Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

New York Film Festival Spotlights Israel's Minorities

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

New York Film Festival Spotlights Israel's Minorities

Article excerpt

To New Yorkers, especially on the Upper West Side, Zabar's means bagels and lox. But five years ago, Carole Zabar served up a cinematic banquet called "The Other Israel Film Festival" with surprising ingredients. This year, eight days of screenings and discussion-from Nov. 10 to 17-explored Israel's non-Jewish population (about 25 percent), including Christians, Muslims, Bedouins and Druze.

"I want the New York community to experience an Israel that is not the monolithic state implied in the words 'Jewish homeland,'" says Zabar about her festival's goals. "Israel's many ethnic groups also consider the land they live in to be their homeland."

That was especially true of the documentary "Homecoming" (2011) by Israeli filmmakers Orna Ben Dor and Noa Maiman. They interviewed three teenagers born of Filipino, Peruvian and Congolese parents, who reflect on what it means to be "Israeli." Maiman was on hand to discuss Israel's recent attempts to deport foreign workers and their children.

Screening opening night to a capacity crowd at the Jewish Community Center was the powerful "Dolphin Boy" (2011). Filmmakers Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir tell the harrowing story of Palestinian teenager Morad, who suffers trauma and amnesia after being beaten by his schoolmates. He is saved by the hydrotherapy techniques of Dr. Ilan Kutz and the love and support he finds in Eilat. After four years, Morad is sufficiently healed to testify against his attackers and return to school. "He was healed by the water," explained Kutz to the audience, "and is now studying hydrotherapy to help heal others."

Rabbi Joy Levitt, who welcomed guests on opening night, stressed the need for cultural tolerance. "This festival enables us to open our minds and hearts to all citizens of the state of Israel," she said. "Healthy dialogue makes us more compassionate."

Among many on-screen examples of Arab-Jewish cooperation was "The Human Turbine," Danny Verete's 2010 portrait of the Arab families of Susia, who live in tents and caves, and a few extraordinary individuals who bring them renewable energy.

Director Ibtisam Mara'ana traces the risks and rewards of her decision to leave her Arab village for Tel Aviv in "77 Steps" (2010). …

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