You might get a much better understanding of why it has been so hard to negotiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians after watching “The Inner Tour” which is showing Monday, March 31st at 9 p.m. as part of the Sundance Channel’s Doc Day.
The film chronicles a bus tour of Israel by a group of Palestinians in 2000, just before the latest Intifada ended such trips. Many visit the land they or their relatives left behind. Director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz has written, “While walking along the Tel Aviv Beach in early 1999, I came across a group of Palestinians on some kind of tour. When I saw how overwhelmed they were just looking at the sea, I suddenly realized that many of them had never even seen a beach before. Though they live just an hour away, the political reality deprives them of it.”
Most of the people on the bus come from the West Bank or Gaza Strip through some are from Jordan. We learn their stories as they talk to each other and make their journey and get to know them as people. One man does say he’s never the sea when they stop at the beach.
There are signs of hope. In Tel Aviv, one of the passengers asks a cab driver to take him to memorial at Kings’ Square where Yitzhak Rabin was assasinated. He is obviously moved there and the driver asks him why he went. He explains he met Rabin when he was in prison after the first Intifadah and was treated with respect and he later took a risk for peace. One woman’s husband is in prison for killing an Israeli soldier, but she expresses empathy for what his wife went through.
But it is mostly a discouraging story particularly in light of what has happened since then. When the group is given a tour of a museum at a Kibbutz, they criticize the view of history presented. The tour guide gives the Arabic names as they pass Israeli cities and villages. And the emotion felt for what has been lost is shown when an elderly man visits the place where his parents are buried. Even if the countries travel on the current roadmap for peace, they would not be able to return to their homes.
When I first saw the film at last year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (the website for this year’s festival which takes place April 17th to May 1st is now online), this appeared in the daily newsletter:
The following message was received by our guest services coordinator, Michele Owens, Monday, April 8, 2002 from Raed Andoni, producer of the Palestinian/Israeli film, The Inner Tour: “Dear Michele, I am still inside Bethlehem. The city, as you know, is totally surrounded by the old/new Israeli occupation tanks. In fact, me and my people are living under a total curfew for the moment. Massacres are happening everywhere in the Palestinian cities. I am still looking for a way to get to Jordan. I hope I will manage soon. Israeli tanks have damaged the servers of p-ol.com. If I manage to leave Palestine, I will be happy to stay until the 28th to participate in the seminar, Filmmaking in a Hostile World.”
Alexandrowicz and Andoni were able to come when “Tour” was shown at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival a few months later, but Andoni wasn’t sure when he’d be able to return home.
To answer Heather Havrilesky‘s question in her review for Salon, “Were the participants hand-picked for the journey?” Alexandrowicz said they did do pre-interviews to select the people who would go on that bus trip to make sure a range of stories were told.
Related: Barnhart on “The Inner Tour”