Jüdisches Leben in EuropaMit der Hilfe des Himmels

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What did you do today, to promote peace?

An Animated Discussion of Peace

Lauren Gelfond

With the help of Italian officials and artists, a group of Israeli and Palestinian high school students is working to transform the landscape of violence into a Technicolor fairy tale.

In an animated short film, written last week by sixteen male teenagers from Ra'anana and Kalkilya, a goofy, loving camel and not a diplomat or head of state is the unlikely superhero they chose to save the day.

The mutually agreed-upon story line came to light in Rome, where the teens studied last week with experts from the Italian Animated Film Festival, I Castelli Animati.

In the seven-minute film, with the working title "My Country in a World of Peace," an Israeli boy and a Palestinian boy, shown simultaneously in their respective sides of town, step out of their homes into a war zone before the house behind them is destroyed. Fleeing toward a tall wall, each looks up to the sun and asks, "Why?"

A clumsy, warmhearted camel makes his way toward them on the wall and bends down, inviting each to step up. The two boys meet atop the so-called supercamel, who takes the kids on journeys through scenes of terrorism and war, while transforming each scene into one of joy and peace. In the fable, soldiers turn their weapons into plant holders and a terrorist is hiding nothing more under his coat than a flock of doves.

"We [encouraged the project because we] would like to give some hope to people on both sides. People don't trust each other and there is no communication, so we'd like to give children the chance to meet and understand each other more," Kalkilya Mayor Ma'arouf Zahran told The Jerusalem Post.

"I hope [the film] will affect people on the Israeli side to see they still have partners. We still have people on our side who want peace and I'm sure on the Israeli side as well. We have our own security [concerns], hopes, and expectations, and for both sides it will be better if both sides make compromises."

With support from the Peres Peace Center, Zahran has participated in the last months in meetings with other Palestinian and Israeli mayors abroad, including Ra'anana Mayor Ze'ev Bielski.

"I think it is one of the most important projects, especially in these times," said Bielski. "If the leaders at the top can't make never mind peace, but negotiations it's our obligation, we at the municipal level, to bridge the gap anything that will bring the children of the next generation to be more tolerant and understanding. Maybe through them we'll achieve peace."

The Rome Municipality, who paid all the students' expenses, has also sponsored other similar projects through its Jerusalem Office of Peace, including a cooperative photo exhibit and joint study for Palestinian and Israeli teen musicians. Rome inaugurated the Office of Peace in 2002, with help from ECOMED, an agency for sustainable development in the Mediterranean, to reinvigorate dialogue.

A forty-minute documentary by Italian documentary-maker Gianluigi Destefano is also under way, following the progress of the kids from their home villages to their first meeting and the entire film-making process. He and the artists who are animating the film are donating their services without charge.

Still in development and production, the film is slated to debut at the Venice and I Castelli Animati film festivals in the fall, and then to travel across Europe and to Israeli and Palestinian schools. It will also be shown on Italian TV.

"When we met the first time it was quiet and nobody talked. We just pressed our hands together. But soon we started talking, playing, even teaching each other songs in our languages," said Uri Nabarro, 17, of the Aviv Senior High School in Ra'anana.

"We discovered that we can do anything we decide [to]. And now, when we hear the word 'Arab,' the image of a terrorist won't enter our minds, because we saw that they are very similar to Israeli kids. I don't see myself living with them or studying in the same school, because of some cultural differences we are freer and have more interaction with girls but it could be very nice to meet sometimes."

There were a few awkward moments, a teacher said, like when the Palestinians suggested having a Palestinian flag on the Palestinian home in the film, to identify the Arabic-speaking child as belonging not to just any village in any Arab country. Israelis vetoed the idea, saying they didn't want the film to take any political positions, since a Palestinian state has not yet been formally established.

"There were many small things about what to put in and what to take out, but in the end they opened up and worked it out between themselves. They agreed and that's the most important thing," said Iris Cohen, who teaches Arabic at Aviv Senior High School.

Lack of a common language was also a problem, she said.

Liwa Assana, 17, of Kalkilya's Aisadia Secondary School, who had never previously known a Jewish Israeli socially, said through his father, Abed, that “there was cooperation between everyone and we proved what we can accomplish even if the policies are negative at this time. When we reached a difficulty we also reached a solution."

Though the students participated with the blessings and encouragement of the Ra'anana and Kalkilya mayors, there were numerous logistical problems.

"Why Italy? Why France? Why London? Why can't Israelis and Palestinians speak to each other inside Israel and Palestine?" asked Hussan al-din Hantash, a teacher from Kalkilya.

The original plan was to have the students meet in Israel, but because of the security situation it was decided to meet in Rome. Palestinians, who planned to travel to Rome through Amman, were denied travel permits by Jordanian authorities, since none of the students had first-degree relatives in Jordan, a teacher said. Later, spokesmen said they had to "move heaven and earth" to get the Palestinians travel permits to Israel so they could fly from Ben-Gurion Airport.

Lauren Gelfond is the winner in the Israeli press category of the 2003 Eliav-Sartawi Awards for Middle Eastern Journalism, founded by the Zel Lurie Journalism Fund.
Source: Jerusalem Post, February 19, 2004.

With Friends Like These

M.J. Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum and former editor of AIPAC’s (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Near East Report, reflects on a recent poll outlining Israeli viewpoints on the current state of affairs and Israeli perceptions of their government’s policies. (Source: Israel Policy Forum, February 20, 2004)

Shopping for a Peace Plan

Highlighting the various recent Middle East peace initiatives, Ksenia Svetlova - Israeli columnist for the Russian language newspaper Novosty Nedeli and Arab affairs reporter for Israel Plus, discusses the proliferation of these initiatives and advocates for “uniting the existing ones and evolving them into an ultimate product, which will unify the peace camp, rather than dividing it”. (Source: AMIN.org, February 25, 2004)

William Fisher:

U.S. Jews and Foreign Policy
William Fisher discusses the world’s misrepresentation of the U.S. Jewish community’s broad range of political and religious viewpoints which, according to the author, does potentially represent a substantial reservoir of goodwill for Palestinian aspirations...

Common Ground News Service February 20, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 22-02-2004



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