Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To Die in Jerusalem

The other night J and I caught the last thirty minutes of a wrenching HBO Documentary To Die In Jerusalem.

From the Synopsis:

On March 29, 2002, 17-year-old Israeli Rachel Levy walked into a grocery store in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Yovel to purchase ingredients for Sabbath dinner. Soon thereafter, 17-year-old Palestinian Ayat al-Akhras approached the store’s entrance carrying a black purse loaded with explosives. She issued a brief warning to two elderly Arab women sitting just outside selling fruits and vegetables... Following the deaths of their cherished daughters, both families are hurt and broken. Levy’s mother can’t get over the loss of her daughter and struggles constantly with negative feelings toward al-Akhras, her family and Palestinians in general. Levy is unable to comprehend how a 17-year-old girl could decide to end her life — just like that — and potentially take so many others with her. As part of her quest for answers, Levy decides that she wants to meet the mother of her daughter’s killer.

The part we saw was the encounter of the two mothers meeting. It was intense. Not having watched the rest of the movie (now wanting to) at first it was difficult to comprehend the exchange, but not for long. The Palestinian mother said that her daughter was oppressed by the occupation, and that because of this occupation her beautiful 17 year old daughter became a suicide bomber. She said that her daughters actions were her daughters actions and there was no way that she could have prevented them. She said she was sorry for the pain of loss of the Israeli mother and said she looked to God and the future for peace (a peace she said was predicated on the return of Jerusalem and Right of Return of Arabs to Israel). She essentially washed her hands of any sort of parental culpability and though she decried the actions of her daughter just from watching her body language and listening to her speak you could actually sense pride. She resolutely refused, using some kind of circular logic, from taking the bold step of standing up with the Israeli mother and denouncing the actions of her daughter as a suicide bomber and proclaiming that violence only begets violence. To this I was utterly shocked and amazed. She said that her people are oppressed and have the right to resist, even armed resistance and compared the Palestinians to American Colonists, WWII French, Algerians. On one level of course she is right, oppressed people do have the right to resist. But it was unnerving having American Colonials compared to suicide bombers.

All this and this week there are Peace talks in Annapolis Maryland involving a truly international effort, but I doubt that this Administration or the international community has the political stomach to stand and say to the Israeli's and Palestinians (as the Economist suggests, via Gashwin) enough is enough, this is what the map of Israel and Palestine will look like. Most of Mr. Bush's supporters are against the Palestinian cause. In fact hopes were set high and then laid low in anticipation of this weeks talks. And despite the support of much of the Arab world for this process, the Shi'a are downplaying the talks as little more than a photo op. Iran is balking, and still hammering away about their desires for nuclear energy. (As an aside, this is an interesting article about Iran and the Pope) Thankfully though with the international pressure that is mounting, because the world can only take so much unnecessary bloodshed in the middle east, progress is being made and this event is proving to be a bit more than a photo op. But only time will tell.

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