The Holy Land

Theatrical Trailer

Director Interview

Press Quotes

“The Holy Land is one of the freshest, most original movies you’ll see this year.”
Detroit Free Press, by John Monaghan, September 17, 2003

“Eitan Gorlin’s outstanding first feature…thanks to excellent writing, superlative acting and evocative location work…”
Las Vegas Mercury, Critic’s Pick, by Anthony Allison, October 23-29, 2003

“(Gorlin) provides a richly detailed sense of both place and character that infuses the film with a subtle truthfulness. The central relationship is depicted with an ambiguity and complexity that defies easy characterization, with the characters revealing unexpected and surprising depths. Equally effective is the depiction of violence-torn Israel…”
Hollywood Reporter, by Frank Scheck, July 11-13, 2003

Press Links


Grand Jury Prize, Slamdance Film Festival, 2002

Audience Award, Avignon/New York Film Festival, 2002

IFP “Someone to Watch” Spirit Award, 2003 (nominee)

Plot Summary

Mendy, an alienated and distracted rabbinical student, is called into his rabbi’s study. The rabbi, quoting an obscure Talmudic passage, suggests that Mendy clear his head by visiting a prostitute. At a Tel Aviv brothel, he meets Sasha, a nineteen-year-old prostitute from Russia. Mendy becomes obsessed with Sasha, following her to a party in Jerusalem where Mike, another Sasha client, owns a bar.

Mike, a former war photographer from America, owns “Mike’s Place,” a Jerusalem dive bar where Jews and Arabs drink side by side. Mike becomes a mentor to Mendy, even hiring him to bartend at his pub. There, Mendy meets Razi, an Arab wheeler and dealer, and the Exterminator, an M-16-weilding, American-born Jewish settler.

Mike’s motives in befriending Mendy are unclear. He and Razi have a package stored at a Bedouin tent compound in the West Bank that they need smuggled into Israel proper. We assume that package contains drugs. The naïve Mendy, with his earlocks and yarmulke, is the perfect mule. Soldiers at the checkpoints rarely inspect Orthodox travelers.

After delivering Mike and Razi’s package to Jerusalem, Mendy puts Sasha in a taxi to Tel Aviv. Back in Tel Aviv, Sasha unexpectedly encounters her former piano teacher at the brothel. Shaken, Sasha decides to join Mendy and Mike in Jerusaelm.

With both finding refuge at Mike’s East Jerusalem house, the relationship between Mendy and Sasha intensifies. All is well until Mendy’s rabbi shows up at “Mike’s Place.” The rabbi offers Mendy an ultimatum—return home within a week or he’ll tell Mendy’s parents what he’s been up to. As Mendy’s mother is American, Mendy and Sasha decide to use his American passport and her earnings to start a new life in Florida. But first Sasha must return to Tel Aviv to get her passport, being held ransom by her employers.

With Sasha in Tel Aviv, Razi and the Exterminator try to convince Mendy that Sasha is using him, that she’s only after his American passport.

And then there’s the question of the smuggled package. Does it simply contain drugs or could it be connected to the spate of bus bombings terrorizing Jerusalem? As Mike counsels Mendy, “There’s no return flight from Jerusalem. I’m afraid it’s a one way ticket.”