Espresso,  Israel

Eskimos in the IDF

In the comments, Slovo linked to a quip made during a Knesset committee meeting on the identities of those who attacked the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus.

It put me in mind of this piece of mine.

A film I have fond memories of is Vincent Ward’s 1993 Map of the Human Heart, about the cosmically doomed love between an Eskimo… oh, okay… Inuit boy called Avik, and Canadian Indian… oh, okay… First Nations girl called Albertine.


Narrated in flashback by a cartographer played by John Cusuck, to whom Avik recounts his tale, it starts in as a polar explorer played by Patrick Bergen arrives at a settlement in the Canadian Arctic in the years before WWII, and is drawn to Avik who is found to be suffering from tuberculosis. Whisked away to a sanitorium in Quebec, he befriends Albertine, a Metis confined to hospital with a heart ailment (hence the film title).

Young love blossoms, even when Avik discovers Albertine’s ethnicity. Rushing, fists brandished, he cries “Eskimos hates Indians!”. And, no, he did not say “Inuit hate First Nations!”. His TB treated, he returns to his settlement.

Several years later, the explorer flies in once to the settlement and meets Avik once more. I have shaky memories of how, but Avik now ends up in the Canadian Air Force stationed in southern England with the remark he may be the “first Eskimo to fly in the RAF”, and meets Albertine once more. I recall their canoodling in a glass ceiling’d museum as a doodlebug glides by, in terrifying silence, before exploding and showering the attic area with glass.

Avik then flies as part of the firebombing of Dresden (in which the director’s father also flew), where he bales out. I recall his attempting to rescue a young girl from being sucked into a vacuum caused by the intense fires, and deciding that armies are cannibals. He leaves Albertine, returns to his settlement to meet a cold and desolate end.

What triggered my memory was reading this report (a few years old now) about twins, Eva and Jimmy Ben Shira. Part-Cherokee, part-Eskimo (and they are not Inuit; the mother was Yap’ik) they were adopted by an American Jewish couple who then relocated to Israel.


Naturally, they were conscripted into the IDF; and, by all accounts, were the first Eskimos to do so. Eva is reported to have introduced herself to her induction class with the assurance “I am not Chinese” (as an adult, Avik was played by Jason Scott Lee).

Eskimos in the IDF. There is a joke in this somewhere.