“Daughters of Abraham” returns to campus

By Gus Bode

“Daughters of Abraham,” a documentary by second-year graduate student Hilla Medalia, returns to SIUC after the success of its crowded December premier.

The film, which focuses on the lives and deaths of two girls caught up in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, made an impression on the president of the Southern Illinois Chapter of the United Nations Association, who brought the idea of a second showing to the UNA’s board. The approved screening is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Lesar Law Building auditorium.

At its last showing at SIUC, more than 150 people crammed into the Life Science III auditorium, which seats 130 people. According to Medalia, both the floor and aisles were filled with people, some who stood the entire time; others left.


Olga Weidner, president of the chapter, said she proposed a second showing because the global issues and message presented in the documentary are not only in keeping with the organization’s mission of building an involved and informed citizenship but also are one the community should have another opportunity to hear.

“I am still in awe of what she was so successful in producing,” Weidner said. “The documentary is powerful because it takes away the detachment that we on this side of the world might have about this global issue. It brings it to our living room.”

The 45-minute documentary portrays a human side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict following the March 29, 2002, suicide bombing of an 18-year-old Palestinian girl who strapped a bomb to her chest and detonated it outside a grocery store. The blast killed herself and two others – a guard and a 17-year-old Israeli girl who in buying her groceries became the victim of chance.

“The pain that she shows of two families – there is no difference about whether one is an Israeli family and the other a Palestinian family; the grieving is the same,” Weidner said. “You feel it in your bones when you watch the movie.”

Through this documentary, Medalia said she wanted to educate Americans to the reality of the conflict and to help them understand exactly what goes on in her country of Israel. Although politics play a role, she said the news media portrays only one side of what is day-to-day life for those who live there.

“You always hear politics, and you don’t quite understand what it’s like to actually live there,” she said. “How a refugee camp really looks like, and how it is to live in the refugee camp, and how it is to live in Jerusalem.”

Medalia, who recently returned from a two-week visit to her home, said she felt pleased and privileged by the success of her documentary. She credits Jan Thompson, assistant professor for radio-television, with encouraging her to undertake such an enormous project for her thesis.


“She is the force behind everything,” Medalia said.

Next to Thompson, Medalia said her assistants – graduate student James Saldana and senior Christine Mazzone, who traveled with her to the Middle East for filming – were central to the project’s success.

According to Weidner, the documentary was worth standing 45 minutes to see. A brief background gives some of the conflict’s history before the film begins to describe in detail what it is to live day after day in the problem-riddled country, she said.

Although the film does not provide a solution to the conflict, Weidner said the message causes people to think. She said she believes communication between the youth on both sides is the key to resolving the tension in the region. Medalia said she hopes both sides can come together to present a solution to something that is very close to her heart.

After the film, an audience question-and-answer session with Medalia will allow the audience to talk about their reactions to the issues the film brings to light. A reception with refreshments will follow the screening.