“Lemon Tree” by the Israeli writer-director Eran Riklis may have been intended as a modern reworking of the story of Ahab, the King of Israel, who covets the vineyard of his neighbour, Naboth the Jezreelite. In this case, however, Ahab is Israel's defence minister. He has moved into a new house adjoining a lemon grove, which is a Palestinian widow's only source of income, and insists that the trees be cut down for security reasons. Salma, the widow, fights back, and makes the decision to take on the full might of the Israeli Supreme Court. And so begins an escalating war of words and of wills.
Inspired by a real-life incident, this captivating film is both a compelling story of self-determination and an astute evaluation of the current state of a divided territory. The film encompasses wider issues beyond the legal mismatch. For one thing, it exposes the vulnerable position of a lone widow in a conservative Arab community, yet it also allows for glimmers of compassion across the partisan rift, tracing a surprising bond between Salma and the Defence Minister’s increasingly sceptical spouse.
The film has won awards at the Berlin Film Festival, the European Film Awards and the Israeli Film Academy. In addition it has been nominated for several individual awards. A review in The Jerusalem Post stated that “you will leave the cinema craving a glass of the lemonade that Salma prepares so lovingly”. Haaretz saw it as "A positive and personal Israeli film that offers an understated and thought-provoking vision of the West Bank troubles.”