Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Blog

By Jennine Vari

2012 Fall Intern

Last night, the West End Cinema held the DC premiere of Just Vision’s My Neighbourhood. The non-profit’s aim is to fill in the gap left by the media and raise awareness about Palestinians and Israelis working nonviolently to resolve the conflict and end the occupation. Director and producer Rebekah Wingert-Jabi explained that her motivation for making this particular film was to “document the settlement process and the people involved.” In My Neighbourhood, the team follows the lives of a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed el Kurd, and an Israeli activist, Zvi Benninga, as Israeli settlements spring up in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Mohammed’s family has lived in their home since 1956, but in 2009 a group of Israeli settlers move in and occupy half of the family’s house. With no legal recourse to have the settlers removed, his family faces the same struggles as many Palestinians living in East Jerusalem who have been forced from all or part of their homes. However, Mohammed and other Palestinians are not alone in their struggle. Zvi Benninga and his sister Sara are activists in the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement, which aims at halting the forced evictions of Palestinian families. He explains that his struggle is against the state and how his experience in Sheikh Jarrah has made him understand that the state treats people differently. As the organization protests alongside Palestinians and struggles against a state that upholds the status quo, they are frequently arrested and harassed by the Israeli police. However, through Solidarity’s work in Sheikh Jarrah, Mohammed witnesses for the first time cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in his neighborhood.

The documentary fast-forwards to 2011 and follows up with the protagonists. Zvi explains that since the media began covering the events in Sheikh Jarrah, there have not been any more evictions. His work as an activist has made him critical about where he lives, but also made him realize that he cares about it. Mohammed and his family still remain in their home, but unfortunately live under the threat of eviction with a decision pending in Israeli court.

During a discussion following the film, activist Moriel Rothman was asked about the success of the Solidarity movement. He responded that even though the movement has not been able to return Palestinians to their homes, the outcome in Sheikh Jarrah has not been a failure. He calls it an “invisible success” because they have at least been able to temporarily stop the forced evictions. Wingert-Jabi and the whole production team inject a personal element into this aspect of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but there is a still a long way to go. “We just want our country back,” said Mohammad, “We just want to live our lives.”

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