The Other Son, directed by Lorraine Levy, is a new French feature film about Israelis and Palestinians that confronts questions of national, personal and political identity. I went to see the film with my daughter, Rabbi Dahlia Kronish, who is Director of Jewish and Student Life at the Heschel High School in Manhattan. The following reflects our joint comments:
The story revolves around two 18-year-olds and takes place in Tel Aviv and in a small West Bank village. Joseph is about to be drafted into the Israeli army. Yacine, from a West Bank Palestinian family, has been studying in Paris. Joseph and Yacine were born on the same day in the same hospital in Haifa.
When Joseph goes for his medical testing, it is discovered that his blood type is not compatible with that of his parents. After further testing, his parents learn that he is not their biological child and that he was mistakenly switched with Yacine at birth.
While the film contains melodramatic content, it is successful in that it weaves together scenes that are touching through their delicate and sensitive approach to the difficult questions at hand – questions of nature vs. nurture, of peoplehood and religion, of familial love and obligation, and of relationships that are formed across the divide. The movie relies on stereotypical assumptions: accepting mothers, stoic fathers, jealous siblings, nationalistic loyalties and deep-seated suspicion of the other.
Joseph quietly asks his mother, “Am I still Jewish?” How do you react when you learn that you are living someone else’s life? Does this change who you are fundamentally?
The Other Son is currently playing in movie theaters across the U.S.