Promises

Dirs. B.Z. Goldberg, Justine Shapiro, and Carlos Bolado, 2001
Poignant documentary that sets out to understand the Israeli/Palestinian issue
through the eyes of seven children from both sides, some religious, some secular, all living 15 minutes from each other, but, as the film points out, worlds away. After spending time with each kid (ages 9-13) and providing some context as to their economic background, family life, etc. the filmmakers then engage in two involvements–taking one Palestinian kid, Faraj and his grandmother past Israeli lines and to the site of their old village, the one the grandmother was forced to flee from and what has since been razed; the other is arranging for the two secular Israeli twins to come and play with Faraj and his friends (shades of the fabled WWI soccer match in the trenches).
All the children are well-spoken and articulate, and speak with a maturity that comes from living in a war zone. That is save Moishe, the rather plump Jewish kid living in a right-wing settlement; he seems very slow and talks as if his prejudice is giving him a sinus infection.
He got me thinking about the settlements. You could almost make a parallel between the settlements and the cookie-cutter McMansions that are eating up all our natural space, and not just in the architecture and the economic status of the homeowners. Both seem to be built up in the middle of, and to ward off, fear; the Jewish settlers’ fear of violence is way more tangible than sunny CA, but the whole design is the architecture of isolation and separatism, not unlike the “white flight” that leads to bland SoCal houses, large SUVs, and families huddled inside oversized family rooms, worrying about blacks or Hispanics breaking in, where they will sodomize the children and cause their property value to plummet. Moishe’s utter refusal to have anything to do with the people just a few chain link fences away remains unchanged; Mahmoud, who lives in Jerusalem proper and can travel freely, is just as blinkered on the Arab side. And though the ultra-orthodox Shlomo is much more worldly and articulate, he winds up saying the same thing, only more in the abstract and with a smile on his face.
I began to wonder what would happen if all the motorist checkpoints were taken away. Would it lead to more violence, or would it slowly lead to assimilation?
Lastly, though the filmmakers do a competent job with limited funds (all shot on video, and sometimes not even good video), the only false note is hit when the camera cuts from the crying Faraj (who knows that no matter how fun the day was meeting actual Israeli children his own age, once the camera crew go home, the problems will start again) to a weeping B.Z. Goldberg, who has been the kids’ on-screen go-between. They should have held it just on Fazad; as it is, Goldberg seems intent on letting us know how torn up he is (and how much we should be).

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