Award-winning writer Nir Baram grew up in a political household. Both his father and grandfather were members of the Knesset and Ministers in the Israeli Labor Party governments. As Baram begins to lose faith in even the possibility of a two-state solution, he decides to travel throughout the West Bank to speak with the local populations on both sides of the conflict. He learns that in crucial substantive ways, the two groups don’t start from a common foundation. So how can they even participate in the same conversation? While the international focus of a two-state solution generally revolves around the “Green Line,” the average West Bank Palestinian on the street cares little about 1967 political borders when they desire the land they lost in 1948. These surprising revelations force Baram to challenge his entire political belief system and reevaluate his own hopes for a peaceful resolution to this conflict.
Sitting on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Deir Yassin became the site of one of the most pivotal clashes in the 1948 War of Independence. It also remains one of the most controversial, considered by many a blemish on Israel’s storied history. Three years after Jewish fighters conquered this Palestinian Arab village, killing over 100 and forcing out the remainder of the local population, the nascent Israeli government established the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center on the site, which remains to this day. Dror Nissan, taken at birth from his mother—who was hospitalized at the facility for the final years of her life—returns to this hospital as he attempts to learn more about his own past. By both tracing Nissan’s personal journey as well as documenting the contradicting memories of several Israelis who fought that day, Shoshani unveils secrets of the nation’s founding fathers who set in motion the Palestinian refugee crisis that persists 70 years later.
On October 18, 2015, in the southern Israeli town of Be’er Sheva, a man carrying a knife and a gun walked into a bus terminal and opened fire. Eighteen minutes later, the perpetrator and two other people were dead: An Israeli soldier named Omri Levy and Abtum Zarhum, an Eritrean refugee seeking asylum in Israel because his own country had become too dangerous. Amid the chaos of a terrorist attack, mob rule took control of the crowd, which mistook Zarhum for a terrorist, and lynched him. By painstakingly editing together security camera and mobile phone video footage and eyewitness accounts, the filmmakers provide a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the incident. The diverse perspectives both complement and contradict each other, questioning the reliability of each witness and revealing the power of emotion over reason.
Throughout the world, large groups of people continue to face oppression and discrimination due to religion and ethnicity. Each year, thousands migrate to other countries, uncertain of what may lie ahead, but desperately searching for better lives. With an international refugee crisis afflicting the entire globe, director Dotan follows the specific journeys of two Christian women from Sudan and Eritrea, who fleeing war, dictatorship, and religious persecution in their countries. Over a five-year period, they seek asylum in Israel, later in Uganda, attempting to build new lives while still remaining under the constant threat of deportation. They have no homes to which they can return, and their uncertain status has no end in sight. These specific stories stand in for a more universal tale of refugees, not only in Israel, and uncover the volatile political conversations throughout the entire world, including here at home.
In Nazareth, Christian-Arab Adam suffers the failure of yet another entrepreneurial idea. He will soon become a first-time father, and his father has fallen gravely ill. Adam needs to catch a break, and finally one day he happens upon his blockbuster idea. With thousands of tourists coming to the childhood home of Jesus every year, Adam could sell them “Holy Air,” bottled fresh from the top of Mount Precipice. For a single Euro, tourists can buy a bottle filled with the very same air Mary breathed when the angel Gabriel announced she would give birth to the “Son of God.” Adam suddenly becomes so successful that he catches the attention of the local Jewish politicians, the Catholic Church, and the Muslim mafia alike. Will success liberate Adam and allow him to support his family? Or will more money lead to more problems? In theaters November 17.
Two Palestinian women share an apartment in the vibrant heart of Tel Aviv. A stylish criminal lawyer with a wicked wit, Laila sheds her professional persona and releases any inhibitions in the city’s underground club scene. Her more subdued lesbian roommate Salma left her conservative Christian home and floats from job-to-job, working primarily as a bartender and DJ. They are joined by Nur, a religious Muslim, who moves into the apartment while studying at the local university. Her fiancé refuses to understand why she prefers to study and work over establishing their home. Together, the roommates search for ways to live in the space in between their desired modern lifestyles and the pressures from their traditional communities.
As an infant, Palestinian Muhi was rushed from his home in Gaza to an Israeli hospital. Travel restrictions allowed only Muhi’s grandfather to accompany him to Israel, and seven years later, Muhi has grown into a brave and spirited boy. Unable to receive the care he still needs in Gaza, he and his grandfather remain in the hospital, spending their days roaming the wards, separated from their family and most of the outside world. With the help of an Israeli who lost his own son due to war, the grandfather steadily fights to create a future for Muhi outside of the hospital, whether in Israel or Gaza. Caught between two worlds, Muhi grows up speaking Arabic and Hebrew, studying the Torah and Koran, and cared for by the very government that keeps him separated from his mother and the rest of his family. This paradoxical circumstance transcends identity, nationality, religion, and the larger conflict that both surrounds him and divides his world.
In recent years, social media has become a central part of Palestinian life. The film follows four Palestinians who utilize social media–especially Facebook and YouTube–for both activist and aspirational purposes. Mousa, describing the centrality of the Internet in daily life, repeats a common joke: “If you see a guy who doesn’t have money to buy a coffee, and he has iPhone, Galaxy, and Blackberry, welcome to Palestine.” Ahmad works as a translator, participating in groups that bring together young Israelis and Palestinians for face-to-face dialogue. Manal leads a website that documents violence against women within Palestinian society to shine a light on an otherwise ignored local issue. Issa encourages Palestinians of all ages to use their cellphones to record every interaction with Israeli soldiers as a defense against accusations of violence. To their dismay, peaceful and productive efforts are not the only ones on social media, and the film also illuminates how extremist voices attempt to dominate these platforms.
Gush Etzion Junction, a commercial intersection frequented by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers, lies midway between Jerusalem and Hebron and is the entrance to one of the largest settlement blocks in the West Bank. In 2014, Ali Abu Awwad built a shack on a plot of land owned by his family near the junction to create a Palestinian Center for Nonviolence. He invited some settlers to visit, sit, and talk. They would discuss both the serious and mundane elements of their lives and begin a process of transformation that could lead to mutual recognition and understanding that they must coexist as neighbors with dignity and justice for all. Awwad had been a fighter and militant activist, enraged by his brother’s death at the hands of an Israeli soldier and having served time in an Israeli prison. But now, partnering with the settlers, he and his family created “Roots,” a grassroots effort to advance responsibility and reconciliation through peaceful conversation, activities, and cooperation in addressing the fears and needs of both communities. Director Vardi, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and resident of Gush Etzion, provides a glimpse of the dialogue between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, and follows the group throughout a wave of violence in 2015 that challenges all of their hopes for reconciliation. (Following the screening, please join our Breakout Sessions in the lobby of the JCC for facilitated in-depth group discussions. For more information, click here.)
American reality TV producer Jen Heck brings her friends from a self-described bubble in Tel Aviv, where many are ignorant of the realities of life for Palestinians, to meet Lina, a Palestinian living in Nablus. This action could land them all in a great deal of trouble, as the Palestinian city is off limits to Israeli citizens. When Shlomit and Lina hit it off, they decide to form a band which would allow them to continue to meet and interact. None have much musical ability, but Shlomit recruits a few more friends, and they begin making regular trips to Lina’s home in Nablus. The more time the women spend together, the more they connect with each other and begin to realize they’re not so different.
The city of Qalqilya sits on the edge of the West Bank and is home to the only zoo in the Palestinian territories. The Qalqilya Zoo lost its prized giraffe during the second Intifada. The lore surrounding the question “What happened to the giraffe?” became its own urban legend. The beating heart of the zoo and the man who keeps things running is Dr. Sami, a veterinarian who has dedicated himself to turning his zoo into a world class institution that makes all Palestinians proud. The cooperation and support Dr. Sami receives from the leaders of the Jerusalem Zoo stands in stark contrast to the political obstacles standing in his way–most notably by the Israeli government and military, but also by the revolving door of leadership in Qalqilya. Determined to succeed, even with that cement border wall constantly in view, Dr. Sami continues to leap over the hurdles in the zoo’s path, determined to provide his people with the only zoo they may ever know.
This hit Israeli TV series follows Micah Alkobi, who maintains a reputation as a fair and honorable judge throughout the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva, even among the Bedouin population who believe they might get a fair shake in his courtroom. However, just as he’s on the verge of winning an election for a seat on a higher court, a personal crisis tests those renowned qualities and threatens to cost him everything. Micah’s son Shai hits a motorcyclist with his car and flees the scene. Micah demands Shai turn himself in, until he learns that the critically injured biker is the son of the local Israeli crime boss, currently serving time in prison and no fan of the judge. Desperate to protect his son, and knowing that his identity would likely get him killed, he enlists the help of friends—a Bedouin police officer and his wife—to help cover up the incident. This decision marks just the first of a string of choices Micah makes leading him further into criminal territory and away from the prominent position he has worked so hard to earn.