MUHAMMAD OWEDAH (third left), the Palestinian coordinator for Combatants for Peace, and film co-director Stephen Apkon (center) attend the premiere of ‘Disturbing the Peace’ last night..
(photo credit: SOPHIE ASHKINAZE-COLLENDER)
Former Israeli soldiers participated in a panel discussion on Thursday at the Jerusalem Film Festival with Palestinians who had served jail sentences on terror charges, after the premiere of a documentary about their joint mission to forge equality and peace.
The members of the Combatants for Peace activist group were at the Jerusalem Cinematheque for a film about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Disturbing the Peace.
The feature-length documentary focuses on the bi-national effort by the former combatants, who have replaced their weapons with olive branches.
The film, co-directed by Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young, begins with the personal narratives of each of the eight protagonists.
In the documentary, Shifa al-Qudsi, one of its main subjects, recalled the grief she experienced over the destruction of her home in Tulkarm, which ultimately drove her to attempt a suicide bombing in Netanya, in order to avenge the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of the IDF.
“Our world was a cemetery of the living,” Qudsi said during the film.
Qudsi, now a peace activist and a member of Combatants for Peace, explained she realized peace was the answer while serving a six-year prison sentence.
“I found that there is goodness everywhere, that goodness is possible,” she said, remarking on the kindness and sincerity of a female Israeli prison guard, even after her brother was killed in a Palestinian attack.
It was stories like these that inspired the filmmakers to bring their experiences with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists to the big screen.
Apkon said, “As the years unfolded [during my childhood in the US], I watched as the level of separation and violence and hatred [in Israel] grew, eventually unable to visit places I had traveled to easily when younger.
“I developed an underlying fear of ‘the other,’ but at the same time, I also had a sense for the humanity of the Palestinians and understood that it was all a matter of context.”
Combatants for Peace, established in 2006, aims to spread this mentality among Israelis and Palestinians in order to create a partnership between the two peoples and to persuade Israel to leave the West Bank.
“I want to create hope in every child to not live the life that we once lived,” said Muhammad Owedah, the Palestinian coordinator for CfP, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post at the film reception.
Also in attendance were residents from the West Bank, who spent the entire morning at IDF checkpoints in order to attend the premiere.
Disturbing the Peace will be shown next Thursday evening on the wall of the Jerusalem security barrier for residents of the West Bank, including Qudsi, who was unable to attend the premiere due to security reasons.
“I see this film as a call to action and responsibility – deeply personal and completely collective and universal,” said Apkon. “We can begin to take responsibility for our own creation and realize that we have the opportunity to create a new story.”