(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.
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.
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
“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.