Sonntag, 28. März 2010

Children of Gaza – the movie

BAFTA award winning film-maker Jezza Neumann’s film Children of Gaza was shown last month by Channel 4. The film revolves around four young Palestinian victims (Ibraheem 11, Amal 9, Mahmood 12 and Omsyatte 12) of Israeli barbarism during its 23-day war on 1.5 million Gazans in December 2008-January 2009.

Amal & Mahmoud

Nine year old Amal her twelve year old brother Mahmoud witnessed their father and brother being shot dead. Their house was also destroyed. Amal was injured and now lives with shrapnel embedded in her brain which leads to blinding headaches and visual impairment. She struggles with her homework and often finds it difficult to help her mother around the house. Amal says her wish is to become a doctor and help sick people. The doctor in Israel is a top neurosurgeon, but felt that operating on Amal now would not be a good idea. From his experience, there is a high risk of neurological complications in cases like Amal’s, so he feels that unless her symptoms become life-threatening it is better to do nothing. However with no organisation now helping Amal and her family and her mother struggling to feed the family it is unlikely she’ll get to travel to Israel for a follow up in the near future. Mahmoud aches from the loss of his father and whilst he didn’t receive any physical injuries the scars of this loss run deep. He feels his father was killed unnecessarily and now seeks revenge for his death. Mahmoud also shoulders a lot of the responsibility for the care of his younger siblings. Mahmoud’s dream is for the crossings to open and to travel to England or Europe and study at university. He also wants some justice for the death of his father and brother


12 yr old Omsyatte lives with her family in a tent after her parents were bother wounded, her eldest brother killed and her house destroyed. That night still haunts her as she also claims to have seen her brother’s body used as target practise by the Israeli soldiers.

Omsyatte helps her mother with housework and struggles to keep the tents tidy as the winds are often quite strong blowing sand everywhere. Often they have to throw food away as it gets covered in sand. During the winter rains the tent leaks and sometimes floods.

Shortly after the war her mother became pregnant again and she now has new baby sister.

Omsyatte dreams of becoming a journalist. She wants to tell the stories of Gaza to the outside world in the hope that the blockade will end.


Eleven year old Ibraheem is the son of a fisherman. On Fridays and school holidays he works on his fathers boat fishing off the coast of Gaza. This can be quite risky as the fishing boats are often shot at by the Israeli navy who patrol the sea. Ibraheem’s boat has been captured once and held for over two months. It was shot and set on fire during the making of the film.

Ibraheem has lived in Gaza all his life and dreams of going to university overseas, travelling outside of Gaza for the very first time.

Jezza Neumann wrote about his feelings and experience while filming in Gaza as follows:

As my last trip drew to a close it was hard saying goodbye to the children who’d opened their hearts and minds to me and my assistant producer, Khalid.

Whilst at Erez waiting for security clearance I had a chance to reflect on my time in Gaza. I’d first arrived shortly after the war to a population in shock. The first seven days were spent meeting NGOs and families hearing story after story, tragedy after tragedy with the odd glimmer of hope.

It was during this process that Khalid and I met the four children featured in our documentary. During my time in Gaza all the families opened their homes to us affording me a special insight into life in the Gaza strip. I was invited to eat with the families and spend time with them on Fridays creating a bond between them and us. I also went to the Mosque with Mahmoud and spent time at all the children’s schools.

I was there to witness the sadness in their lives – Omsyatte’s first trip to her brother’s grave, Amal and Mahmoud wandering around their destroyed home looking for scraps of happy memories, and Ibraheem’s agony as his father’s boat was destroyed. But I was also there to witness a few moments of happiness – Omsyatte taking part in a kite flying world record attempt, Ibraheem the day his boat sailed again, and Amal and Mahmoud when they went to a UN summer camp.

The children have began to move on as best they can and try to put the memories of the war behind them but their daily life is filled with constant reminders. Much of Gaza still lies in a pile of sand and rubble. The winter rains have meant leaks and floods for Omsyatte and Amal’s families and the blockade means that many goods are hard to come by. Currently in Gaza there is a shortage of cooking gas. Power cuts are also commonplace making it very difficult to study at night.

For Ibraheem and his family the navy remains a constant threat. On one occasion, while we were filming in a small boat, the navy came close and the fear across our boatman’s face was clear to see as we headed as fast as he could back to the beach.

Before I left Gaza I organised a BBQ at Omsyatte’s tent for all the children. We drove all the families there and a great day was had playing football and eating shwarma. It was the first time I’ve ever had all the contributors in a film together at one time and it was a wonderful experience, one I will always treasure.

Back at Erez, within 15 minutes I was granted my clearance and I left. I’m lucky, I pretty much went when I liked where I liked. Khalid and the children however are stuck in Gaza with little hope of experiencing a freedom in life I so often take for granted.

Avigail Abarbanel, an Israeli-born Jewish writer, says: “Jewish Israel cannot be trusted to end this nightmare out of goodness of its heart. Israel is going very fast down the slippery slope of war crimes and human right violations. Despite its relentless protests and cries of ‘poor me’, Jewish Israel is morally bankrupt state that is rapidly loosing its legitimacy it should never have had in the first place”.

How You Can Help To donate to the children in this film, and for information on how to help them and others, please visit this website

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