My Neighbourhood is a 25-minute documentary about the evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. The film shows Israelis and Palestinians joining forces to protest both the evictions and the presence of the Jewish settlers who moved into the evacuated homes. The movie, produced by the company that created Budrus, is an upbeat portrait about the redemptive nature of peaceful protest and intergroup cooperation.
The release of My Neighbourhood could not be more timely. Recently, the Natcheh family was evicted from theirEast Jerusalem home; this home is now occupied by settlers. As in the case of the eviction of the El Kurd family portrayed in the movie, the Israeli courts have recognized the right of settlers to take possession of the properties, based on their dubious claims that before 1948 the homes were owned by Jews.
And of course, the fact that many homes in West Jerusalem were owned by Palestinians who fled the advancing Jewish army during the 1948 war, would never, of course, be considered by the Israeli courts to be a valid basis for evicting the current Jewish owners.
My Neighbourhood is the type of feel-good film that even the most cynical among us will enjoy. This is the kind of movie, that although you know better, makes you imagine that most people who view it will subsequently understand and support the Palestinian cause.
I watched the film at Al Jazeera Live Stream on Thursday. It will continue to be shown online there until the end of April. Unfortunately, I could not find show times. I was lucky to have accessed the website around midday when the documentary was listed as the upcoming program. I also believe that it will be on Al Jazeera television until the end of the month, so consult your local station listings for times and dates.
My Neighbourhood will be screened at the prestigous Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 27 and 29. See here for details.
The 8-minute video below is from a series called Home Front by the same filmmakers. It has been incorporated almost in its entirety as the beginning of My Neighbourhood.
My Neighbourhood features Mohammed El Kurd, a teenager who steals the show with his intelligence, wit and optimism.
According to Al Jazeera:
At the age of 13, Mohammad was evicted, along with his family, from their home in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli settlers seeking to create a permanent Jewish presence in the area.
Reacting at first with deep anger towards all Israelis, Mohammad was soon exposed to a different part of Israeli society as Israelis from a variety of backgrounds began to arrive in the neighbourhood to support the residents in their struggle to save their homes.
This film follows Mohammad's coming of age over two years of profound upheaval and change in his neighbourhood, and introduces us to key figures in his life, including Tzvi Benninga, a leading Israeli activist who grew up in West Jerusalem and now plays a key part in organizing the weekly protests in Sheikh Jarrah.
Julie Bracha and Rebekah Wingert-Jabi, the directors of the film, know that that justice in East Jerusalem and Palestine/Israel will not come easily. Both filmmakers are also pro-Palestinian activists who view their documentary as a means of depicting a vision of peaceful coexistence through the eyes of those who work for a brighter future. Bracha says,
My Neighbourhood is an attempt to shift that dynamic. To see Jerusalem not solely from the perspective of politicians and religious extremists, but rather through the eyes of individuals growing up in the city, and hoping, despite all they have experienced, that a more noble and equitable future exists for all who live within it. The film is our response to the challenge those like Mohammed and Zvi [Tzvi, the Israel activist who befriends Mohammed] pose to all of us who care about Jerusalem and the region’s future: to bring new storylines and new expectations to this beloved and beleaguered city.