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Coexistence Under Fire

Friday 30 October 2015

[In home of Edlunds, getting the children ready for school and kindergarten]
00:14 Keren: Come on... shoes shoes shoes...

- New... but the new ones will be too hot, OK?

- No.

Keren: Pour also for Omri

- Thanks.

Omri: I’m building a gun. I took it apart and began again.

Tom: Show them the spaceship from Star Wars that you built.

Narration: On Thursday morning this week, in the home of Tom and Keren they are getting ready for school and kindergarten. Here too they don’t ignore the tension of the last few weeks.

- Do they talk to you [about it] at school?

Elenora: A lot.

- About what? About what’s happening now, that there is more tension?

- Yes, all the time.

- What do they say?

Elenora: They ask the kids what they have seen on the news, what they think about it, what they think might happen, or what they are afraid could happen.

Reporter: What do you think about it?

Elenora: I think that the Arabs too are right a little. They also want their own country.

Rep. What class do you like today?

- Mathematics.

Rep: Do you know how to read the class schedule in Arabic too?

Elenora I know how to read, but I don’t understand so well.

- [reads in Arabic] Poetry, math, music, Hebrew, Arabic, Shiraz and Hadas.

Narr. But something after all is different from most homes. It is expressed in the heavy bag that Elenora carries on her back. Or in the songs that Omri brings from the kindergarten.

01:39 Omri: [Sings in Arabic]

Narration: The road to the school is located exactly where the ceasefire line was drawn in 1948. Also in 1967 there was fighting in the area, on the road to Jerusalem. This transforms the location of Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam, to be much more symbolic.

02:10 Eyas Shbeta: It all began here. The first reed hut was here. That’s where the first meeting took place with all the people who were invited - and Jews and Arabs sat in a circle. They cooked, ate, spoke, and debated.

[Historical sequence, with singing.]

02:30 - Narr: They were a small group of dreamers - Jews and Arabs that want to show, then, 36 years ago, that it is possible to live together. Which today looks like a dream that is further away than ever. They received the land from the adjacent Latrun Monastery, and began to build the village. Among the first was Eyas Shbeta, who is today the manager of the village, and who arrived there with a lot of skepticism.

02:54 Eyas: I didn’t believe it would be possible. I didn’t have the tiniest bit of faith that it would work.

- So what made you suddenly find out that it was possible?

Eyas: At the first stage, to listen, is to give a place for the other, and to begin to believe that it could work.

Narr. And since then he is here, together with another 54 families, half of them Arabs, half Jews. Very few left over the years, despite the intifadas, the wars,and the fact that the nation does not expecially like [the village’s] existence.

[Scenes with school children playing]

0:3:35 Narr. Already from the beginning, the founders understood that in order for the experiment to succeed, it was necessary to establish a school - as everything begins with education. Once, only kids from the village learned here. Today, children from the whole area arrive.

03:45 Tom Edlund: We are trying to create a dialogue, and less to instill some kind of ideology in the children. It is really more like trying to neutralize all kinds of prejudices that children often arrive at. And of course there are days that are more loaded, like Independence Day, Memorial Day, Nakba Day, and then really it becomes a lot more complicated.

04:15 Narr: The Children are together but on Independence Day when the Jewish students are celebrating the Arab children in separate classes commemorate what is for them a day of disaster, Nakba Day. Every year anew, Rabin memorial day is a loaded day. Everyone agreed that we will try to bring peace, but the Arabs find it hard to forget that he was "Mr. Security," the Chief of Staff in the 6 Day War. And now, when days are tense, it fills the school with discordant opinions.

04:39 Samah Salaime: The debate was whether to let the situation penetrate inwards, or not. For the Arab parents, it is clear to them that this is our situation every day. We are hurt, and Palestinians feel under attack. Some of the Jews feel under attack too, but it is clear which is strong side and which is the weak side.

5:00- Rep.: And here, where we are speaking, nearby in Beit Shemesh, and two terrorists tried to get into a neighborhood synagogue and stab people. They stabbed one Jew; they were shot and seriously injured.

Samah: I regret every drop of blood [spilled], honestly, of people that go out now to pray and they are attacked. From my point of view this is terrible - please don’t understand [otherwise]. But it is clear to me. You just said that they were shot and seriously injured, and that they "tried" to stab someone. Now think about it... So I want theat they will be captured and brought to justice, rather than murdered.

05:34 Narr: This statement, that will anger the majority of Israelis today, leaves Tom undisturbed. He has no ideological differences with Samah. Maybe this is the reason that they manage to live together for so many years. Most of the people here are located on a very left-wing side of the political map.

05:47 Tom: I think that the uprising against occupation is something natural. Now, with what tools this uprising is made, so Samah too says that we do not believe that it is justifiable to kill. But they do not really have the ability to wage another kind of struggle.

[House of Issam Hejazi Masarwa]

06:10 Eden Ben Shabat: Hi brother, what’s happening?

Issam: Hi brother, what about you?

Eden Fine, everything’s OK?

- Great.

- What do you have to say? How was work?

- Fine.

Eden: How were the celebrations in Taybeh [Arab town]?

- Wow it was crazy.

06:27 Rep.: Tell me, how many years do you know each other?

- From the age of 6, exactly. How much does that work out at? 15? 15 years.
Eden: We have many black jokes: Issam will come and cut me this orange, so he will say...

- "be careful, so the knife doesn’t accidentally fly at me somehow...

Eden ...and I’ll need to "neutralize" you with the weapon I don’t have..."

Eden: The reality isn’t so simple, because you go out onto the street, let’s say, in these days and we want to go out somewhere. Issam feels uncomfortable because he is worried that if he will speak in Arabic - like if his mother calls him on the phone, he knows that someone can jump on him. Naturally I’m scared to go out on the street in case there will be some kind of terrorist attack.

07:09 Narr: Issam and Eden are sure that there is chance that what is happening outside won’t hurt the relationship between them. But three years ago there friendship was tested when Eden decided to serve in the army. Not all the Jewish young people choose this, so when he came to tell Issam that he was going to serve in army intelligence, he knew that the reaction would not be encouraging.

Issam: I was a bit angry in the beginning. It isn’t easy when your friend tells you that he’s going into the army. It’s, like, something that I am against in principle. But in time you learn not to accept it but to understand.

07:40 Rep: - And when you’d return on weekends in uniform to the village?

07:47 Eden: I would return and... I didn’t parade around in my IDF uniform but I’d go home and put my civil clothes on and we’d meet as usual. And with all our desire for peace, I don’t think that not serving in the army will bring peace.

[In cemetery, grave of Tom Kitain, killed in army service in 1997.]

08:18 Rep: His decision to serve in the army. Do you remember the deliberation around that?

Amit Kitain: Yes, of course... because there wasn’t. There wasn’t any deliberation. But I remember the difficulty, yes. It was a different period - that’s something we have to remember. There wasn’t that thing, "to decide to go into combat. Whoever is healthy goes into combat. And for sure it was something complex for him."

08:40 Rep: Tom Kitain was the first son of Neve Shalom to be drafted into the army. He served in the Nahal division and he was killed in the helicopter disaster, on the way to military action in Lebanon.

[Video of funeral]

08:48 Narr: The significance of Tom’s death, in my view, is that it came in order that we should aspire to a better reality. To make progress towards peace. My brother will always be with me, and I really believe that we are all losers in this conflict. We are all bereaved, in this conflict. But we must heal this wound. If we don’t know how to get well from it, and heal it, we won’t be able to change things and won’t be able to change ourselves.

09:20 Amit Kitain: Everyone mourned with the family, but when the parents wanted to create a memorial corner in the village, they met with opposition from some of their neighbours.

[Boaz Kitain]

Boaz: There were Arab members who said, "that’s far enough." We are sorry, but with all sadness, we wouldn’t want everyone who comes to Neve Shalom to think that we support wars. So this brought us a lot of pain and exactly when we needed a lot of support, we didn’t get it.

Narr: In the end, the majority decided in favor and a memorial plaque was mounted at the basketball court. But the scar remained for many years.

09:54 Amit: I think the naivety that was here actually was broken with the death of Tom, with the death of a soldier, and all that this represents. And it was very difficult.

10:08 Boaz: You could say, if at such a moment they can’t take the step towards you, so what is it worth? You can also say, as I do, that if, in this difficult moment, we succeeded in the end to overcome it and continue forward, it’s a sign that it can be done, if you really want.

10:26 [Group touring the village is seen].

Bob Mark: Here you can see the Latroun Monastery.

Visitor: And those buildings behind - is that Modi’in [a town].

10:36 Rep: Do you feel like in a museum; all the time there are groups that come to see the miracle?

10:38 Eyas Shbeta: Yes. Yes. And regretfully, many of them remember us especially when there is a situation like we have today.

10:49 Rep: So the situation is good for business?

10:52 Eyas: I’d be willing to forego it.

10:57 Eyas: I think I feel worse than I have done in all the 35 years that I’m here - in every way. As soon as I go out from this place, and of course, here too, there’s the news, that never ceases to flow - and when I go out, it is even more difficult.
11:18 Rep: And is coexistence possible? Is living together possible?

- Yes. Yes.

- Do you really believe in it?

- Yes.

Rep: You say that you never felt so bad. All the hatred outside.

Eyas: I never felt so bad, but I think there won’t be any choice other than that both peoples will find a way to live together. I think this village has proven till today that it’s possible.

[Overlooking new building plots]

11:49 - What’s this? What’s going to be here?

11:52 Actually this is the fulfillment of the dream.

11:56 This is going to be an expansion?

Eyas: This is going to be the expansion of the village by another 34 families.

Rep: So how many candidates wre there for the 34 plots?

Eyas: hundreds. Hundreds of candidates.

Narr: Eyas talks enthusiastically of the hundreds that want to join, but the matter is that these hundreds are exceptions. The vast majority across from the vinyards and fields has grown quite tired of talk about coexistence. With every new round, the houses on the hilltop of Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam look like a bubble that is not really connected to the reality of our lives.

Article: Ruti Shiloni. Coordination: Reut Barzelai. Sound: Ravid Dvir, Nadav Silberstein. Musical consultant: Danny Sids.

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