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WATCH: In Jerusalem, ‘Palestinians aren’t allowed to dream’

A short documentary film looks at three Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and their struggle to build homes. Filmmaker Omri Shenhar: ‘They drive us in their cabs, build our houses, and collect our trash. But when it comes to their rights we shutter our eyes and hide behind a wall.’

By Omri Shenhar

A few months ago I spent an entire weekend in Jerusalem. On Friday I went with my whole family, guided by my grandfather, to the Har’el Brigade monument located next to the Israeli Supreme Court.  My grandpa told us about the battles that he took part in. It was fascinating – breathtaking stories I had never heard before. My grandpa was really excited, and it made me feel good that he could share his stories with us.

On Saturday I went to the other side of the city, to the neighborhoods of Ras Khamis and Ras Shahade, for the first shooting day of the documentary “3 Houses.” There I met the descendants of my grandpa’s rivals and I heard their stories.

Their defeat didn’t end in July 1949. They live it every day. These families had to escape from their villages in 1948, finding shelter inside the Old City of Jerusalem under Jordanian rule, only to be exiled again in the mid-1960s to the Shuafat Refugee Camp. A short while after they moved to the camp the 1967 war broke out, and the area came under Israeli rule, in what would become East Jerusalem.

Today, the families are still struggling to build their lives in the camp and the neighborhoods that sprung up around it, yet the Israeli authorities won’t let them. Slowly they push them away, again, toward the unknown. They’ve been cut off from the city by the separation barrier, whose route in northern Jerusalem was completed in 2008. Despite the fact that they reside inside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, they stopped receiving elementary services such as garbage collection, road repairs, education and sometimes even water.

That took me a while to internalize; this area beyond the tall concrete wall is not the Palestinian Authority. It is Jerusalem, a city that was united triumphantly 47 years ago. Jerusalem that still hasn’t found a decent solution for the residents of the other side, the occupied side of the wall.

The people I met want to live in peace. They don’t talk about getting back to their ancestors’ villages. They just want to live with honor and dignity. They are part of Israeli society whether Israeli Jews want them to be or not: they drive us in their cabs, build our houses, and collect our trash. But when it comes to their rights we shutter our eyes and hide behind a wall.

Today I sent the film to my grandfather. Here’s what he said: “That’s one of the injustices caused by the occupation that you read about in the papers but just can’t understand. The gaps between the two sides of Jerusalem in the 21st century are unbearable. Please don’t ask me what’s going to happen, I’m not very optimistic about it.”

Omri Shenhar is a film director and a graduate of the Tel Aviv University film school. The film ‘3 Houses’ was produced by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Jerusalem by the numbers: Poverty, segregation and discrimination
Jerusalem’s refugee camp: Abandoned by the state
PHOTOS: Denied services by Jerusalem, Palestinian residents form emergency response team
E. Jerusalem Palestinians demand running water be restored

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    1. Philos

      קורע הלב. מקווה שתצלח לשדר את זה איפהשו במאיינסטריאם הישראלי

      Reply to Comment
      • Samuel

        אתה צודק. אני נגד אפליה. אבל ככה זה כאשר שני עמים נמצאים במלחמה.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ken Kelso

      Can Jews build in Mecca?
      Jews had a big population in Saudi Arabia till Mohammad killed all the Jews in Saudi Arabia in the 7th century.

      Reply to Comment
      • Empiricon

        Typical two-wrongs-do-make-a-right logic, SOP for Zionists, who have always denied the existence and/or rights of non-Jews who were living in Palestine before the return of the Jewish diaspora.

        Reply to Comment
        • IlonJ

          We demand an the equal opportunity to do wrong.

          We also demand equal opportunity venom against them when they do wrong.

          Reply to Comment
      • Amir

        I beleive you should check your sources first. You are terribly wrong!
        You’re not allowed to accuse our prophet of something he didnt do. Read the book of his life, and you will descover what a great man he was.. Then and just then you’re allowed to discuss your opinion about him. Shame on you!

        Reply to Comment
    3. dan

      Stupid, like you bloggers know anything..
      Drive us in their cabs, yes they get to work in our cab stations as drivers.
      Building houses, like they doing it for free. Colecting trash isn’t for free as well.
      So mind your own buisness. They are welcome to work in our buisnesses but on the other side, if a jew will walk in their village he will be linched

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rab

      In the Israeli peace offers made by Barak and Olmert, the Palestinians would have gained control of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. I hope that you, Omri, will expend your energies over the next few years doing your best to convince your friends in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority to make peace with Israel so that everyone, Arab and Jew, can live in peace.

      Reply to Comment
    5. EYES2C

      The “IDF Military Court” yesterday banned the publication of who and how did kill the 2 Palestinian Youth in Beitunia.

      But the Hebrew edition of YNET hinted that it may have been a high-ranking “IDF Spokesman” officer. YNET reports: “The soldier asked the Border Guard Commander there for his weapon…”

      NOW: Would a “Border Guard Commander” LOAN his LOADED Rifle to anyone but a HIGHER-ranking Officer?’

      This question is still unanswered

      Reply to Comment