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Review: Blessed Is The Match

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Blessed Is The Match: The Life and Times of Hannah Senesh. Photo courtesy Katahdin Foundation.

With the heightened sense of urgency that exists throughout the world today, it is easy to be uncertain or afraid. There is a gimme gimme attitude, built partly out of necessity in today’s climate, but also out of generations of relaxed approaches to consumption and spending. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see true stories of unbelievably strong people sacrificing everything they can to help others, many of whom they have never (and may never) meet. With such an ambitious goal, the success is often not in the end result, but in the trying.

Such is the case with Hannah Senesh, a wildly popular Jewish heroine, who is often considered the Hebrew equivalent to Joan d’ Arc. During World War II, as the dissolution of Germany was beginning to come to focus, the efforts of the Final Solution were only ramping up more, and surprisingly the direct response and rescue of any Jews, especially by Jews themselves, had not taken place. Hannah Senesh, to her credit, worked to change that by helping to organize and carrying out the only direct rescue mission for saving Jews in all of World War II. Blessed Is The Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh is that story.

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Told as a documentary, Blessed Is The Match is not wonderfully stylistic in the Man On Wire vein, but it is objectively beautiful, as one strong woman utilizes her strengths and takes on her weaknesses to help fight for a cause above her own. Very much like her contemporary Anne Frank, Senesh kept meticulous diaries that outline her life from quiet decadence in Jewish-friendly Hungary to the tribulations of leaving her homeland amidst darkening clouds of global despair to attempt to effect change in the new kibbutzes of Palestine, the eventual Israel. As a staunchZionist, Senesh took a very humanistic (as opposed to religious) tack towards her life and work, attempting to instill the same reverence she felt for her own people and future homeland in those around her. However, as the forecast for the Chosen People became more and more bleak over Europe, Senesh began to feel a sense of heartbreak for those she could not help from the Middle East, including her own mother back in Hungary. Eventually, a mission was launched to be airlifted into Hungary in an attempt to smuggle out Jews while simultaneously providing radio intelligence to the British and engaging in a resistance force against the Germans. However, not five days after they parachuted to safety in the woods, the German invaded the heretofore loosely allied Hungary, effectively surrounding the group and sending it into chaos. Senesh, in the moment that will forever endear her to millions, decided to move the mission forward at her own peril, with the believe that her story would at least be a catalyst for strength in those she was trying to save.

Indeed, Senesh is captured without having directly saved a single person, but the stories and diaries of her strength and wisdom in prison (at times in a cell alongside her own mother) are infamous, and lay the true groundwork for the reverence held today for Senesh. Her uplifting poetry and moments of true clarity towards her duty as a Jew, and as a human, lead Senesh down a terrible and ultimately despairing path, but the lives she touches along the way come to form a bond of solidarity that helps them all to survive. And in that sense, forevermore, Senesh is truly is the heroine that others claim her to be.
What is beautiful about this film, and the story itself, is that it has no real pretenses of ‘success’ in a quantifiable, numbers-across-a-border sense, but the ultimate recognition for everyone is that those numbers don’t matter. Just as Joan d’ Arc, Senesh moves towards her fate with the resignation and duty given to those with a certain moral compass, and this is shown beautifully throughout the film. Sprinkled liberally with moving poetry by such a strong and admittedly unflattering woman, Blessed Is The Match is a fitting swan song to the story of a heroine worth remembering, especially in the context of today, when all we can do is search blindly around us for someone to believe in.

Blessed Is The Match is currently looking for a wider release to showcase the unbelievable life of Hannah Senesh.