Arab and Israeli Peace, at Least for Children

May 3, 2008


Source: The New York Times

“Bridge Over the Wadi” begins with the small and familiar to examine the big and complex. The first scene in this documentary, scheduled to have its television premiere in this country Sunday night on the PBS World channel, shows two sleepy-eyed little boys and their morning routine.

“My name is Assaf and I’ll be going to the Jewish-Arab school,” the older one says. “I think it’s a good school, because you learn a lot of good things there. But on the other hand, there are Arabs there.”

The camera then peeks inside the home of one of those Arabs, curly-haired Amina. Asma, her mother, says, “When I grew up, I was told to hate Jews.” She continues: “When my daughter grew up and told me ‘I hate Jews,’ I thought, ‘Why should she grow up the way I did?’ ”

Just what Arab and Jewish children in Israel should grow up knowing and believing about each other is at the heart of this quiet film directed by Barak Heymann and Tomer Heymann, Jewish filmmakers who are also brothers. They captured a year in the life of third-grade students, their parents and their teachers at the Hand in Hand Bridge Over the Wadi school, located in an Arab section of the Wadi Ara region in the middle of Israel.

Started in 2004 with 100 students in kindergarten through third grade, the school has grown to more than 200 students up to sixth grade, split evenly between Arabs and Jews. Its goal is to teach both Arabic and Hebrew and both Jewish and Muslim religion and culture.