Enter the most tense part of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a short street in Hebron where everything comes into clear focus.
Shuhada Street: the world's holiest war zone
The notorious Shuhada street in the West Bank city of Hebron creates a separation barrier between its 170,000 residents and 700 Jewish settlers who reside in the center of Hebron’s Old City. In this one small place, all the problems of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict come into clear view: the trauma of violence, the memory of history, and the power of sacred space.
This 35-minute documentary short film will encounter what we propose is the most fragile relationship in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The film will view the people and problems of Hebron by understanding the effects of inherited historical pain that bear down on every part of life in this city. The film will develop the broader themes of conflict, security, economics, religion, and the effect of war and genocide on the lives of people struggling through life in the burial place of Abraham, one of the most sacred places on earth.
The film will begin with the recounting of a massacre that took place in 1994 inside the Ibrahimi Mosque, the traditional burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Isaac, and Rachel. While Muslim worshipers were praying, a fanatic Jewish settler entered the room and sprayed it with bullets from an automatic rifle. Accounts of this attack, leaving 29 dead and 125 wounded, are clouded in the confusion that followed. The attack was unequivocally condemned by the Israeli Knesset and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. But the effect of this and other acts of violence was to create a dramatically divided city center, the subject of great debate and international concern.
Hebron, the second largest city in the West Bank, is surrounded by four major Jewish settlements. Beit Hadassah, a settlement located in the center of Hebron’s Old City, houses Hebron’s most zealous settlers. Once one of the busiest market areas in the Middle East, this zone has been divided into areas that keep Palestinians separate from the Jews who live there. Dozens of Palestinian shops were closed after the 1994 in order to create a security zone around the settlement. Beneath Beit Hadassah, persistent shopkeepers maintain their businesses as settlers drop stones, garbage, sewage, and toxins from their homes above.
At the end of Shuhada Street lies a building with walls that date back to Herod the Great, a building divided between Muslims and Jews who both revere those buried inside. The Avraham Avinu Synagogue and the Ibrahimi Mosque join at the tomb of Sarah, where Muslims and Jews peer at the tomb through iron screens that keep them away from Sarah and from each other.
STYLE: This film will be produced in a third-person news documentary style combining new footage, interviews, news footage, and expert testimony.
POINT OF VIEW: We will use the microcosm of Shuhada Street as a device through which we can view in greater clarity the complexity that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this small part of the Middle East passions are focused and issues are visible that are present, to a lesser degree and with lesser clarity, in the surrounding area. The film will not be intended to establish parity in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor will it be sympathetic to the settlers living in Hebron or elsewhere in the West Bank. We do not see an equivalency in the use of power by each side. However, we are understanding of the forces that led each side in this conflict to the place they find themselves. We intend to present this as a tragedy, full of unforeseen consequences, and as a reaction to various forces set in motion by historical events, forces beyond the control of those affected.
USE OF FUNDS: $15,000 will complete this film, already three years in the making. The money will pay for editing, music, rights clearances, and additional footage.
Producer/Director: Rev. Steven D. Martin is a pastor at heart who expresses his vocation through filmmaking, dialogue, and activism. His first film, Muslims in Appalachia, was distributed to PBS stations in July of 2001. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it was aired by over 45 stations to 70 million households in six months and made an important contribution to Muslim-Christian relations. In 2005 he premiered Theologians Under Hitler, which also aired on PBS stations and became a centerpiece for a vast discussion on issues of church and state. He has produced two more films on the role of the German Protestant Church during the Third Reich and has presented these films across the nation. In November of 2008 Elisabeth of Berlin was shown across Germany and brought its subject, the unknown Elisabeth Schmitz, to the attention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who spoke of her in her speech commemorating the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht in 2008. His film and dialogue work was honored in 2007 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He has lectured at Chautauqua Institute and numerous universities and churches. His films have been reviewed in The Christian Century, the Duke Divinity School magazine, and numerous online and print publications.
Assistant Producer: Jessica Magers-Rankin is an activist with a passion for justice and equality. An experienced community organizer and advocacy training facilitator, she often assists organizations with the social/new media campaign development. Her initial advocacy experiences came through campaigning to save the life of Troy Anthony Davis with Amnesty International USA and is a committed to abolishing the death penalty and criminal justice reform. Women's rights and reproductive justice are also key issues for Jessica and she is a founding member of the Knoxville Reproductive Justice and Equality Coalition in Knoxville, TN. She is also a member of Tennessee Immigrant Refugee Rights Coalition, Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Knoxville United Against Women, National Organization of Women, and Women's Political Collaborative. While serving with Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps (specifically the Smoky Mountain Resource Conservation and Development Council) she participated in the Community Economic Development Network of East Tennessee [CEDnet], reaffirming her belief that strong coalitions combined with education and policy change must be the foundation of collective action. Guided by her faith, Jessica is committed to exploring various modes of creative expression and empowering all people to use their voices for the common good.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The greatest challenge that faces films after completion funding is obtained is that the film will not be seen by any sizable audience. We plan to enter the film in several documentary short film festivals for greater exposure. We have extensive contacts in Washington, DC venues including the White House and various NGOs where we hope to show the film to gain greater exposure. We also have a large network of university and seminary professors who are likely to use the film in the classroom.
It is likely that some may object to the film's content (programming that is sympathetic to Palestinian points of view tend to become marginalized); this can be both a strength and a weakness. As a last resort, we will put the film on YouTube, where it is likely to find a very large worldwide audience.
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