Friday, April 19, 2019
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Walls do not keep you safe

Liran [Photo by Patricia Marcoccia]Last Friday, while the news of the mass murder of 76 youths in Norway was being broadcast, on this side of the Atlantic, I had an opportunity to attend a short film project, one of ten sponsored by the Peace it Together organization in Vancouver, Canada. This organization’s aim is to unite youth from Israel, Palestine and Canada for an intensive summer program to engage in constructive dialogue and co-create short films about the conflict.

Every two years Peace it Together invites 30 young individuals from Israel, Palestine, and Canada to participate in this project. I spent one day on location for the filming of one of ten groups. Each group consists of one Israeli, one Palestinian, and one Canadian. Together they write, direct, and produce a short film. Upon my arrival I met with their Canadian film mentor Aerlyn and others.

During the day I witnessed friendship and cooperation among the participants and the technical support volunteers. I witnessed the director Liran’s (Israeli delegation) concern in making sure nothing in the scene would be offensive to Omar (Palestinian delegation). I saw Aerlyn, with decades of experience in this field, reassuringly pushing them in the right direction without blocking their creativity.

I also saw Patricia, Aerlyn’s assistant and my contact with the group, taking pictures and documenting behind the scene events for future archives, as well as support facilitators, Shehneen and Savannah, coordinating logistics. We were also joined by Amal, Daniel and Daniella from another group who were there to help.

After finishing the shooting, I was invited to join them for dinner on the UBC campus where these young people are housed. I met other participants eating, laughing, and conversing with each other as if they had known each other all their lives. Daniel (Canadian delegation), told me at lunch break that his perspective and understanding of Israeli/Palestinian issues have been profoundly enriched by his stay with the group. He told me that his Palestinian roommate on campus is now his good friend. Liran responded to my question asking how he found Canada by saying was impressed by the peacefulness and lack of problems in Canada. Omar, in an earlier conversation, has expressed his hope and desire to be allowed to visit Egypt one day.

The story of the filmDaniel, [left] Omar [Photo by Patricia Marcoccia]

A man comes home and finds that his house has been ransacked. His families are nowhere to be found. His furniture and belongings have been destroyed. After inspecting the house, he frantically goes to the bookshelf, searching for something in between the books. He finds a book on the floor, picks it up, inspects the pages, and finds an envelope. When he opens the envelope he realizes it is empty and the contents have been stolen. We do not know what was inside of the envelope. But we know by his devastation that it was something very important.

Could it be his hopes and dreams?

The film ends by showing thick stone walls surrounding the house…

Going home that night, I felt that what was unique about this project is that this may be a route to a deeper understanding and identification with the others that could eventually lead to peaceful coexistence. Is this wishful thinking? It may be, but we can dream and hope, can’t we? After all, our envelope’s contents have not been stolen yet. Or has it?

When was the last time you checked yours?

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