The eponymous scene of On the Side of the Road, a documentary that explores Israeli attitudes toward the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, occurs midway through the film on an unpaved road just outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Interrupted by a curious Israeli family out for a pastoral drive, director Lia Tarachansky stops to answer their questions about what she is filming (“what TV channel will it be on?”). As they drive on, the children waving and smiling their good byes, Tarachansky stands alone on the side of the road and suddenly bursts into tears. “I mean, everyone I love is here,” she weeps, as she faces the sprawling settlement. “You know?”
Tarachansky, a journalist who works for The Real News, was raised from the age of six in Ariel, one of the largest settlements on the West Bank. Standing on that quiet stretch of road, surrounded by Palestinian villages, she says, “This is where I am from. I don’t know anything else.” Both statements are heartfelt, but neither is completely true. Tarachansky was born in Kiev, in the former Soviet Union, but raised from the age of six in Ariel. Like most Israeli children she learned nothing in school about the Nakba, or catastrophe— the Arabic name for the dispossession and exile of the Palestinian people in 1948.
Reading Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine as a young adult “was my first encounter with this history,” she said in an interview conducted via Skype.
Her search for more information led her to the Israeli NGO Zochrot, which documents destroyed Palestinian villages and towns in an effort to raise awareness of the dispossession of 1948. Ultimately, she decided to make a documentary film about the subject, and how it is viewed by Israeli society. Today she lives in Jaffa, and is deeply immersed in the activist community. But what she is saying and showing in this scene outside Ariel is that the community in which she is rooted is the one that nurtured her and which she still loves, even though the divergence in their political views has now left her marginalized from...Read More