Channel 1 airs documentary on honor killings in Ramle

"Deadly Honor" details life of woman who survived an “honor killing” in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Ramle.

Silwan 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Silwan 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A documentary detailing the life of a young woman who survived an “honor killing” in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Ramle aired on Israeli TV for the first time Sunday evening, when Channel 1 showed Deadly Honor.
The 85 minute docu-drama was made by British-Indian journalist Lipika Pelham, and centers on the story of “S,” a native of the Jawarish neighborhood in Ramle, who in 2001, at age 21 survived being shot in her family home five times, including twice in the head, by masked assailants believed to be her cousins.
In the film, “S” talks about moving to Haifa by herself at age 19 and going out to clubs and coffee shops as a single woman, a lifestyle she believes made her a marked woman in her family.
In addition to the incident that left “S” paralyzed on the left side of her body, the film also shines a spotlight on her family, the Beduin Abu Ghanem clan, which has gained some infamy in Israel after eight women in the clan were murdered in the past decade as part of so-called honor killings.
The film is remarkable not only for telling “S’s” story, but also, for the fact that she does not appear in the final version shown on Sunday.
“This thing has been shown around the world in at least 12 different festivals, and she was OK with that, but when she heard that Israeli TV was going to show it this year after Docaviv [film festival], she got upset and asked that it not be shown, and then she asked [that her] face be blurred and voice changed, so I did all that and pixelated the face, but it still wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t shown on TV,” Pelham said.
Instead, in the third version of the film, which will be shown on Sunday, Pelham and the victim’s sisters appear, and describe the incident.
“We explained everything to her but it didn’t sink in, she was worried that one of her relatives would see this film and – it was all very stressful for the past year, sitting on it hoping she would change her mind.”
Her fears may seem a bit unwarranted considering that the version to be shown on Sunday includes her sisters and the original version in which she appears un-blurred has been shown at over a dozen film festivals worldwide (including Tel Aviv’s 2010 “Docaviv” festival and a film festival in Tunisia earlier this year), and a trailer of the film, in which she appears, is available to view on YouTube.
Pelham was working at the BBC when she heard about the death of Hamda Abu Ghanem in Ramle in February 2007. Pelham became captivated with the story of the 18- year-old girl allegedly killed by her brothers and came to Ramle that year to begin working on the film. It took two years to make the film, an accomplishment the British-Indian filmmaker said was only possible because she isn’t Jewish.
“They were intrigued by me as well, and I was able to make it because they wouldn’t speak to Israeli women or men [about honor killings].”
Pelham  spent the next two years speaking to “S” and her family, spending days with the disabled shooting victim in Tel Aviv and also visiting the Muslim cemetery in Ramle where the bodies of eight women from the Abu- Ghanem, murdered in honor killings, are buried.
Pelham expressed her worry that people will see the horror of honor killings as somehow an Islamic tradition, which she called a misconception she tried to right in the film.
“People may get the idea it’s an Islamic custom or tradition, but I made it very clear [in the film] that Islam isn’t mentioned in the film and [that honor killings are] an old Beduin custom that predate Islam. It’s not mainstream Arabic or Muslim, it happens in pockets of the community here and in Jordan.”
To Pelham, “S’s” story resembles those of acid-attack victims in Pakistan, who were left disfigured by their spouses or relatives.
Pelham said she believes that like in the case of acid attacks, if more women come forward and speak about honor killings they can reach the level of exposure that will force authorities to intervene to stop the phenomenon.
“It’s very important and I tried to tell [“S”] if you want any change in your community, or for people to be warned, or that people in Israel outside of [Beduin society] will be aware of what’s going on... she could be a whistle blower.”
According to Pelham, the film leaves an impact on viewers – one of the reasons she believes it’s important to have it reach as large an audience as possible, especially in Israel.
“People are in shock when they see it.
When it showed at Docaviv one person was in tears saying they couldn’t believe this was happening on their doorstep,” said Pelham.