Golda's Balcony - Film Review - The Story of an American Israeli Heroine

 Golda -The Golden Girl of Israel

It’s 1973. As Yom Kipper dawned on the State of Israel, Prime Minister Golda Meir – Israel’s fourth minister and first woman to hold the office – is awaken with news of an Arab surprise attack and it is here that the film of Golda’s Balcony starts.

Not really a film and not really a play, this hybrid, which is a little bit of both, is a unique opportunity at seeing into the life of a heroic woman of the twentieth century and learn some of the history of the Jewish people.  

Produced by Tony Cacciotti and David Steiner, it was directed under the creative eye of Jeremy Kagan.


Sitting next to the famed Israeli general, Shimon Erem and Israel’s consulate general, Yakov Dyan. I listened to the questions asked of Valerie Harper, the film’s star, and the crew. 

Golda's Balcony: Valerie and General Shimon Erem


The evening was presented as a joint effort between Stand With Us (SWU) and the American Jewish Committee’s educational director Seth Brysk.  Sponsorship was provided by Debbie and Naty Saidoff as well as Congreg Bold ation Ner Tamid of South Bay, Margo and Stan Itskowitch, and Mirelle and Barry Wolfe.

Golda's Balcony: producer Tony Cacciotti, Sponsors Debbie and Naty Saidoff; Margo and Stan Itskowitch, Valerie Harper and Barry and Mirelle Wolfe SWU President Esther Renzer


As the international president of SWU, Esther Renzer, and international director, Roz Rothstein said, the purpose of educating the public. “A lie told a million times is still a lie.”  Founded in response to the 2001 second Intifada and the misinformation about the Jewish state that surrounded the conflict, it’s mission is to make sure that Israel’s side of the story is told in communities, campuses, libraries, synagogues and churches. ” It’s amazing how many kids – Jewish and otherwise -have no real knowledge and are easily swayed when presented with the altered stories from other sources, especially when they go on college campuses.  It’s even more amazing that adults who have lived through this history have no idea of the facts” Through educational materials, speakers, programs and conferences, they advocate an understanding which, we hope, will build a secure future for Israel and her neighbors as well as Jewish communities around the world..

We are told the story of Golda as the elderly woman sits on her balcony, remembering. Going back and forth through time and using archival footage and photos, the film follows Golda’s thoughts as she thinks about her life, contemplates death, and considers the enormity of the decisions which created the person that she became.

Starting from her early years in Russia where she recalls having to board up the windows to get away from the Cossacks and the pogroms, the story travels to Milwaukee where the immigrant family struggled to become Americans and yet keep their Jewish identity.  

Mesmerized by a lecture from Ben Gurion, Golda is determined not to be a “parlor Zionist” but to really work for the new state.  Defying her parents, she goes to Palestine and convinces her new husband Meyer that he must come with her.to work on the kibbutz.  

As Meyer, the character reveals how he hoped that Golda would tire of the rougher life and leave and Golda allows us into her thoughts by hoping that Meyer will love new Jewish homeland with the same fervor as she does.

That never happens and the couple split but never divorce.  Because of her motherly charm, it is Golda who is sent to the United States on the eve of Israel’s independence declaration to raise money for defense of the new state.

Golda's Balcony: Valerie as Golda


In one last effort to create peace, Golda goes incognito to the palace of Jordan’s king who, while fearful of his Arab brothers, also would like peace.  He offers the Jews a chance to become a solid minority in the Jordanian parliament with full rights.  But Golda tells him that we have been under other thumbs too long.  “It is time for our own state.”  

As turns out, it is just as well she did not accept the King’s offer.  Two years later he was assassinated and all his promises would have gone down the drain.

The new government grows and with it, Golda’s determination to see the new state survive.  “It’s like the 3rdTemple,” she says. (The first having been destroyed by the Babylonians and the second by Rome.)

On the edge of the war, pacing in her office, Prime Minister Meir meets with her cabinet trying to decide – do they use nuclear weapons or not?  Meanwhile Kissenger drags his feet about the promised American support.

“What happens when idealism becomes power?” Golda asks.  She answers.  “It kills.”

Golda's Balcony: Valerie Harper



Originally a play by William Gibson (who wrote the Miracle Worker) starring Tovah Feldshuh, the story had not garnered as much attention as it should have.  

Many years later, as the real Golda lay dying, she asked the playwright to try and bring the show to the forefront once again   William found Valerie Harper.  Or perhaps it was the other way around.

There is no one like Valerie Harper.

No, Valerie is not Jewish, but as she says she has a Jewish neshama (soul.)  She had been a Zionist since childhood. Growing up in suburban New Jersey during WWII, although she was only five, she had been very much affected by what she heard around her .  Valerie was told that her best friend Eleanor Eisenberg could have been one of those people taken away and killed if she had been living in Europe.  

Most of us remember Valerie as Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary Tyler Moore’s best friend and then star of her own series, other series and of course a slew of films.  Her real love is the theatre.  

Besides being a Zionist and activist to end hunger and save kids, Valerie is also a feminist and a darn good actress.  Using the art if the grebe screen, not only does she play Golda, with her steel wool hair and grease paint wrinkles (nearly 5 hours of make up daily!) but she plays Golda’s husband Meyer Meyerson; Ben Gurion, Henry Kissenger, her parents, her children and many more.

Valerie is awed not only Golda’s grandmotherly heart but also by the brutality around her.  As the character says, “I can understand why the Arabs want us dead, but do they expect us to cooperate.”

Golda's Balcony: Valerie Harper and Serita Stevens



Husband Tony also wrote a one woman production about Pearl S Buck, author, for Valerie to star in, and has himself appeared in numerous films and television shows.  He is also the author of The Cacciotti Method for fitness and exercise as seen by Richard Gere in American Gigolo.  

For information about the film www.goldasbalconythefilm.com

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