“Anyone who consciously looks for the best in all people, places, and things; who has acknowledged and released the pains of their soul. And who energetically helps all others release the pain of their souls so that the Healing of The Planet Will Occur. SONGBIRDS LOVE EVERYONE. as I LOVE YOU.”
When I was in 3rd grade we were asked to write a letter to the POTUS. I recently came across this letter and noticed the little edit that my teacher decided to add in red. I don’t know if to be mad at the teacher for trying to force her political views on me, or to thank her for trying to open my eyes at such an early age…
As the outside world appears to get more and more disturbing, its easy to get caught up in anger, frustration or even apathy. But guess what, on the other side of the apparent craziness, there is something else unfolding. Can you see it? At first it may only appear as a small glimmer of light, but that’s only because you haven’t been giving it as much attention. Yeah, that’s the thing: what you focus your attention on and what you give energy to, becomes stronger. The sooner we can learn to focus our attention and energy on the glimmer of light, the faster we can light up the world.
The problem begins when we set “peace” as some future goal, and then expect someone “out there” to achieve it for us. There is no path to peace; peace IS the path. It begins with me, and it begins with you, and it has nothing to do with governments, or politics, or false promises of a better “tomorrow.” The sooner we all realize that, the faster we can start creating the kind of world we want to see.
West Bank Story is a musical comedy about David, an Israeli soldier, and Fatima, a Palestinian fast food cashier – an unlikely couple who fall in love amidst the animosity of their families’ dueling falafel stands in the West Bank.
Tensions mount when the Kosher King’s new pastry machine juts onto Hummus Hut property. The Palestinians ruin the machine and the Israelis respond by building a wall between the two eating establishments.
The couple professes their love for each other, triggering a chain of events that destroys both restaurants and forces all to find common ground in an effort to rebuild, planting a seed of hope.
Why did you make the film?
I wanted to accomplish three things with the movie:
1. I wanted to make a film that would get attention and also make people laugh.
2. I wanted to make a movie that was pro-peace and offered a message of hope.
3. I wanted to address the situation in an even-handed and balanced way so that Jewish and Arab audiences would feel fairly represented enough to let their guard down and laugh WITH the characters from the “other side”. I thought, if we can make a movie that Israelis will watch and like the Arab characters and that Arabs will watch and like the Israeli characters then that will be something valuable.
What problems did you encounter in making the film?
Many people said you can’t make a film that’s a comedy about a tragedy like the Middle East conflict. They said that no one wants to see that and you will end up offending every Jew and Arab in America. I was also advised against making a short movie that takes place in another country because it would be too expensive. They insisted I would never be able to pull it off and it would look student and cheap.
1. At first, I heeded their advice and I shelved the project for 5 months. It wasn’t until I started working with my co-writer, Kim Ray, that we returned to the project with a new perspective. We decided that it was necessary to simplify the situation in order to make it comedic. We wanted to show that both sides were more alike than they care to admit so we brainstormed a list of things that Arabs and Israelis have in common. When we came up with food and the premise of competing falafel stands, the script began to come to life.
2. A major challenge was balance in portraying both sides evenly. Our fear was that we might offend one side and then turn them off to the story. Therefore, we made sure that for every joke against one side we had one for the other. Likewise, for every endearing or heartfelt moment for the Palestinians we had to have one for the Israelis. Balance was crucial to staying credible. This balance carried over into every aspect of the film. The costumes had to be equally funny on both sides as did their restaurants and the personalities of the characters. I think we did a pretty good job of keeping it balanced.
What do you want the viewer to take away from the film?
I sometimes get remarks about the film being too simplistic and that it does not accurately show the suffering of any one side. I agree, it IS simplistic because it has to be in order to be a comedy. This film is not meant to be a learning tool for the situation in the Middle East. It is not an historical explanation, or a political solution on screen. It is a movie about HOPE and PEACE and that is it. It is meant to counteract the multitudes of negative documentaries and news reports that, while very informative, usually seem to be skewed to one side and ALWAYS leave the viewer feeling like this conflict will go on forever. I truly believe that peace between Israelis and Arabs will be achieved and don’t believe it is a hopeless endeavor. We wanted to make a film that would convey that feeling.
What has been the response from Jews and Arabs?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive from both sides. I have had requests for Dvd’s from professors from Qatar, libraries in Egypt, soldiers in Israel, Palestinian families in Gaza, Elementary school teachers in Haifa, Jewish and Arab film festivals all over the United States, and the list goes on. The film played at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival and the Tel Aviv University Student Film Festival in Israel. It also played at the Dubai International Film Festival to a very warm reception and was screened there more than any other film at the festival. It was one of the best screening experiences I have ever had.
What is your background? Are you from the Middle East?
I was born in the United States and am the son of an Israeli father and an American mother. I studied Islam, Judaism, and the History of the Middle East in college and have traveled the Middle East extensively having been to Israel (almost every year), Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and Dubai. I currently have family that live throughout Israel.
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.