‘Daughters of Abraham’ to premier tonight

By Gus Bode

Documentary covers human side of Israeli/Palestinian conflict

The Palestinian girl gathered her resolve as she walked slowly down the street. About the same time, an Israeli girl of about the same age exited the grocery store – the Palestinian’s objective. As the Palestinian girl neared the store, she smiled, thinking this was what she was meant to do.

A 45-minute documentary following the lives of the two girls up to the March 29, 2002, bombing premiers at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Life Science III Auditorium. A question-and-answer session will follow the free showing, and refreshments will be provided.


The documentary by Hilla Medalia, a second-year graduate student in professional media practice and an Israeli citizen, shows the girls’ lives in light of the ever-present Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It focuses on how deep hatreds effect the lives of all who grow up in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“I think when you talk about the conflict on a political level, you don’t feel as much emotion as when you really deal with people,” Medalia said. “And you can see yourself being this little girl.”

Medalia said she chose this particular topic for her master’s thesis because of the lack of knowledge about the history of the conflict she has found in many Americans. She said she wanted to let Americans know how the conflict effects lives on a micro level as opposed to the more macro view covered in the news. She said the film causes people to identify with the lives of those she covers.

Medalia said this was her way of saying something about an issue she cares about deeply. She said it bothered her that people do not know much about something so close to her.

“Americans are my target audience,” she said. “And I’m trying to educate.”

Through the interviews, Medalia said the two cultures and the conflict between them take on a different meaning. She said the parents explain how they dealt with the death of their daughters and theories on why they died. Although the film documents the girls, the politics of the conflict come across loud and clear, Medalia said.

“The Palestinian parents talk more about politics, but not really politics, when they give the reason why their daughter went on her mission,” she said. “You cannot really avoid politics. The same with the Israeli parents. When you live in Israel and Jerusalem, really there is no way you can avoid politics.”


Although politics come across, Medalia stressed the documentary was about the two girls and the emotions and questions their deaths raise.

“It’s really not about Sharon or Arafat,” she said. “It’s really about the people – how it is to live in the camp, and how it is to live in Israel, and to explain really what it is to live there, living through this daily agony and tragedy.”

According to Medalia, the documentary took more than a year to complete. Three months of pre-production helped shape the direction of the film, which began as a history of the conflict but soon evolved into a present-day testimony of two lives stuffed out by hatred and despair.

In addition to covering the lives of the two girls who died through their parents’ eyes, Medalia said she added a brief history of how the conflict began and how it continues to be fueled.

Medalia cited the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947, the recognition of Israel as a nation and the continuous fighting, especially during the years 1987 and 2000, as examples of why the conflict continues. A bombing that happened a few days before she left adds a visual component of the events, she said.

Because her race created safety conflicts, she brought two SIUC students to help film in the refugee camp. Medalia also said she had hard emotions against both sides as she edited the film and saw how the two races treat each other.

“It was more than the time and the work,” Medalia said. “It was emotionally very, very hard.”

Although filming occupied only a three-week period in December 2002, the editing process took more than seven months to complete. Another two months went into translation of the footage and scripting of the film.

“A film is really a team effort,” Medalia said. “And yes, although it is my film, there are so many people who helped.”

Medalia has entered her documentary in several festivals and said she hopes it will eventually air on public television.