My So Called Enemy, a documentary film by Lisa Gossels, features six young Israeli and Palestinian women who, in 2002, went through an intensive leadership training program called Building Bridges for Peace. The film follows them for the next seven years, as they live their lives in their respective communities.
At a screening in mid-February at the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College, Gossels spoke in conversation with three women from One Voice, an international organization focused on resolving the conflict in the Middle East.
One of the ideas expressed in the film and the discussion is that the point of the Building Bridges for Peace program is not for everyone to agree, or for a solution to be found or a fix to be made, but rather to create a safe space for teens to feel and express their thoughts and feelings about the conflict between Israel and Palestine that has shaped their lives. By encouraging their voices to be heard, the program’s creators believe, leaders are created.
Since the film’s subjects are teenagers, it’s no surprise that they go through many changes in those seven years. One young Palestinian woman becomes increasingly committed to her Muslim faith. Another continues to defy stereotypes with tattoos by her favorite Israeli tattoo artist. Two participants—Gal, an Israeli Jew and Razan, a Palestinian Christian—manage to maintain a close friendship, despite not always being able to travel across borders to see each other in person. In a key scene, after a new wall is erected along the West Bank, Razan takes Gal (who has changed out of her army uniform because it upsets her friend) to see it. Together, they write one of their favorite quotes on the gray concrete: “‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ – Mahatma Gandhi.” If indeed, these women are tomorrow’s leaders in the Middle East, the future of the area is much brighter.