In Israel today, Arab citizens of the state are not drafted into the army since it is assumed that this would cause a security problem. Ameer Abu Ria from Sakhnin in the Galilee, however, is different. His grandfather and father and all of his father's siblings served in the Israeli army.
The film, Ameer Got His Gun בני דודים לנשק, directed by Naomi Levari, opens with Ameer about to volunteer for the army. He goes to the induction center to begin the process. We follow him through basic training and then he joins the Border Police and gets assigned to Hebron. Ameer did not want to have to serve anywhere in the West Bank where he would come in conflict with other Palestinians, and the time that he spends in Hebron is not easy for him.
Ameer's family is Muslim but not religious. In fact, there's a scene in the film in which Ameer is kneeling on the rug and the viewer expects him to begin to pray, but instead he leans over and does push-ups, as he is preparing for his upcoming basic training. The viewer meets the family. Ameer's mother, for whom the thought of her son going off to combat is quite difficult, takes time to sit and talk with him. She says she will miss him and when he points out that the house is full with siblings she says that each child has a special place in her heart and in the home. Ameer also talks to his uncle who shares his own experiences, recalling that because he served in the army, people called him a traitor. After his service, he had to work very hard to regain respect in the community and today, the uncle would not want his own son to serve. In a quiet moment, Ameer's father, who is a main figure in the film and very supportive of his son's induction, is troubled by the fact that "the Israeli Jews don't know the Arabs, don't know that we're human beings with feelings."
Although volunteering for the army obviously ostracized his father and his uncle from the community, Ameer believes that this is the only way to achieve true equality and he wants to serve his country. He sings Hebrew songs, did well in Hebrew studies and civics in high school and the family flies an Israeli flag from their balcony.
Real life in the Border Patrol is not so simple. But Ameer is a special young man, filled with optimism, and he takes all of the joking in good spirit and lets all of the anti-Arab feeling that he encounters just roll off him. Even though he realizes that in the future, his children and the children of his fellow combat buddies will not know each other, he concludes the film by saying, "I'm not in the army to kill, I'm in the army to make a change."
Ameer Got His Gun, which premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival, is a documentary film (58 minutes) and is available from Black Sheep Film Productions.