A capacity crowd filled the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv on Monday night for the premiere of Strangers no More, a documentary on south Tel Aviv’s Bialik-Rogazin School and the lives of the children of refuge-seekers and foreign workers who study there.

The 40-minute film has been short-listed for an Oscar nomination in the “Best Documentary Short” category, and filmmakers Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman said it is scheduled to be shown on HBO soon.

The crowd on Monday night included Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Kadima MK Ronnie Bar-On, former interior minister Avraham Poraz, and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who gave a speech in which he referred to the Bialik-Rogozin School as “miraculous” and “unprecedented in Israel.”

Olmert said the school presents a model of how Israel can treat those who are different and those who come here seeking refuge. The former Prime Minister added “We must not allow these children to be deported".

The Bialik-Rogozin School on Rehov Ha’aliya has more than 800 pupils from 48 countries, united through their common language, Hebrew. The school has been in the media spotlight throughout the year, as the issue of the children of foreign workers and asylum-seekers, and their possible deportation has been front-page news.

Strangers no More focuses on the educators at the school, in particular principal Keren Tal and teacher Smadar Moeres, as well as three students; Johannes from Ethiopia, Esther from South Africa, and Muhammad from Darfur. The film follows the students through the course of a school year, painting a picture of the hardships they faced before they left for Israel, and the ways in which the Bialik-Rogozin has been a sort of refuge for them in the country they now call home.

After the screening, filmmakers Goodman and Simon were called onstage. They invited Johannes and Esther to join them with their parents, where they were greeted by a round of applause.

Former ambassador to the UN Danny Gillerman gave a speech after the premiere in which he said, “When I was at the UN I always wanted to show the real face of Israel, the one that wasn’t just bloodshed and warfare. I wish I’d had this video.

“There can be no better hasbara [public diplomacy] than this movie, to show what type of country we are and what type of country we can be,” Gillerman said.

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