Keeping Hope Alive: The Story of Bassam and Rami
“People who managed to outstrip the conditioning of their societies and cultures: something that is close to impossible for us as human beings. That is how I got to Bassam and Rami and how I came to tell this remarkable story.”
It was 12 noon on a hot day in Tel Aviv on the 21st of September and I was on my way to the Cinematheque for the world premier of my film Within The Eye of The Storm. The International Day of Peace was our chosen day for the launch of the film, as we wanted to deliver a message of hope to the world and the possibility of another way, which is so vitally needed at this time. The film tells the amazing story of Bassam and Rami, a Palestinian and an Israeli who against all odds turned from enemies to brothers.
We had a line-up of simultaneous screenings in all the cinematheques in Israel, in the Oslo parliament in Norway, in Philadelphia and France, as well as the broadcasting of the film on France 5TV and Multi Canal Spain.
But as I walked towards the cinematheque, feeling the buildup to a moment that concludes the five-year process of making this film, it dawned on me that right here, where this day is so desperately needed, it remains unknown to most! Will anyone even care enough to come to the cinema? Among the majority of fed-up Israelis and Palestinians, has the word “Peace” become so passé and so “uncool” that our efforts will fall on deaf ears? As the anxiety circled in my head, I remembered once more why I came to make this film, why I was ready to take the plunge and give peace a chance.
I myself am Israeli born, but I grew up in London since the age of eight. There my perspective and horizon broadened, but here is where my heart always remained. For years I battled to understand why this bitter conflict between Israelis and Palestinians still exists. Why it claimed the life of my grandfather who stood for tolerance and understanding. Why the number of victims continues to grow and why we keep approaching it in the same manner that simply doesn’t work!
Five years ago I finally took the decision to move back here, and it was accompanied with the search for people who didn’t accept this reality, who didn’t accept violence as the norm and justifiable reaction to the situation. People who managed to outstrip the conditioning of their societies and cultures: something that is close to impossible for us as human beings. That is how I got to Bassam and Rami and how I came to tell this remarkable story.
Within The Eye of The Storm, an international feature documentary directed by myself (Shelley Hermon) and produced by Nisan Katz and myself, together with partners like The Sundance Institute, France 5 TV, Makor Foundation for Cinema, Gesher Foundation for Cinema and the People’s Peace Fund, follows no ordinary journey.
Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, and Rami Elhannan, an Israeli, were once dedicated fighters willing to kill and be killed by one another for the sake of their nations. Yet each one of them came face to face with the price of war when their daughters were killed in the conflict. Left with the excruciating pain of bereavement, they chose to do the unexpected. They set out on a joint journey to humanize the very enemy that took the dearest thing from them and prevent the seduction of retaliation in themselves and their societies. Along the way they reveal the friendship and humor that keeps them alive.
As the crowds began to pile in and fill the entire theater down to the last seat, I became certain that now that I had my captive audience, the message would be delivered and received, straight to the heart! As I got up on stage to deliver my speech following the screening, I could see there was not a single pair of dry eyes in the hall and the silence that created the intense and emotional atmosphere was broken by a loud round of applause. When Bassam joined me on stage the entire audience got up on their feet…
That day when I got home, I received reports from the various screenings, endless phone calls, SMS’s, and emails from audiences scattered across the globe and especially from audiences here. As I read the gratitude for sharing this story, for giving them hope, for broadening their perspective and showing them another possibility, I understood it was worth risking looking naive and not only working for but truly believing in peace…in fact it’s our only chance of realizing it.
You can watch the film online for a limited time. If you are interested in hosting a screening, contact Shelley Hermon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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