Soldier on the Roof.

The ancient West Bank city of Hebron is a holy place for Jews, Muslims and Christians. In Hebron’s oldest neighborhood is a small Jewish settler enclave surrounded by 120,000 Palestinians. All are watched over from the rooftops by a large Israeli military force, under specific orders to protect Hebron’s 800 settlers.

During a period of three years the filmmaker lived amongst the settlers, her goal to paint a picture of the daily lives of these Jewish families, their belief system and their constant conflict with Hebron’s ‘other’ residents. These small local conflicts all boil down to one larger fundamental question: who has territorial right to live in this holy land?

Intimate interviews with Hebron’s Jewish settlers reveal how determined they are to remain here, via scenes such as a Jewish mother who teaches their children how to use ideological slogans to protest against Palestinian presence. The film gradually reveals the settlers willingness to use violence, and their tendency to view the neighboring Palestinian population only as “terrorists.”

A running gag in the film is a Hebron settler who makes paintings of important locations. As this character poses with his works next to ancient buildings, soldiers and passersby constantly interrupt his attempts to explain historical significance. Time and time again, he accepts his fate with both comic resignation and stoic determination.

In 2012 ‘Soldier on the Roof’ was awarded two IDFA prizes, Dutch Doc & First appearance. The jury of the Dioraphte IDFA Award for Dutch Documentary concluded: ‘A reflective portrait of a small community of Israeli settlers in Hebron, where they are outnumbered by Palestinian residents. Both communities believe that they have the historical rights to the same city. The film captures the absurdity of choices where logic and reality are overtaken by dogma and entrenched hatred. A debut film: Soldier on the Roof.’


Director:               Esther Hertog

Editor:                   Danniel Danniel NCE

Producer:             Sarphati Media – VPRO NL

Length:                50 min. TV version – 80 min. feature version

  • Esther Hertog
  • 2012