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“When you operate out of the wounded places within yourself, places that are not your truest, the extremes seem irreconcilable. Life is too deep for cynicism or polarization. It just is. Compassion enables you to transcend these polarities at a place within yourself where you stand for the dignity of every human life.” — Sister Helen Prejean, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
Imagine for a moment you are living in the Middle East — In Israel and Palestine — the parent of a young son. Your boy — Sami, Ahmad or Yonaton — is a good boy, a sensitive soul who, from an early age, cares about others and the world. As he grows into manhood, he is confronted by the tragedies we here in the West only read about on a daily basis: Intifadas, suicide bombings, the Oslo Accords, the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. Wherever you and your son live — in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on an Israeli military base, in a Palestinian refugee camp — he is shaped by loss and violence. Imagine how your son might view the world and his place in it, how he might view his ability to be a contributing member of a society, of a society like that?
“Little Town of Bethlehem,” a documentary film produced by Ethnographic Media, follows the story of these three boys, now men, men of different faiths, and explores each man’s decision to choose nonviolence as a way of life. Each man’s story is woven through the major events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and describes what led them to choose nonviolence, at great personal risk:
Sami wants to be seen as human. He learns about Martin Luther King Jr. as a teen and begans lecturing about nonviolence in high school. He eventually travels to India and learns about Gandhi. Sami goes on to found the Holy Land Trust to promote nonviolence in Palestinian.
Yonatan initially follows in his father’s footsteps and becomes a pilot in the Israeli Defense Forces. But his experiences lead him to join with former Israeli and Palestinian combatants who publicly refused to participate in missions that led to civilian casualties, and co-found Combatants for Peace.
Ahmad studies to become a nonviolence trainer in Spain then returns to Bethlehem to to train others living in his refugee camp.
Sami and Ahmad are labeled as “Israeli collaborators”; Yonatan is branded a traitor by some Israelis and can no longer work in his homeland. Imagine this for your beloved son.
Beginning September 21 through October 2nd, hundreds of organizations around the world will host a screening of the film “Little Town of Bethlehem” that documents these men’s efforts. The film will stream live on www.Beliefnet.com starting at 7PM Eastern, Wednesday September 21st, followed by a live panel discussion about the themes and issues raised by the film. Though the issues center on life in the Middle East, the lessons these men learn, their example, are models of courage and compassion for us all.
Please join www.Beliefnet.com this Wednesday for the online premiere of this award-winning documentary. A LIVE panel discussion will follow the showing of the film. Use hashtag #GVoN on Twitter to submit questions for consideration by the discussion panel (use#GVoN and note where you are from).