Sallah Shabati

Sallah Shabati (Hebrew: סאלח שבתי) is a 1964 Israeli comedy film about the chaos of Israeli immigration and resettlement. This social satire placed the director Ephraim Kishon and producer Menahem Golan among the first Israeli filmmakers to achieve international success. It also introduced actor Chaim Topol (Fiddler on the Roof) to audiences worldwide.

Sallah Shabati
Directed byEphraim Kishon
Produced byMenahem Golan
StarringChaim Topol
Arik Einstein
Gila Almagor
Shraga Friedman
CinematographyFloyd Crosby
Distributed byNoah Films
Release date
  • June 1964 (1964-06)
Running time
110 minutes

The protagonist's name, Sallah Shabati, is perhaps a play on the phrase סליחה שבאתי, Sliḥa she'bati, "I apologise for coming". In earlier print versions of Kishon's short stories which were revised for the film, the character was known as Saadia Shabtai.


The film begins with Sallah Shabati, a Mizrahi Jewish immigrant, arriving in Israel by plane with his family: very pregnant wife, ancient female relative and seven children. Upon arrival he is taken to live in a ma'abara, or transit camp, where he and his family are given a broken-down, one-room shack to live in.

The rest of the film follows Sallah's many attempts to earn enough money to purchase an apartment in a nearby new housing development. His money-making schemes are often comical and frequently satirize the political and social stereotypes in Israel at the time.

Finally realizing that people are more likely to get what they don't want, he organizes a demonstration against the housing office shouting the slogan: "We don't want the development: we want the ma'abara!" The film ends with residents being forcibly evicted by police and transported to - the new housing complex.



Sallah Shabati's irreverent and mocking depiction of core Zionist institutions like the kibbutz provoked strong reactions among many filmgoers and critics. "The kibbutzniks in the film resemble bureaucrats and are clearly divided into veterans with managing roles and 'simple' workers, a division which contradicts the myth of Socialist solidarity and collectivist idealism. The kibbutzniks betray total indifference, furthermore, to the miserable conditions of the poor ma'abara next to them."[1]

Critical receptionEdit

Sallah Shabati received mixed reviews but achieved unprecedented box office success in Israel, drawing almost 1.3 million spectators.[2]

New York Times critic A.H. Weiler called the film "more educational than hilarious", and said "Sallah Shabbati and his coterie are an unusual, endearing, often colorful lot, but their humor is largely rudimentary."[3]

It won the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Award as Best Foreign Film, and opened and closed the Berlin Film Festival.[4] The film was nominated for a 1964 Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, a first for an Israeli production, but it lost the Oscar to the Italian film, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.[5]

The film won best actor (Haim Topol) and best screenplay (Ephraim Kishon) in the 1964 San Francisco International Film Festival.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ella Shohat, Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation (London: I. B. Taurus, 2010), p. 127.
  2. ^ Judd Ne'eman, "Israeli Cinema," in Oliver Leaman, ed., Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 307.
  3. ^ Weiler, A.H. (1965-10-13). "'Sallah,' Comedy, Opens at Little Carnegie". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-05-16.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Shohat, Israeli Cinema, p. 126.
  5. ^ "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  6. ^ Sallah Shabati - IMDb, retrieved 2020-08-06

External linksEdit