Emad Burnat: “My next project is to make a second part of 5 Broken Cameras”

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Emad Burnat

Emad Burnat, co-director of 5 Broken Cameras, has visited more than 40 countries in the last 2 years to promote his  Palestinian documentary. His schedule is filled with screenings worldwide. In four days, he has visited 6 cities in the UK. Then, he will go back for a few days to his hometown Bil’in before heading to Switzerland and the United States. His desire to spread his personal story in order to bring more attention to Palestinian life in the West Bank has made him plan a second part of the film as his next project

Q: How has your life changed since 5 Broken Cameras?

A: I have been travelling around the world visiting more than 40 countries to promote my film. I have been Oscar-nominated and have had the chance to meet very famous people that I used to see on TV, but to be honest, nothing has changed in my life. I am the same person, I live in the same house and I have the same car. For me, what is important is looking to the future, the future of my kids and the village.

Q: Has the success of your documentary improved the life conditions of your neighbours in Bil’in?

A: People in the village are trying to rebuild and plant new trees in the land that we got back after the Israeli Court ordered the government to change the route of the wall near Bil’in. However, in reality, people continue to demonstrate against the wall and the settlements every Friday.

In general, the situation is worse. There is no change or sign of good change. We face the Israeli occupation every day and the expansion of settlements and confiscation of our land.

Q: After 5 Broken Cameras, what is next?

A:  I continue filming the changes and events in the village. My next idea is to make a second part of the documentary within 2 or 3 years. It will take time as I want to find a good story to tell. It is not about making another film or getting rich and doing business, but it is something related to my life, my kids, my friends, my land and my country. The message of making this documentary was to show my story, my people, to show the reality of what is really happening in order to make people think, to make a change.

Q: What are the obstacles that you will face making the next film?

A: I think the most difficult thing will be raising the funds to make the documentary. There is not enough support or interest in making documentaries in Palestine.

Q: Has the number of organisations or individuals approaching you for cooperation after the success of your documentary increased?

A: No one has approached me asking to work together. The most important thing for me it is to continue screening the documentary, especially to the people who do not know much about the Palestinian problem. My effort is to show them our story, the story of the Palestinian people.

 Interview published at yourmiddleeast.com

A schism within Israel’s society?

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The recent events that brought the ending of the exemption from compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox men have shown the cracks between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox within Israel’s society.

The exemption, called Tal Law, started in 1948 when the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion waived military service for 400 students; a number that increased over time to 37,000 in 2011.

They were dedicated to studying the Torah, Jewish Law, instead of doing military service that, in Israel lasts for 3 years for men and 2 for women. However, the Tal Law was suspended last August as Israel’s Supreme Court considered it unconstitutional.

With this decision, it is expected that the number of ultra-Orthodox conscripts will increase but not the interaction between them and the seculars. Prof. Yagil Levy, a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication in Open University of Israel, states that “the Haredi rabbis condition any integration (to the Israeli Forces) with separation to avoid secularization impacts and, of course, interaction with women”.

The Haredi, as the ultra-Orthodox are often known in Israel, traditionally keep to their own towns or neighbourhoods; they even have their own education system. Many ultra-Orthodox schools refuse to teach the core curriculum; so thousands of pupils grow up with only a rudimentary knowledge of maths and none of other sciences, foreign languages or non-religious history.

They also see the segregation between men and women as a strict religious rule to follow. This then creates clashes between them and the secular. For example, the attack of a woman for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Jerusalem and the harassment of an 8-year-old girl over her dress on her way to school in the town of Beit Shemesh last year.

Ultra-Orthodox men were responsible for these acts and justified their actions saying that they were defending the halakha (Jewish law). However, secular and moderately religious Israelis denounced these actions as a serious interference with their public lives. 

The conflict between secular and religious citizens in Israel is not something new; the above clashes are only the latest examples. In 1951, cars and buses were burnt in protest against those who did not follow the Sabbath observance, and, in 1958, ultra-Orthodox men protested against the opening of a mixed gender swimming pool in Jerusalem.

These examples draw a historical line of division between the secular and the religious community – a division that started even before the state was established.

When the state of Israel was created, a problem had to be addressed: how could a schism within the Jewish community be avoided? The decision was made to accommodate religious demands that were, at the same time, a challenge to the freedom of conscience guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence of Israel.

For example, in the 50’s, the rabbinical courts were granted with the absolute control of marriage and divorce laws, and the religious day of Sabbath was declared the national day of rest, which led to the prohibition of public transport on Saturdays.

These policies remain today in Israeli society which, among others, have created a sentiment of discontent among the secular population against the religious sector, as the former feel that the state has a permissive policy toward the latter.

Secular and moderately religious Israelis have come to see the ultra-Orthodox as an economic and social threat. More than half of ultra-Orthodox men are unemployed, in comparison with 14% of secular men, according to figures provided by the Israeli government – Figures that could increase,  as it is expected that the population of this group, which today conforms 10%, will rise to 17% in 20 years time. They have the highest birth rate, having, on average, eight children per family.

The situation among Israeli society is often described in the streets with the following sentence, “In Israel 1/3 of the nation serves in the army, 1/3 works, and 1/3 pays taxes. The problem is that this is all the same third”.