MY ENEMY'S PERSPECTIVE:
TURNING HATRED AROUND
A FILM PROJECT
In the new era of difficult peace process between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors, one of the most formidable challenges facing the residents of the region is how to actually achieve peace with understanding. The Middle East Peace Process is repeatedly running aground because it fallaciously treats the conflict as merely political and territorial, whereas the source of the strife is cultural, religious, and psychological.
What does it take to turn former enemies into neighbors that cooperate with one another and respect each other? This question becomes more difficult to answer as time marches on and the new day brings with it yet another act of terrorism or some kind of violence or "simply" prejudice. In fact, since the signing of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September of 1993, violence and death have increased. This is certainly very gloomy news for those who believed that the DOP would bring with it calmer times.
Concerned individuals and organizations have embarked on several different kinds of projects aimed at promoting co-existence between Arabs and Jews in Israel. The majority concentrate on bringing the two groups together for a joint activity. While this may be laudable, the effects are not lasting. Only a small number of projects actually succeed in getting the participants to see the humanity in the other.
In addition to humanizing the "enemy" or the unknown, our objective is to break through the stereotypes that each side holds of the other and create an understanding of the other's point of view - of their perspective and world outlook. The focus of the project will be children because any stereotypes and prejudices they hold are not yet fully ingrained and are open to change and revision.
"My Enemy's Perspective" is a film project which takes its actors and viewers up to the skies of Heavenly Jerusalem in hot air balloons. As the balloons ascend they go back in time through different periods of history by ascending upward through layers of the heavens. Each layer places the travelers in a different time period where Jerusalem was conquered and ruled by another people or nation. The long range goal of this project is to write a professional script for the production of a combination animation and live film with an accompanying computer game. The film will be made available to the school system and to local community centers and youth groups for the purpose of viewing and discussion. A control group of children, under the guidance of an educational consultant, will be used while writing the script to test for effectiveness.
The Academy of Jerusalem is turning to potential partners with a request for a grant or investment which will support the writing of the script and storyboard for the development of the accompanying computer game. We estimate that the script and illustrated-text adventure computer game will take eighteen months to develop. The computer game will be sold at attractive prices on the open market and will serve to reinforce the message of the film .
As alluded to above, the message the film will transmit is that in order to understand another's point of view, the other's history must be learned and understood and if possible, experienced. Especially as the roles and identities of Arab and Israelis have changed so completely several times throughout the course of history in this land. To experience a day, or even an hour in the life of your enemy is to begin to understand him or her. Once understanding is gained, cordial relations, cooperation, and even friendship can emerge.
The story begins at the Gabriel Sherover Promenade in Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock, the Tower of David, and the Western Wall in the background. Groups of children are playing - Jewish children flying kites, Arab children looking on a short distance away. The children begin to exchange insults, and a rock is thrown. Suddenly, they are embroiled in a fight.
The father of one of the Jewish children approaches in an attempt to calm both sides. He suggests an alternate activity involving both groups. He starts out by telling them that hovering above them is a city called "Heavenly Jerusalem" which is a city of peace. He asks them whether they would all like to take a trip up to the heavens in hot-air balloons.
Having agreed, the children take off and the father begins his explanation of their destination by saying that just as the ground in earthly Jerusalem consists of archaeological layers, so too, the skies are made up of historical layers - layers of memories - only that in the heavens the higher spheres precede the lower ones.
Quite close to the ground is the layer of the recent Israeli period with the unification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War - a significant reality for all the children. Above it - the establishment of the State of Israel, with the borders of Jerusalem as set in 1948 at the War of Independence. Still above this - the British conquest; the Ottoman rule; the Mameluks; the Crusaders; the early Moslem, Byzantine, and Roman periods; Jews of the Second Temple period; the Persian rule; the Babylonians; Jews of the First Temple period; the Jebusites; the days of the Patriarchs, and finally creation and the formation of Adam.
As the children ascend in their balloons, they are challenged by the winds blowing in each layer. There are two types of wind - the evil and foul winds of war and the good and fragrant winds of peace and stability. The winds serve to confuse the flight patterns and locations of the balloons and the children's ability to distinguish between friend or foe.
During the ascent, the balloons themselves will change according to the periods - elephants during the Greek period, chariots in Roman times, and horses in the Moslem and Crusader periods. The children will also take on elements of the different periods by being featured in different attire. Most importantly, as the balloons rise through the different historical periods, the children will often exchange identities in the confusion and entanglement of their flight patterns. The children will discover that often, the native conquered people of the land in a lower (later) period were the invading enemy in a higher (earlier) period. For example - the Jewish children who began their flight as conquerors will find themselves in the role of the Arab-Moslem conqueror in an earlier time period and as a vanquished nation in still an earlier period; while the Arab children who began their flight as the conquered natives of the land will find themselves suddenly in the role of a native Jew being conquered by Moslems and as a conquering Roman, and so on - back through history. Thus, in the course of their flight the children will have to contend with the identity of the other and their beliefs.
Gradually, after having participated in political struggles and religious wars, having undergone changes of attitudes and identities, having seen the buildings of Jerusalem in splendor and in ruin, having aggregated into complex flight patterns which then disintegrated, having ascended and also fallen, the children arrive at understanding.
With this understanding, they discover flight patterns, a bit like the patterns of birds, in which no one collides or gets entangled in the balloon of another. It becomes clear to them that their histories are entwined with one another and with the land and each carries within him/herself parts of the other's history. This, then sets the stage for acknowledgement of the legitimacy (if not agreement) of the other's view.
The staff of the project will consist of a project administrator, a producer of documentary programs, an animator, a scriptwriter, two researchers, plus consultants in the field of alternative educational, computers, and computer art.
The consultant in alternative education will assist in the development of the script by evaluating the effectiveness of and interest level in the stories while still in the developmental stage.
The operating objectives to be accomplished during the period of funding are the following:
The time frame for the project is 18 months.
The budget for development of the film script is over $36,000. We are seeking partners for raising $28,000. The funds will be used for remuneration of the project staff and consultants and for the purchasing of necessary materials for script development.
Now that most of its goals have been achieved, is Zionism still a useful concept for expressing the values, yearnings, and identity of a people? The Academy of Jerusalem believes that Zionism is relevant today - with certain adaptations. Founded in 1991, the purpose of the Academy is to explore, study, analyze and practically apply traditional knowledge in conjunction with modern science and technology to different spheres of life. The Academy is concentrating on the following areas in order to build a new vision of Zionism:
To date, the Academy of Jerusalem has operated both as a think tank in the areas cited above and as an organizer of educational seminars, meetings, and discussion groups. Papers, articles, and books have emerged as a result. Of late, the Academy is becoming active in educational projects in the areas of Jewish-Arab relations and in health and healing, exploring the mind-body connection through traditional Jewish sources.
The Academy of Jerusalem is an educational project of the Hayut Foundation which enjoys U.S. tax-deductible status in the State of New York through PEF - Israel Endowment Funds, Inc.
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