The Forgiveness Project was proud to co-sponsor the first UK screening of Shelley Hermon’s Within the Eye of the Storm at Amnesty’s Human Rights Action Centre on 19th June 2013. The film is an impressive, stirring, fly-on-the-wall documentary following the lives of two bereaved fathers – a Palestinian and an Israeli – who have become the closest of friends through the worst of tragedies.
After the screening, in front of an audience of eighty people, Rami Elhanan and Bassam Aramin (who were both in London to promote the film), skilfully steered the discussion away from the mire of politics, to focus instead on the human cost of violence. Their message is simple: the only real way of affecting change is through heart to heart discussion, one person at a time. As Rami says: “We don’t have any expectations of our politicians, we need to work from below.”
At the same time, both men make it clear that their joint struggle is to campaign relentlessly to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Speaking as if to his Israeli neighbours, Bassam declares: “I don’t want to pay the price of your fear any longer.”
Everything about these two remarkable men is about shifting perspectives away from the rhetoric of black and white thinking, reducing fear through humanising ‘the enemy’, softening positions and highlighting a disturbing trend – on both sides – to use victimhood in order to victimise others.
As Bassam says in the film: “If you want to change others, first you have to change yourself.” Later during the discussion, Rami agrees – “It’s the walls in your mind which are much more difficult to break down than any kind of physical wall.” Rami’s daughter was killed by a suicide bomber in a Jerusalem market in 1997, and he has been on a quest ever since to understand what makes a young man so angry that he chooses to blow himself up alongside a group of 14-year-old girls.
The film’s director, Shelley Hermon, explains how two months after she started filming, Bassam’s 10-year-old daughter, Abir, was shot by an Israeli soldier at the base of her skull with a rubber-coated steel bullet. As a result the film took a new turn, concentrating on the developing friendship of two fathers who already knew each other as founding members of Combatants for Peace, an organisation made up of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters who have vowed never to use violence against each other again. Their deep friendship is tangible. The audience seems warmed by it – there is a small sense of optimism in the knowledge that holding on to resentment has a cost, and these narratives of hope have more currency and power than the more commonly told narratives of hate.