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Holy Land: Common Ground
A Film by Edward Gaffney and Alicia Dwyer
Reviewed by David M. Denny

This documentary film introduces faces behind the headlines, Palestinians and Israelis who have lost family members yet choose to resist violent reactions to their grief. Rather, they join together in efforts at healing. We meet a Palestinian family whose car was riddled with bullets one night several years ago near Bethlehem, leaving their teenage daughter dead. (The Israeli soldiers who fired the shots said the car looked like another car the soldiers expected to pass, driven by Palestinian terrorists.)

We meet Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh, West Bank Palestinians whose home was demolished not only once, but four times. Thanks to the support of folks such as Israeli-American Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the fifth house remains as a meeting place for foreign visitors who come to learn about the Israeli occupation, settlement building, and discriminatory housing regulations.

We meet Dalia Landau and Bashir Al-Khayri, who met after the 1967 war, when Bashir went to visit his childhood home in Ramla. Dalia and her family had lived there since 1948, after Bashir’s family was expelled and Israel was founded. They became friends, and at one point Dalia considered turning the house over to Bashir. But it is illegal to do so. Instead, together Dalia and Bashir have converted their home into The Open House, a daycare center for Palestinian children and a center where Israeli and Palestinian teenagers meet and talk about their present and future lives together.

We meet several other courageous Israeli and Palestinian parents who have suffered gravely and turned their grief into a persistent pursuit of dialog, healing, and peace. One Palestinian man describes how his dead son’s organs were donated to seven Israeli children. In this way, the father says, he has lost one child, gained seven, and through these children, he has, in a sense, returned to his native land. A South African Israeli mother describes her grief over the loss of her son, an Israeli soldier, and her encounter with the mother of the little girl killed in the mistakenly identified car is unforgettable. The pain is so great that these parents are able to ignore the camera completely. And we are swept into a deep and heartbreaking intimacy with their plight.

Holy Land: Common Ground is available for purchase from the director at Edward.Gaffney@valpo.edu.

 

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