KIBBUTZ HANITA, Israel – “My name is Harvey, I am a journalist”. The guy on the phone sounded cheerful. He had heard of our project, the Israeli-Palestinian Midwives Co-existence Group, through a mutual friend. He said that he would like to make a film about the project and asked how I felt about it. It has been a couple of years since we started this special project in which midwives from Israel and Palestine meet and share their knowledge and experiences. All we ladies involved in the project feel strongly about it, but we remained small and virtually anonymous so we figured that some promotion might do us some good. We wanted people to know about it and we needed the funding that could come with the awareness that a film might raise.
A few weeks later, Harvey accompanied us on a visit to a birthing centre in the West Bank that we had links to, where he spent a few hours filming and interviewing us. After editing the material, Harvey sent us the link to YouTube where a three-minute film all about the co-existence midwifery project was presented.
My Palestinian partner and I were very excited. We emailed the link to different people, starting with our closer circle of friends and family and slowly the ripples grew wider. We received enthusiastic emails from all around the world, telling us how beautiful, interesting and exciting the project is.
To me, the way the film spread was a wish come true. A month earlier, during a joint meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian midwives, I had asked all the participants to tell two people who would then tell two other people about the project. I had felt that could be the quick and cheap way to spread the word about our work. However, we discovered that the film was a much more efficient, quick and easy way of achieving this. It was also done in an interesting and concise way that communicated exactly what we wanted. It showed the viewers “other realities” in the region, and this we hope will, in turn, make this reality more widespread—a reality in which people are honoured for who they are and not for their beliefs or for their costumes; a reality where women talk, laugh, create and share despite the fact that they come from “enemy” peoples. This reality has more to it than the hate and oppression which is presented in the official media (e.g. national TV, radio and most newspapers).
One might argue that a film like this one is not “objective”, and that it only shows the “good aspects” of the project. But there is no such thing as “objectivity”. Once people, feelings, needs, expressions and history are involved, reality is subjective. Each one of us holds a deeply personal point of view.
Another argument against putting a film on an internet site like YouTube has to do with the fact that some of the people appearing in the film might experience the visual exposure negatively. In our case, we tried to handle this by getting everyone’s approval prior to uploading the film. Yet, people might change their minds later on, due to comments and pressures that might arise. There is not much that can be done about this in advance, but open communication within the organisation can help calm emotions. I see the benefits of this kind of exposure and I feel that it is “worth the risk” once it is done with everyone’s consent.
In our complex reality, the walls erected between us are a result of years of learning the official version of history and repeated exposure to a media that presents reality in stark black and white terms. Therefore, the use of accessible high-tech tools to present a different reality is legitimate and very sensible. The telling of the story helps create it.
* Gomer Ben Moshe is a midwife and is the Israeli co-ordinator for the Middle East COHI project (Community Organizational Health Inc.). This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and is part of a special series on informal education in the Israeli-Palestinian context.
Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 14 January 2009, www.commongroundnews.org
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