Last night Jeremiah and I (finally) watched a Netflix movie I picked out a (very) long time ago called Promises, and I just wanted to take a brief moment to highly recommend it to all of you. The movie is from 2001, so some of you may have already seen it; however, since documentaries often receive less attention than other films, you may have missed it like us.
Basically, one of the co-producers and co-directors of the film, B. Z. Goldberg, is a non-practicing Jew who was born in (and went to college in) the U.S. but grew up in Israel near Jerusalem. He worked as a journalist for a while, but over time became interested in working towards reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians, with this film being a part of that mission. The basic question of the film is, essentially, “How do kids think about politics, violence, reconciliation, etc.? How do they understand themselves as Jews and Palestinians, and how do they relate to one another? How is this different, perhaps, for children vs. adults? How can kids play a positive role in peace-making?”
The film includes secular Jewish, ultra-orthodox Jewish, and Muslim Palestinian kids living in Jerusalem, as well as Jewish kids in a nearby settlement and Palestinian kids from a nearby refugee camp. The seven children featured range in age from 9-12 and were filmed between 1995-2000. At one point, some of the kids get to meet each other—both to play and to discuss politics and peacemaking. They all have widely varying viewpoints about the issues and each other, and these viewpoints change over time. (The DVD also includes a 2004 update. Interestingly, all of these kids are more or less the same age as me, which added to my interest in their journeys.) The children are funny, insightful, frightening, heart-breaking, and inspiring in their own unique ways, and the film does a great job showing how family background, economic status, and level of religious commitment shapes each child’s perception of his or her world.
We expected the film to be rather depressing, and while there was a lot of despair, there was also a lot of hope. And the kids really did crack us up at multiple points. We have long been opposed to the U.S.’s support of Israel and the Christian Zionist impulse which has captured so many evangelicals. This film was a great way for us to feel a greater sense of connection to all the parties involved in the conflict, and I think it has left us more committed to thinking about what we can do (from advocacy in everyday conversations to supporting non-profits) to work for justice and reconciliation in this area.
The only unfortunate hole in the film was its not including any Christians (of either Jewish, Palestinian, or other Gentile background). I would be really fascinated to hear from kids of these backgrounds, as well. In terms of U.S. Christian Zionism, we are excited to also recommend a movie we haven’t yet seen but just ordered: With God on Our Side. It has been recommended by the VP of World Vision, which to me is a pretty worthwhile endorsement.