Until last year, Fred Monosson may have been best remembered as the raincoat philanthropist who founded Neveh Monosson, a sweet little village in central Israel, and who funded Jewish activities in and around Boston, where he lived.
As of late last year, his reputation may be further burnished as the man who caught Israel’s founding in color.
Monosson was one of the first people to buy a portable color camera, just after World War II. He recorded the aftermath of the war in Europe, and then the birth of the state of Israel.
He died in 1972, and his reels remained stacked in a basement or attic (there are several versions) until a family member contacted Avishay Kfir, an Israeli director.
What he discovered was stunning for those of us raised on the grim black and white newsreels of the era: A living color testament to a nascent nation that knew, even then, how to have fun.
No one seems to be having more fun than Monosson, a dapper guy perpetually in a suit and sporting a red carnation.
Catch the jovial waiters at the Cafe Piltz in Tel Aviv dishing up cake while war waged at Latrun, just miles away. The grinning kibbutzniks at Kfar Etzion, many of them doomed to slaughter just months later.
In the Channel Two mini-documentary about the documentary Kfir made, "I Was There in Color," below, Shimon Peres recalls that there were Americans who were generous with money at Israel’s founding, and those generous with love. Monosson had plenty of both — and the love, you can see, was reciprocated.
We tend to forget this about Israel: It’s a nation that knows how to enjoy itself, and that knows how to bring others into the party.
That doesn’t obviate any criticisms it may or may not deserve, but keeping it in mind, I think, is as vital as a caress during a family fight.
Below the Monosson video is a more recent manifestation of Israel’s embrace of a collective escape hatch: The lipdub flash mob.