By Miriam Shaviv
July 6, 2010
I've written before about Israelis with Palestinian cousins - literal Palestinian cousins. If your Hebrew is up to it, you must read this interview with filmmaker Noa Ben Hagai, who made a documentary last year about her relatives in a Palestinian refugee camp.
In her case, a 14-year-old relative called Pnina disappeared from her home near Tiveriah in the 1940s. More than 25 years later, following the Six-Day War, Pnina wrote to her family, telling them that she lived on the West Bank with her Arab husband and eight children. There was some contact between the families, but that came to an and after Pnina's death four years later.
Now, Noa Ben Hagai has got back in touch with the family in the West Bank (some of Pnina's children, though, live in Gaza, Kuwait and Jordan) and made a movie about the family's strained relationship. You can watch a fascinating preview here with English subtitles, which brings out the relatives' complex feelings.
In the very candid Maariv interview, Ben Hagai says that some of the Palestinian relatives have joined Hamas and others have spent time in Israeli jails. They suffered because they had a Jewish mother and so, in order to prove that they were not collaboraters, went to the other extreme.
She is frank about the fact that the Israeli side of the family feels awkward because the Palestinian side is constantly asking them for financial aid. At first they did try to help, even posting bail for one of the cousins a couple of times after he was arrested for infiltrating into Israel (they also tried to organise work permits in Israel for their Palestinian relatives) but ultimately the relationship is unbalanced and this creates a strain.
"Their expectations from us are very high. They expect lots of things - help with food, financial aid for operations and permits to work in Israel. The connection is very complicated - we are considered the occupiers on one hand, and the rich uncles on the other. They have some kind of expectation that we will save them from their lives."
There is, she says, no happy ending, and her own left-wing hopes of peace have suffered somewhat through this personal journey.
Read the whole thing here if you can. And a final thought - Pnina's children and some of her grandchildren, in the Palestinian refugee camp, Gaza, Kuwait and Jordan, are halachic Jews. How many other families have representatives on both sides of the divide? More than one might think, I suspect.