I have been on the road for a few weeks, speaking in synagogues and at Jewish film festival events in North America on issues of contemporary Israel as seen through film. Last night (Thursday, November 6th), I spoke for the Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival at a special preview event for donors at a private home in Palm Beach Gardens. The festival (http://www.pbjff.org/ ), directed by my friend and colleague, Karen Davis, will run for 10 days in December. Karen asked me to give a sneak preview of some of the films that will premiere at the festival next month. I showed clips from Lemon Tree directed by Eran Riklis and from the TV series, Arab Labor, directed by Ron Ninio and scripted by Saed Kashua. Both portray the lives of Palestinians living in Israel and the West Bank. One, Arab Labor, focuses on Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship, and the other, Lemon Tree, tells the story of a Palestinian woman whose grove of lemon trees is threatened since it has been declared a security risk by the Israeli security forces.
The audience was a particularly sophisticated group and they really got the point, i.e. that Israeli filmmakers are now creating sensitive and substantive films that delineate in clever and imaginative ways the intertwining lives of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, both inside Israel and in the West Bank. Both Jews and Palestinians live “normal” and at the same time complex lives, often completely separate and sometimes very much together. This is a phenomenon that American Jews are becoming more sensitive to and more aware of, thanks in great measure to new groundbreaking portrayals in contemporary Israeli films.
One remarkable and humorous anecdote of the discussion last night was that half of it was held in the beautiful and spacious bedroom of the hostess of the event, since the DVD player in her family room wasn’t working! This is probably the first time in history, that an Israeli film, Arab Labor, which portrays the lives of Israeli Arabs in a very human and humorous way, was screened and analyzed in the bedroom of an American Jewish home!!
So, who can say that history is not being made in South Florida everyday – after the mess with the ballots in the Bush-Gore election 8 years ago, Florida went for Barak Obama in the American Presidential Election a few days ago!!
Arab Labor is one of a diverse selection of films being shown currently at the "Other Israel" Film Festival in New York -- check out their program at http://www.otherisrael.org/films