On March 29, 2002, 17-year-old Israeli Rachel Levy walked into a grocery store in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Yovel to purchase ingredients for Sabbath dinner. Soon thereafter, 17-year-old Palestinian Ayat al-Akhras approached the store’s entrance carrying a black purse loaded with explosives. She issued a brief warning to two elderly Arab women sitting just outside selling fruits and vegetables.
The store’s security guard stopped al-Akhras, who seemed suspicious. She immediately activated the explosive bag — killing herself, Levy and the guard, while injuring 30 civilians. The end result: three more victims added to the Middle East catalogue of martyrdom.
Al-Akhras had been transported to the store by Ibrahim Sarahnah, an Israeli Arab**, with whom she’d rendezvoused earlier, near Bethlehem. Sarahnah was later captured — on his way back from another bombing — and is now serving time at the Gilboa Jail in northern Israel.
Before al-Akhras had left the camp earlier that afternoon, she read her suicide statement into a video camera. It included verses from the Quran, and blamed Palestinian and other Arab leaders and armies for not coming to the aid of the Palestinians and their cause. She also blamed them for “leaving the fighting to Palestinian girls.” Among its themes, the film investigates what might have led this young Palestinian girl to undertake such a deadly mission.
One wonders whether the two 17 year olds with very similar looks may have briefly glanced at one another before the detonation. Perhaps they noticed that they were around the same age, had long dark hair and dark complexions, small body types and even similar facial features. Both were high school seniors with plans and dreams.
But, even though the two young women had numerous similarities and had grown up less than four miles apart, they hailed from two vastly different worlds. Al-Akhras lived in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, a heavily populated and impoverished area under the constant threat of Israeli incursions and where some 11,000 people are crammed together in one square kilometer. Al-Akhras’ formative years were spent in an environment of death, fear, checkpoints and humiliations. Levy, by contrast, grew up in a Jerusalem neighborhood remarkably western in style and culture, with an atmosphere of openness, freedom, independence and abundance. With all that, there is also the constant threat of terror, which creates lack of basic freedom and difficulties and fear in daily life.
Following the deaths of their cherished daughters, both families are hurt and broken. Levy’s mother can’t get over the loss of her daughter and struggles constantly with negative feelings toward al-Akhras, her family and Palestinians in general. Levy is unable to comprehend how a 17-year-old girl could decide to end her life — just like that — and potentially take so many others with her. As part of her quest for answers, Levy decides that she wants to meet the mother of her daughter’s killer.
TO DIE IN JERUSALEM presents the deadly conflict between Israel and Palestine through the eyes of two families who have lost their daughters in the conflict. By contrasting the lives and deaths of these two teenage girls, the documentary offers a personal perspective that is all too often eclipsed by political issues. The film explores on one side, al-Akhras’ reasons and ideology, and the events that led her to sacrifice her life. On the other, Levy, who paid with her life when she was caught up in the ongoing conflict during her daily routine.
Nothing about it is simple. Or clear. While one girl’s death was, in a sense, chosen, the other’s was a twist of fate or tragic destiny — yet both are victims of one of the longest, most complicated and disturbing conflicts of our time. The film’s glimpse into each young woman’s world seeks to enhance the viewer’s understanding of the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, while opening a window into the lives of these tragic families as they cope with their pain.
TO DIE IN JERUSALEM doesn’t suggest a solution to the conflict, but unabashedly explores the difficulties, fears and gaps between opposing sides. However, as Avigail Levy’s character develops through the film, and al-Akhras agrees to meet with her, a channel of communication opens up. And with it, new hope for a better future.* Israeli-Arabs are full citizens of the State of Israel, with equal protection under the law, and full rights of due process. Israeli Arabs comprise around 15 percent of the country’s total number of citizens. They are the descendants of the 150,000 Arabs who remained within Israel’s borders during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and of the Wadi-Ara Palestinians who came under Israel jurisdiction as part of a territory exchange under the 1949 Armistice Agreement with Jordan.
p/s: saya tak pernah tengok filem ni... anda? how is it? bias? discrimination? justice? truth? buah tangan barat pada kisah perjuangan seorang gadis Palestine. mesti tonton (sape dah tengok, please inform me ya)