Sonia Nettnin: Film Review - Route 181 (Part II)
Film Review: Route 181-Fragments of a Journey to Palestine-Israel
Part II – The Center
By Sonia Nettnin
People climb the stairs along the rocky landscape. Once they reach the top, they walk a dirt road. Everyone is dressed up for a special occasion. A few men carry flowers arrangements and they move quickly.
The people are under curfew. At the checkpoint, Israeli soldiers confiscated some of the guests’ ID cards. Some of the guests will not pass the checkpoint.
A car door opens and a beautiful, Palestinian woman steps onto the road. People surround her. She covers her face with a white veil. Today is her wedding day.
ROUTE 181-Fragments of a Journey to Palestine-Israel is a three-part documentary. Directors Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan trace a route based on the theoretical line presented in United Nations Resolution 181 (1947). This review is about part two, the center.
Most of the film is in the town of Lod. In a barber shop, Khleifi and Sivan hear stories from men who survived the creation of Israel/Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe).
While the barber cuts a man’s hair, he talks about what he witnessed at nine-years-old.
It was Sunday, July 7th, a little before ten. The morning was scorching hot. Suddenly, a plane flew over Lod. Pamphlets dropped from the sky. They said “Surrender!”
The Israeli Army entered Lod. The civilians had no guns. Three-hundred people sought refuge in a mosque. The army locked the 300 people in a room. Through the windows, they shot the people until everyone was dead.
Most of the people who fled on foot left with nothing. Many people died of thirst.
Two weeks later, he returned to Lod. The stench was unbearable. After a few days, bodies swell. He saw an arm drop off from a corpse.
“My hands are my witness,” he said.
A fan hums behind the barber. Everyone is quiet. It feels like it happened yesterday.
When he returned to Lod, gangs confiscated and pillaged homes. Many rapes occurred, “…it happened it front of our house,” he adds.
In her house, a young mother with her baby, no more than eight weeks-old. Suddenly, six Israeli soldiers entered her house. They raped her.
Then, she ran out of the house, “…because she couldn’t bear to see her child anymore,” he said. “Soldiers do what they like when no one is watching.”
From Lod, the army expelled 80,000 refugees to Jordan. He explained that each demolished house is a memory lost forever.
The old town’s olive press still stands, but it locked from use. In the past, people made olive oil and soap.
Now, 54 years later, the people of Lod battle for peace and equality.
A Jewish woman welcomes new settlers to the Lod Integration Center. The Ethiopians are converts to Judaism. The people are thin and quiet. Their blank faces show exhaustion. They drink wine out of plastic cups. After one man drinks the wine, he sticks out his tongue.
Someone says Zionism welcomes immigrants.
Down the street is a demonstration against racism. One woman says the ethnic criteria of Lod ensure Arabs do not surpass 20 per cent of the population.
In a town meeting, 18 town councilors debate living conditions for Arabs and the selective definition of illegal construction.
One man emphasizes that Jews and Arabs should live together. However, Lod’s segregated living areas show Arabs live in ghettoes. During an interview with the directors, a woman says that no one wants to live in a mixed district.
“You speak as if the Arabs of this town are refugees,” one town councilor says. “The Arabs have a right to stay here.”
Outside, people glue posters to buildings. The posters are about Arab expulsion.
A young mother, who is blind, talks about her six years in jail. “I was beaten,” she said. “All of the women were thoroughly beaten.”
She was in jail for carrying a gun and she has not seen her brother in five years. He is still in jail.
In an Israeli courtroom, Palestinian men sit on a bench. Fetter chains encircle their feet. As one man reaches out to his wife, a soldier pulls apart their hands. “He’s not allowed to touch her,” the soldier says.
Fragments of stories filmed together show that history repeats itself and it is the Palestinian people who suffer the atrocities.
Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.
Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.
She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.