism and the African-American experience will want to add BLACK TO THE PROMISED LAND to their collections. Public and academic libraries will not want to pass this up either.” – Video Rating Guide for Libraries
(Tags: Documentary, Black, Israel)

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