"Can You Hear Me?" - An Autonomous Women's Film Event
440 Parramatta Road
A night for women (including women identifiers) to celebrate creativity. women's history and cultural endeavours.
FREE vegan dinner at 6pm!
Screening of the film "Can You Hear Me? Israeli and Palestinian Women Fight for Peace".
Lilly Rivlin’s Documentary “Can You Hear Me?” Focuses on Women as Peacemakers
By Robert Hirschfield
AT AN ISRAELI checkpoint on the West Bank, Yehudit Oppenheimer of Machson Watch (the group that mediates with Israeli soldiers to mitigate the abuses of Palestinians at checkpoints) imagines a day in the future when her grandchild will ask her what she did during the occupation.
“I will be able to say I did something,” Oppenheimer reflects.
Lilly Rivlin’s documentary, “Can You Hear Me?: Israeli and Palestinian Women Fight For Peace,” focuses on what the director believes is the untapped potential of women as peacemakers in the conflict—women like Maha Abu Dayyah-Shamas, a Palestinian who runs the Women’s Center For Legal Aid and Counseling in Beit Hanina, and Israeli peace activist Terry Greenblatt. Together they appeared before the Security Council to insist that U.N. Resolution 1325, passed in 2000 and calling for the inclusion of women in all official peace negotiations, be applied to Israeli and Palestinian women in the peace process affecting their two communities.
“Women don’t have a vested interest in maintaining military power and hegemony,” explains Abu Dayyah-Shamas. “And they don’t need guns for their egos.”
Her ill-fated dialogue partner, Leah Shakdiel, an Orthodox Jew and longtime opponent of Israel’s occupation, is alarmed at men’s propensity to resort to violence when talking fails because of rules that are broken. “I think women are different,” she says. “Women’s contribution to the peace process is that we never understand why you have to stop speaking when violence breaks out. That’s when you have to make yourself heard and get back on track.”
In the film’s most riveting and lacerating scene, Shakdiel goes to the home of Abu Dayyah-Shamas to arrange a future meeting about Resolution 1325. The subject of Zionism comes up. Zionism, the Palestinian woman remarks, is a fantasy. A fantasy, she concedes, that was perhaps needed at one time. Shakdiel is stunned.
“Not now?” she demands.
Shakdiel feels outrage and betrayal.
“I am a Zionist!” she shouts, sobbing painfully. This is the same woman who considers herself a failure as a mother because her daughter is a settler.
By contrast, the relationship between Nadwa Sarandeh and Robi Damelin of the Parents Circle, an Israeli/Palestinian bereavement group, is an intimate one. The two travel together to Europe and the U.S., speaking of the need for the violence to end, for the occupation to end, for reconciliation to begin.
“When I go to bed at night,” says Damelin, whose son, an Israeli soldier, was killed by a Palestinian sniper in the West Bank, “and the mother of a suicide bomber goes to bed at night in Gaza, we share the same pain.”
Adding to Sarandeh’s pain over her murdered sister is the pain of seeing a photo of an Israeli soldier whose gun brandishes the words, “kill ‘em all.”
In her documentary, Rivlin, a Jewish American feminist affiliated with Meretz USA, walks a tightrope between her vision of the transformative power of Israeli and Palestinian women and the stark reality of Palestinian oppression that puts to shame any triumphalism. Mostly she succeeds, although the film’s tone sometimes is a bit too self-congratulatory. It is not without humor, however. At one point PLO diplomat Lily Habash wryly compares the Israeli/Palestinian relationship to a Catholic marriage. “We are not going to get divorced,” she observes.
(Robert Hirschfield is a free-lance writer based in New York City)