Every Modiin resident that is asked what the city's most common stigma is will most likely answer "A city that sleeps" (in Hebrew: "Ir Yeshana"). This title has been plastered across the city that sprung up amongst the hills since the beginning, describing Modiin as half-city, half-suburb -- offering Israelis a comfortable environment to raise their children and a quiet environment to return to after a stressful day of working in the Center. Look past the city's relaxed covering, however, and find different "layers" of Modiin being revealed from time to time through documentaries -- especially as a historic location of conflict that continues until today.
At this year's Jerusalem Film Festival, which includes an Israeli documentary competition, two movies on our area are competing against each other: Interrupted Streams, a film by Guy Davidi and Alexander Guchman that describes the water shortage in Bil'in, and "443," a film by Erez Miller. 443 was produced by HOT's Channel 8, and deals with the road which for quite a while now has been much more than just any highway, standing as a symbol of the moral injustice following the "occupation" versus the Israeli road users' desires to maintain normal routines of life.
This week, MNews caught up with Miller to talk about the history of the road, its complicated reality, and different pessimistic prejudices.
They Will Always Fight For It
24-year-old Erez Miller from Rechovot's 443 journey began in 2004. Three years later, during the height of the second intifada and the attacks that came with it, the road was closed to Palestinian traffic, a decision that remained valid until a few months ago. Back then, Miller was a student in Betsalel that had to travel daily on his way from the Center to Jerusalem. After getting tired of Route 1's traffic jamps, he decided to give the alternate route a try and became a 443 road user.
"I began driving on the road together with tens of thousands of other Israelis, and just like them, I was unaware of how complicated the story was," he says. "I suddenly began to notice the concrete walls and the security checkpoints, and this way I began to become more aware."
Miller defines the road as the film's main character, and has a simple reason for trying to describe the complicated reality: to cause the viewers to ask themselves questions, and mainly to open their eyes. "The road has such a long history full of conflict. It started during the days of Yehoshua Ben Non, continued during the Maccabim era through to the days of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders and all the way up to the War of Independence. The route if of huge military importance, and it has therefore always been fought over. I was told that there is an air between the lines in the film that the road's fate is seemingly to always be fought over."
It's Much More Complicated
"[The road] has huge power," said Miller at one interview. "There is nothing to be done. It seems as if this is because it leads of Jerusalem. The problem is that this power is usually bad, [and] negative. The first few times that I drove on the road, I returned home depressed. When you begin to become aware of what goes on there, you notice the barriers and concrete walls and all of the mess surrounding the road. It was very difficult for me at the beginning."
Over the last year and a half, Miller has traveled the road daily -- simply stopping, talking with people, looking for stories and dealing with his own and everyone's stereotypes and prejudices. "It's like passing through a junction a seeing someone homeless. You won't go and talk to him and try and understand his life's complexity. There is tension, just like when you pass by the checkpoint and see the Palestinians standing in a long line. What I learned from this film is that the world is a lot more complicated than I thought," he says, and laughs at the cliche that turned out to be true.
While making the movie, which took first place at this year's Film Festival in the South, Miller met a variety of different Jews and Arab. "I met leftist Jews who, as far as they're considered, see 443 as an apartheid road, along with rightists who think that it is our basic right to travel the road -- and that that right is more important than those of Palestinians. I met liberal Arabs and devout Muslims." At every meeting, Miller got to learn more about himself and what he thinks and feels. "I understood that I am not ok, either -- that I too preferred to close my eyes. It's not that I am a better person today, but maybe I have fewer prejudices, and I understand the reality more deeply."
There is Life on the Sides of the Road
Miller may describe the road as the films' "main character," but there are several other important characters that he focuses on, too. "There is a religious family in the film that lives on an isolated farm in the heart of one of the area's forests, there is a religious Jew who is waiting for the messiah to come, and there is a homeless woman who lives under one of the bridges. There are many more people, but I think what they all have in common is that they are all people to live a little bit on the edges of society. Each character has his or her own problems with the government. The Palestinian worker is forced to go out of his way and wait for hours in line at the checkpoint -- and let's not talk about the lands that belonged to his family that were expropriated by the government. The religious family has its own issues with the government and the bureaucracy. They all have different things to deal with."
During the interview, Miller remember one scene that described the common fate between all on the road. "I was at one family's farm when a Bedouin showed up and asked to work a shift. Simon, the father in the family, suspected him of stealing sheep from the farm, and a very strange situation formed. Eventually, the Bedouin said to the father, "the state ruined you over just as it ruined me." At that moment, I felt like beyond the political stance, this is a personal matter. There is a common fate between the two sides that are supposed to be against one another.
As was previously mentioned, the film describes not only the journey along the road, but also the internal journey that Miller underwent during the shooting process and the human visits. While he had to confront uncomfortable situations when he met with Palestinians, he was not relieved of such feelings while meeting with Israelis, either. "The truth is that right now, I am everyone's friend. I still visit the religious family, bring their children gifts. But the truth is that I was even afraid of them at the beginning. The Palestinians that I met invited me to their home in Beit Sira, and the head of the clan took me as his personal guest for my own safety. It didn't feel right as an Israeli to enter the village, even though I was coming as a friend."
At this point, Miller talks about the personal differences in an Israeli-Palestinian relationship, even when speaking on a personal and not a national level. "It is unavoidable. During each interaction with the Palestinians, the fact that I was in the army was always at the back of my head -- that these are capturer-captured relations. It was impossible to avoid the tension that was there. You know, I was told that before the Second Intifada, the relations between the residents of the area and the Palestinians from the neighboring villages were excellent. People would say, "I have friends from Beit Sira, and I used to meet them at their village." It's nice, but my feeling is that there is always something in the background, that there is alway a national difference. This is more than a friendship lacking a sound-check. Beyond the embrace and the mutual tolerance, it is impossible to ignore the power relations."
Not Optimistic At All
During each meeting on the road, Miller tried to come to some sort of conclusion that would run more towards the line of optimism and follow up on basic insights that we are all aware of. "You know, the Palestinian workers for example immediately started speaking about their difficulties when I began to talk to them: "Why I have to go out of my way; why I can't drive on the road; why they took away my land," etc."
One of the moments when an interviewee provided Miller with something more than the typical sayings arrived totally unexpectedly. "One day, I saw a Palestinian riding a rickety bicycle full of junk. I stopped him, and we began to talk. It was very weird. He was older than me, and I felt like he was speaking to me as a father would to a son. He was very real and honest, and suddenly began supplying me with incredible insight on the conflict. According to him, so long as there are companies who create weapons, the weapons that they create will be in use," says Miller. "The governments will continue to buy them. He began talking to me about how globalization has affected his life. It was incredible." And as if to complete the picture, immediately after the Palestinian finished speaking, a truck leading a tank sped by. It doesn't get more symbolic than that.
When Miller speaks of the history of the road that is today called 443 (which he learned with the help of the founder of the Chashomaim Village at Shilat, Zohar Baram), it seems as if it is interlaced with one thing that it cannot be rid of: pessimism. "The place is highly problematic. I don't want to come and say that this and that must be done. I make film. At the end of the day, after speaking with all different people, I got the message -- and it is as pessimistic as it gets. It seems as if it is a road that will forever be fought over," he says.
Bal'in: A Village Without Water
Another film that focuses on the Modiin area and is competing at the Jerusalem Film Festival is Guy Davidi and Alexander Guchman's Interrupted Streams. Davidi and Guchman discovered the film's subject by accident. The two were active members of a film-making group, and were told that there is a phenomenon at a Palestinian village where its residents holes where they collect rain water. Later, when the two began filming, they realized that despite the fact that the village was the first in the area to be connected to the Israeli Government's water system, the reality of the water shortage has not changed. One of the film's creators actually explained that the name's origin comes from the same hardship: "blee ayin" means "without water."
After watching the film, one will learn that after the village was connected to the Israeli Water Network, two groups of people were formed -- one who complains that the water that comes from the pipes is bitter. Another problem was that according to the residents, the Israeli control of the water pressured the residents to cooperate with the government.
For three years, Davidi and Guchman followed the going-ons of the village as the seasons changed. The two purposely avoided dealing with politics from the beginning, and the famous protests that are held next to the separation fence every Friday are not shown on even one frame in the movie. As far as they are concerned, the resident's return to digging the ancient water reserves is actually a way for Bal'in to express its independence. "Anybody that comes to the village can enter the mini-market and buy a bottle of water," said Davidi at an interview for Globus newspaper. "There are no problems of thirst, but water is an expensive necessity, and it is not certain that all Bal'in residents bathe daily in the summer. The film focuses on interrupted streams, broken pipes, wells and containers are entire rooms in homes where water bottles are stored."
Via MNews. Click here to view original article.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010