How did I get here?
By Harvey Stein
I am an American-Israeli Jew. I live in Jerusalem (or sometimes I call it, “JerusaQuds”). When Ray Hanania asked me if I wanted to write for the Arab Daily News, I of course said, “of course.” I had met Ray when I made a short documentary on one of his crazy, wonderful comedy tours of Israel/Palestine in the mid-2000s (when he shared the stage with an amazing Orthodox Jewish comedian, among others.)
I moved to Israel (possessing that magic card that Jews around the world all have) from NYC in 2006. I usually tell my friends (so they won’t immediately call me a “ZioNazi”) that I moved “for romance, not Zionism.” I met my future Israeli wife in New York, where she was divorcing her first American husband.
We now live in South Jerusalem – only 2-3 miles from the Bethlehem checkpoint (and the Wall).
I have always been a “bordercrosser.” I lived in Japan for a year a long time ago (flying there from Seattle, on a cargo jet full of 40 horses being flown over to be in samurai movies – this is true). Being a video journalist since coming to IL/PS allows me to make weekly trips to the West Bank, where I visit friends in both Palestinians towns and in Israeli settlements. I can’t go to Gaza (with my Israeli passport), but I had a great time collaborating with a Gazan journalist a few years ago on a video.
I like to confound people. “Ideologies are excretions of the mind.” I am almost finished editing “A Third Way – Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors,” my feature length documentary on Rabbi Menachem Froman, the “settler rabbi for peace” (trailer at the top). Froman lived most of his adult life in Tekoa settlement (where he was the Chief Rabbi), but he was also long time friends with Yasser Arafat, and met many times with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (who he helped get released from Israeli prison), the spiritual founder of Hamas.
I view Froman as my Jewish Zen master. He shakes things up, on all sides. Froman said, in all seriousness, “I live in the state of…God. It’s not so important who is the government.” He also met many time with Mahmoud Abbas, who told him, “When Palestine becomes a nation finally, you will be the first Jew to get a Palestinian ID.”
After Rabbi Froman died early last year, the second half of the movie focuses on his proteges, both Israeli settlers and Palestinians like Ali Abu Awwad. Ali is now using his family land in Gush Etzion (just south of Jerusalem in the West Bank) to start a “non-violence” Center, where among other things, neighboring Palestinians and settlers can meet and talk without being tempted to kill each other…
As Ali says, “The Jews are not my enemy; their fear is my enemy. We must help them to stop being so afraid – their whole history has terrified them – but I refuse to be a victim of Jewish fear anymore”. And as one of Ali’s Israeli settler friends says (a man who was born in the West Bank, so has no other place that is “home”), “1-state, 2-state, 7-states? Whatever the final political arrangements are, none of these will last very long if there are no good relations between the people.”
All humans (and most aliens) tend to see things in black-and-white. It makes life much easier, it saves time, and most importantly, saves us from having to think for ourselves. “We” are good, “they” are bad, and so “they” have to leave as soon as possible. God forbid, if I actually meet a “they” who I can share a great joke with, or a “they” who makes an excellent makloubeh – just maybe that “they” might become a “we.”
That’s a bit about me. I really appreciate dialogue – please leave comments (I will try to answer them also.). And if you want to bring “A Third Way” to screen in your community, please contact me. All best from the UnHoly City, Harvey.
(Harvey Stein is a video journalist and filmmaker – you can click here to see many samples of his in progress documentary “A Third Way” about Rabbi Menachem Froman and other West Bank peacemakers . You can contact him email@example.com.)