Is Peace in the Middle East Really Possible?
New film shares true stories of hope in the midst of violence
There is no shortage of opinions, emotions, and actions regarding finding “peace in the Middle East.” While some are familiar with the issue and others are personally impacted by the conflict, many more are unaware, uninformed, and unconcerned about this critical global issue. Little Town of Bethlehem is a groundbreaking new documentary that shares the gripping story of three men—a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian, and an Israeli Jew—born into violence and willing to risk everything to bring an end to violence in their lifetime.
Filmed on location in the West Bank, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, Little Town of Bethlehem brings awareness to a growing non-violent movement in the Middle East that rarely, if ever, makes international headlines.
Sami Awad is a Palestinian Christian whose grandfather was killed in Jerusalem in 1948. Today he is the executive director of Holy Land Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes Palestinian independence through peaceful means. Yonatan Shapira is an Israeli Jew whose grandparents were Zionist settlers who witnessed the birth of the Israeli nation. Today he is an outspoken advocate for the non-violent peace movement, both in his homeland and abroad. Ahmad Al' Azzah is a Palestinian Muslim who has lived his entire life in the Azzah refugee camp in Bethlehem. Today, Ahmad heads the non-violence program at Holy Land Trust, where he trains others in the methods of peaceful activism.
Little Town of Bethlehem honestly and respectfully shares Sami’s, Yonatan’s, and Ahmad’s stories. With all three men referencing both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi during individual interviews, it is clear that their words, thoughts, and actions on nonviolence are still profoundly impacting today’s nonviolent movement. The images of these three men standing firm in the face of overwhelming opposition are inspirational, but Little Town of Bethlehem is not just about inspiring viewers. The filmmakers also raise the question, “Can the cycle of violence be broken?”
Little Town of Bethlehem was produced by EthnoGraphic Media (EGM), an educational non-profit organization exploring the critical issues of our time. Other feature films and documentaries from EGM include The Grandfathers (2009), Miss HIV (2008), and the award-winning End of the Spear (2005) and Beyond the Gates of Splendor (2002).
Like all EGM films, Little Town of Bethlehem was created with a global youth audience in mind. But this film will connect with any viewer who desires a deeper understanding of conflict resolution. “The major themes in the film are universal and timeless. The desire to end violence through nonviolence is not a demographic phenomenon, though often it is youth that mobilize. The theme of this film is appropriate for anyone who deals with conflict. This hopeful message of equality is for all,” says Jim Hanon, chief creative officer at EGM and the film’s director. “Little Town of Bethlehem doesn’t focus on who’s right or who’s wrong. The focus is on three men from different places and with different backgrounds who struggle together toward this common goal through nonviolence. We feel that the nonviolent approach promoted by the film is a humanitarian message with the power to transcend religions, nations, politics, languages, and cultures.” Watch the trailer below
My thoughts: All things considered, I didn’t learn too much from this documentary. Not to say there was nothing to be learned; the music was often loud and distracting. I will have to watch it a second time to get the full intended impression. What I did learn came mostly from the great photography. There were a lot of good scenes showing the culture, including the music (which I found to be overly repetitive). The brief animations on the fences were quite interesting!
My rating: 3 stars.
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