A powerful documentary, Promises, explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of seven Jewish and Palestinian children who lived near each other, yet are worlds apart. Filmmakers Justine Shapiro, Carlos Bolado and B.Z. Goldberg were motivated by a powerful thought; “No one is asking the children.” Goldberg found that the children had deep feelings they wanted to express as they struggled with the painful separation between their two cultures.
As the film unfolded it was evident that the fears of their parents had made deep inroads into the hearts of the children. The filmmakers followed the children’s individual lives, and then tried to bring them all together. The Palestinian children sat together and talked about meeting the Jewish children: One child said angrily to his friend, “But Israeli soldiers killed your brother and you want to make friends with their sons?” The boy who lost his brother replied, “But they (the children) didn’t kill Bassam. I believe all children are innocent.” Another boy interjected with,” If we refuse to meet Jewish kids, and they refuse to meet us – there will never be peace between us. Nor between any two countries.” A young Palestinian girl listening thoughtfully asked, “Why is it the children’s fault? Another child interrupted her by bringing up the name of a politician. She impatiently shook her head and said, “Not politicians. I want children to meet!”
Several Jewish children were also interviewed. They were very concerned about the on-going conflict, but several were reluctant to meet with the Palestinian children. On the other hand, the twin brothers, Daniel and Yarko, were very curious. After speaking to Faraj on the phone, they were eager to visit him. One twin commented, “We really have to think about it, and let the whole world discuss Jerusalem.” During the Israeli Memorial Day, the two brothers stood with their community honoring those killed in the conflict. One of the twins said, “When I see them being killed, I ask myself, ‘Why’? It’s so stupid. It could be prevented. In war, both sides suffer. Maybe there’s a ‘winner,’ but what’s a winner. People on both sides die. Both sides lose.”
B.Z. Goldberg, one of the producers, finally arranged to bring the two Israeli brothers to the Palestinian camp. The children played together, shrieking with laughter like any other group of high-spirited kids. At the end of the day, they all sat in a circle to share their feelings. Faraj, the Palestinian boy began to cry, “This afternoon I started thinking that B.Z. and his crew will leave soon. And now we’ve become friends with Daniel and Yarko. And they will forget our friendship as soon as B.Z. leaves. And all our effort will be in vain.” The children became quiet, looking shyly at each other, as a sense of sadness filled the circle.
The film crew returned two years later to follow up on the children. Faraj, the boy who had cried during their last meeting, looked somberly into the camera, “I feel the world has changed for the worse. There’s no peace. One can’t begin to imagine his future…because the life we live doesn’t allow us to accomplish our dreams.”
The Palestinian girl who had spoken so passionately two year earlier was still optimistic, “I would like to meet more Jewish people and children because many of them are innocent even the adults. I’d like to meet them because if we increase our interactions, our respect for each other will grow.”
In this violent and troubled land, the voices of the young ask for a better world. The willingness of even a few Israeli and Palestinian children showed an openness that transcended the ancient conflict. But can the adults who run the world have the ‘will’ to nurture our children’s innate sense of brotherhood before it gets lost and confused by the fears and prejudice that keep us separated?
Resource: Learning The Skills Of Peacemaking by Naomi Drew An Activity Guide for Children on Communicating, Cooperating and Resolving ConflictExcerpt from Wisdom’s Children