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A SCENE FROM ‘Graffiti in Yaffa,’ part of the ‘Day After Peace’ collection.(Photo by: US EMBASSY)
U.S. Embassy presents stories of coexistence at Docaviv
By HANNAH BROWN
05/29/2019
Jewish and Arab filmmakers were asked to portray their interpretation of “the day after peace”through short documentary films.
The Day After Peace is a collection of short films by and about Jews and Palestinians that will premiere at Docaviv, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, on May 28 at 6 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

The film project was created by the US Embassy, in partnership with Docaviv and the Gesher Film Fund.

Jewish and Arab filmmakers were asked to portray their interpretation of “the day after peace” between the two communities through short documentary films.

Out of 60 proposals submitted, seven films were selected and produced: Crossing Borders Stream, by Yasser Abu Ajaj, an examination of how access to, and care of, a shared stream affects both communities; Arabic Friday, by Gal Rosenbluth, a look at how a mixed couple’s decision to speak only Arabic one day a week causes tension; Biopsy, by Odeya Rosenak, the story of a young woman undergoing a biopsy to check a lump in her breast who finds an Arab nurse who offers her a very maternal form of comfort; Rina & Zaki, directed by Ilay Mevorach, about the depth of an elderly Jewish woman’s affection for an Arab laborer; The Deal, by Alon Levi, about how the conflict can interfere with a simple business transaction; Graffiti in Yaffa, by Abeer Production, a look at how girls from different groups work together on a creative project; and Bilingual Memories, directed by Zohar Shachar, a look behind the scenes at a celebration at a bilingual school.

The films will be posted to the embassy’s social media sites on May 29 so that anyone who is interested will have the opportunity to watch them all.

The embassy supported this project as part of its ongoing efforts to enhance dialogue and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians through cultural and educational programs.

“WE REALLY didn’t know what we were going to get out of this,” said Terry R. Davidson, the embassy’s counselor for public affairs, as he sat down for an interview along with several of the filmmakers. “We had sort of a concept that we wanted to tell human stories about different parts of the society, Israeli Jewish society, Arab Christian and Muslim society, other parts of society, but we wanted to have the concept of people talking to each other across the divides that exist in the society and making connections, human connections, and we threw it out there and wanted to use the film vehicle as a way for people to have an emotional connection to these stories of connection within Israel.”

The films show a reality that will be familiar to most Arabs and Israelis – a de facto coexistence that is flawed, often tense but, just as often, intimate, complex and full of contradictions.

“These stories exist, but you don’t usually see them on the media... which often portrays life here as all negative. These films are not all Pollyanna-ish, they are somewhat heartbreaking and complicated.... The main thing is we wanted to make people aware that these stories are there,” he continued.

Odeya Rosenak spoke about the reality of a frightening medical test reenacted in her film, Biopsy. She came to the test alone, she said, since her mother had died years before from cancer, and found that “the Arab nurse who accompanied me through the procedure became my mother for a day. When you need someone to hold your hand, you don’t care about their religion.... She told me to think about something beautiful and she caressed my hand; it was a very emotional moment.”

Gal Rosenbluth and Zohar Shachar made films that emphasized the divide that comes through speaking different languages and the affection that can be expressed by bridging this gap. They noted that in the vast majority of communication between Arabs and Jews here, it is Arabs who speak in Hebrew rather than Jews speaking in Arabic.

Rosenbluth talked about the difficulties between her and her Palestinian partner because of her lack of proficiency in Arabic, saying, “When I started learning Arabic, I was lost, it was really hard for me. It was so easy just to go back to Hebrew, even though we had decided to speak Arabic on Fridays.... It was our day of deep miscommunication, even though my motivation was to be part of his world.... If we had all learned Arabic, it would have been very different.”

Shachar, whose children study in a bilingual school that is the setting of her film, said, “All four of my kids speak Arabic because they were exposed to Arabic.... I wanted to show how this reality affects their lives.... If we can all speak to each other, it’s not an illusion that we can make peace.”

To see the films, starting on May 29, go the US Embassy’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USEmbassyJlm
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