THERE ARE NO LIONS IN TEL AVIV – A Review by Cynthia Flores

THERE ARE NO LIONS IN TEL AVIV – A Review by Cynthia Flores

There is a lot of information packed into this documentary’s sixty-three-minute running time. There Are No Lions In Tel Aviv is nicely paced. The director, Duki Dror, chose to use colorful segments to fill in between the mostly black and white footage that tells this fascinating story.

The film revolves around the chief Rabbi of Copenhagen’s Jewish community, Max Shorenstein. He had a love and way with animals. Once his wife died, he emigrated to Tel Aviv in 1935. He left his Rabbi position to fulfill a longtime dream: to build a zoo and teach the children of Palestine-Eretz Israel about animals. He would become known as Rabbi Doolittle. He started out by opening the first pet store in town. As he acquired more and bigger animals, the local government gave him permission to open a zoo in an old orange grove. He donated all his animals to the zoo in exchange for being made the general manager for his lifetime. His dream had come true, and the Tel Aviv Zoo became the city’s greatest attraction against all the odds. Yet the envy, greed, and corruption of city officials and the zoo’s board worked against him. They did not pay him his salary, so he went hungry sometimes. He fought back and took lunch money out of the till. With that, they legally banished him from the paradise he built. This movie is a little known tale of a city raised from sand. Only to become an international cultural and financial hub a century later, and the price that was paid by Max and his animals for this exponential growth.

I enjoyed the way most of the people interviewed for the project actually grew up in Tel Aviv. They have fond memories of being children in the city and visiting the zoo as many times as they could afford to with their families. They give us the joy part of the equation that the zoo brought to so many people. The other part of the equation, the brutal and frequently tragic treatment of the animals behind the scenes is dealt with mostly at the end of the film. For example, the animals lived in enclosures small enough to often leave lasting physiological damage. The caretaker of the new wild safari, zoologist Raffi Guy Ron, where the animals are moved to once the city zoo is closed, takes care of that part of the story. He very clearly thinks zoos should be a thing of the past, saying that no one asks if the animals like being there.

There Are No Lions In Tel Aviv is the kind of treat you only get to watch at film festivals most of the time. I give it a solid 4-star rating.


This film is part of the 8th annual Israel Film Center Festival set for June 7-14, 2020.  For more information:


Directed by: Duki Dror

Rated: NR

Selig Rating 4 Stars

Running Time: 1hr 3min


8th annual Israel Film Center Festival: June 7th @ 7 pm – 14th @ 11:59 pm EDT, Q&A is Friday, June 12th @ 4 pm EDT

Starring: Israel Goodovitch, Michael Melchoir, Max Shorenstein, Raffi Guy Ron


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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