It was a humid Texan evening when the premiere of the film screening of “A Bottle in the Gaza Sea” was scheduled to be viewed. The premiere began with an introduction of Guy Cohen of Rehovot, Israel, a Cultural Affairs officer at the Israeli Consulate of the Southwest in Houston, Abe Ajrami of Gaza, and his daughter, Hannah Ajrami, both residents of Victoria, Texas. The film began with an ear-piercing explosion and the screen went dark, then appears a young girl who had been awakened by the sudden turmoil. She and her family had recently made aliyah to Jerusalem, Israel from France, and she was having difficulty adjusting to the transition. Bewildered and curious, she decides to write to the other side, the other side meaning… Gaza. She wrote a letter in English and placed it in a glass bottle, and asked her brother to throw it in the Gaza Sea for her. Unsure of what would happen she anticipates a response. 

So one day the bottle arrives on the shore of the Gaza Sea, and is discovered by a teenage Palestinian boy who shares it with his friends, the group read the letter and laugh among themselves. They laugh about how the girl was curious to know about them, and why a martyr or terrorist would react in such a way. Later, one of the boys from the group chooses to write her back, curious, and ignoring the risk of getting into trouble with the local authorities for corresponding with an Israeli. He gradually becomes increasingly intrigued by this girl and continues to communicate with her. She eventually inspires him to learn French, and she gains an understanding of him and who he is, his perspective, and about his life. Although on opposite sides of the spectrum, both are teenagers, young, confused, and just trying to live their lives the best they can.
 
In the end, he becomes approved of a scholarship for a French language program in France, which would have never been possible without the French Jewish girl (his supposed enemy) who inspires him to dream, to look beyond his environment. Also, life was on his side when during an explosion, a man died on top of him, saving his life. He was given the chance to travel outside of Gaza, outside of the home he could no longer bare, and given hope, hope of a better life. 
 
In passing cars on his way out of the country, he was given a very small chance to see the girl face to face after months of email correspondence. Although the moment was brief, I am sure that her face is one he would never forget. The face of a girl who helped change his life, of a girl who he thought he would have hated, but who ultimately left an unforgettable impact on him forever. Also, he taught her that Palestinians are people too, with dreams, goals, and life aspirations, and not all follow radical Islamic ideas. She who often feared Arabs on the bus would now be able to think of at least one who was exceptional, who was decent, and who definitely could be considered a friend. 
 

Following the film Mr. Guy Cohen explained that the film was portrayed as “political art,” in which one of the possibilities for making the film could be derived as open for interpretation or not choosing a side, nor saying which side is right or wrong. In conclusion, both sides do have faults but even when choosing how to resolve or accommodate such issues, all possible solutions could lead to yet more problems and even though many solutions may seem reconciling or resolute, they do leave gaps for mistakes or possibilities of mistakes. The solution to the problem between Gaza and Israel is not at all an easy one, both desire peace, but depending on how each side views “peace,” they could be talking about two completely different ideas. 
 
Religion is binding, people are unyielding, and we only have one state of Israel. Both sides claim a right to the land, which means both will continue to fight for it. Israel is the only country though where Jews can be Jews, observing Judaism in its totality-Shabbat, high holy days, kosher, and all. I ask myself, “What would happen if the Jews didn’t have Israel? Another Holocaust, expulsions, continual persecutions and forced conversions…?" Israel must always remain a Jewish state, but with realistic changes of course. What changes should be made? The answer to this question will vary by person and will continue to be controversial. 
 
During the discussion of the film, a question was proposed to the panel, “What was the motivation behind the violence from Gaza?” Cohen replied, “Motivation is hate.” Hannah said, “Motivation is identity,” and Ajrami concluded, “Motivation is occupation.” Three different responses led by three different perspectives, or could it be that those in Gaza have an entirely different motivation? 

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Finalizing the evening both Cohen and Ajrami displayed a friendly unity, and both desired peace, and wished to share with the audience (the community of Victoria, Texas) the problem in Israel and Gaza. Interestingly, Cohen shared with us that ironically, his daughter was named “Hagar,” the name of the Egyptian maidservant of Abraham and Sarah mentioned in the Torah, who was the mother of Ishmael (the father of the Arab nation), and Ajrami’s daughter’s name was “Hannah,” a Jewish name, the name of Samuel’s mother. So, in a sense, they are cousins, they are family, and they hope to settle family disputes in a peaceful way, an artistic way, through education and film. Before I departed the building I took a photograph of the three, they each looked at me with gentle eyes and smiling lips. I clicked the button and caught the moment, the moment of their joyful expressions; they looked so lovely. Hope paints a beautiful picture, a spark in the human heart.



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