I previously reviewed the Palestinian masterpiece خمس كاميرات محطمة (Five Broken Cameras).
And we shall return to Palestine with another moving documentary.
For this one we have a very perceptive American director to thank: Katherine Bruens.
But all of it would be for naught if not for a shining example of humanity: corner store owner Yousef Elhaj.
The occupation of Palestine can elicit such feelings of anger and disgust (as well it should).
But every once in a while a real kind spirit comes along.
And such kind spirits shame the despicable Israeli settlers and their vulture military even more so than the most vitriolic polemic.
Yousef Elhaj is such a person.
Sweet. Hardworking. Kind. Quiet. Patient. Hardworking.
And (big surprise) a Christian.
Here we see a different perspective from 5 Broken Cameras.
I suppose we are used to assuming that all Palestinians are Muslims (and a vast majority are), but it is interesting to see things from a different perspective.
Elhaj’s life in Bethlehem (occupied West Bank) was just as crappy as that of any Muslim living there or in any other part of the criminally unrecognized Palestine.
Another important point… Being Christian does not make Elhaj any less Arab.
Most importantly… Peace in the Middle East is possible because of people like Yousef Elhaj.
He is really a jaw-dropping personage.
So much sacrifice for his family.
Seven days a week.
A little corner store on Church St. in San Francisco.
And to see life in Bethlehem.
To see the hell of walls and settlements which the Israelis have erected.
The settlements encroach. The settlements surround.
Bethlehem is completely encircled by concrete structures which are too artless for even Frank Gehry to barf on.
That’s what settlements mean.
Don’t let the euphemism fool you.
“Settlements” are concrete apartment blocks built on stolen land.
That would be bad enough were it not for the ubiquitous (and racist) walls which stockade Palestine.
And yet we don’t see anger from Mr. Elhaj.
He isn’t shown at a protest.
He just wants his family to be alright.
And his main emotion upon seeing the decline of his home town of Bethlehem is sadness.
The Israeli gun towers. Turrets to protect the settlers. And to hell with everyone else.
The sadness as a business man is remarkable.
What made him leave in the first place.
Things weren’t just bad. They were awful.
And so he has been away from his family for ten years.
He could have brought them to the U.S., but our immigration laws are not written to think of people as people.
Rather, our laws reduce people to statistics.
I can only figure that Mr. Elhaj (as bad as things were for him) actually had it better than Muslim Palestinians hoping to start a new life in America. [Which is to say, Muslims in general are not in an enviable position at this time regarding their leverage in situations of immigration review.]
So let’s think about it…
Bernie Sanders might be a generally disposable candidate, but he’s gotten a couple things right.
When he talks about America’s strength being its diversity? He’s absolutely right.
It’s trite. It’s Democrat politics 101…but it is correct.
And Mr. Trump (whom I like)… Wanna see what walls do? Go check out Palestine. Actually get in the open-air jail. Don’t view it from a safe distance courtesy of the occupiers.
The walls are ugly.
Mr. Elhaj has so much to teach us in this documentary.
You can succeed in America.
The opportunity is there.
It may not be pretty.
But when you’re coming from the hell of Bethlehem, it’s a walk in the park.
You do it all for your family.
Seven days a week.
For ten years.