Since shortly after the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel annexed East Jerusalem, the residents of East Jerusalem have been residents of Israel, but not citizens. As residents, all of their personal status matters must be registered via the Israeli Ministry of the Interior in East Jerusalem.
An award-winning and compelling documentary film by Amir Har-Gil (an Israeli - Jew) and Isfahan Bahaloul (an Israeli - Muslim), Jerusalem in Line, tackles the difficult subject of how these residents have been humiliated and mistreated by this ministry, and how their basic human rights have been denied.
People go to the Ministry of Interior offices to register births and marriages, and to apply for passports -- in this case actually laissez-passez documents since the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are not able to receive passports since they are not considered citizens of Israel. The applicants were forced to wait on long lines in the hot sun, were treated poorly when they got inside, and their requests were often denied without serious investigation into the complications and implications of each case.
The film, which is premiering this month at the Cinema Village in New York City, as part of the Socially Relevant Film Festival, follows three stories of people who have been forced to fight on-going battles with the Ministry of Interior due to serious infringements of their rights. One story is about a 12-year-old girl who loses her health insurance since her resident status had been revoked for no apparent reason. Another is the story of a Palestinian man whose residence in an East Jerusalem neighborhood was misconstrued to be across the border in the West Bank, and as a result, he lost his resident status meaning no social security, no disability benefits, and no health coverage. The fact that he paid his annual municipal taxes (even though they claimed he didn’t live in Jerusalem) and the fact that he had had medical coverage all his life didn’t change matters. Indeed, his need for dialysis three times a week only made his case more severe. A third story was about a man whose house was demolished by bulldozers sent by the city, but he was continuously being billed for city taxes on this same house!
Using the technique of a story-teller who sits outside the Ministry of the Interior in East Jerusalem, the filmmakers are able to relate these stories, and more, with charm, compassion and humanity – virtues that should be requirements to become bureaucrats of the government of Israel!
Jerusalem in Line is a documentary film (63 minutes), available directly from Amir Har-Gil. Check out his website.