‘Finding Abraham’ looks for peace and finds hope - review

The movie inspires hope. As one of the Israeli women says, “At the end of the day, peace on paper is from politicians – but actual peace on the ground has to be with the people.”

 A SCENE from ‘Finding Abraham.’ (photo credit: JACOB FILMS)
A SCENE from ‘Finding Abraham.’
(photo credit: JACOB FILMS)

Finding Abraham, a film just released online at www.findingabraham.com, explores new connections made possible by the Abraham Accords, the historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco that was signed in 2020.

Produced by Jacob Films and directed by Malcolm Green, it is a short documentary that follows a group of young Israelis and Arabs from the countries that signed the treaty, who take a road trip together through Israel, which was organized by ISRAEL-is, a non-political organization dedicated to creating people-to-people connections between young Israelis and their peers worldwide.

This is a group that could not have come together just a few years ago. The movie focuses on their perceptions and insights about the peace process and just about every other aspect of life. As they travel, they explore the diversity, richness and complexity of Israeli society. The film includes the voices of Palestinian workers and volunteers, soccer coaches bridging the Jewish-Arab divide with an inclusive sports league, scientists at the Dangoor Centre, Ethiopian immigrants struggling to integrate, members of the Israeli LGBTQ+ community, rabbis and yeshiva students and many more as part of its deep dive into issues affecting Middle Eastern youth.

“This isn’t a conventional observational documentary. It’s a loud, crazy, in-your-face acid trip through the chaos and complexity of conflict and identity in one of the most contentious regions on earth,” writer and director Malcom Green enthused. “Ultimately, it’s all about people – and why it’s our diversity, quirks and differences that make human beings so interesting.” 

The fast-paced, beautifully photographed movie, emphasizing its young participants’ energy, openness and hope, also includes insights by a few of their elders, among them US diplomat Dennis Ross and Chemi Peres, the son of former prime minister Shimon Peres, an entrepreneur who served as chairman of the executive committee of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. 

 ISRAEL, UAE AND BAHRAIN sign the Abraham Accords at the White House in 2020. Had the Heavens gifted Israel with reprieve from diplomatic ‘tsunamis,’ but not bestowed upon it the blessings of the Abraham Accords – dayenu. (credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS) ISRAEL, UAE AND BAHRAIN sign the Abraham Accords at the White House in 2020. Had the Heavens gifted Israel with reprieve from diplomatic ‘tsunamis,’ but not bestowed upon it the blessings of the Abraham Accords – dayenu. (credit: TOM BRENNER/REUTERS)

Peres reflects on lessons he learned from his father about peace, saying: “Don’t try to change yesterday, because it’s unchangeable. But think about tomorrow and changing today. I think that’s the lesson for leaders.” The road trippers echo this thought as they try to figure out how to move forward.

The movie does not shy away from controversial issues; Arabs and Jews discuss terrorism, with one participant explaining that his world view is colored by the loss of a close friend in a terror attack. 

One of the Jewish women in the group is open about her criticism of the religious establishment, saying she is not comfortable with the separation of men and women during the group’s yeshiva visit and that she feels that attitudes need to be more pluralistic. It is refreshing to hear young people from different countries, backgrounds and religions speaking about these issues and listening to each other.

The movie showcases the beauty of Israel, moving from the desert – where the participants take a yoga class – to the beaches and clubs of Tel Aviv to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is fun to watch them and thought-provoking to listen to their thoughts. You may find yourself wishing you could sign up the next time such a tour is planned.

But more than anything else, the movie inspires hope. As one of the Israeli women says, “At the end of the day, peace on paper is from politicians – but actual peace on the ground has to be with the people.” Finding Abraham gives an early blueprint for how that peace on the ground could look.