Opinion

New Film Depicts Deep Israeli Crisis

'In Between' is powerful expression of one of most significant contradictions in Israeli society: between great change brought on by feminism and religious radicalization seeping into every sector.

A scene from Maysaloun Hamoud's 'In Between' ('Bar Bahar'), which won the award for the best debut film at the Haifa Film Festival 2016.
Yaniv Berman

The wild arguments aroused by the film “In Between” are fascinating, if confusing. Allegedly, it’s an internal matter for Palestinian citizens of Israel.  The fact is that the Umm al-Fahm municipality admonished the film and called for a boycott, and the director Maysaloun Hamoud gets cursed and insulted in Arabic.

But we’re not talking about “trouble within the sector.” The film – one of the most complex and moving I’ve seen in years – is not, as it appears to Jewish eyes, an anthropological journey to uncovering a “different Arabism.” It brings to the surface, with daring and great talent, a social and cultural – therefore also political – reality in the heart of Israeli society. The fact that the three heroines belong to the population that calls itself “the Palestinians of 1948” only makes the story and the problems it raises more relevant to all of us.

The significant sign of this is the commotion that the film raised, which is an accurate reflection of what the film’s heroines are dealing with: the triple oppression (Palestinian women in a Jewish society, women in general and, particularly, independent ones in conservative Arab society), two languages (in their parents’ homes, between themselves and with the Jews in Tel Aviv), and the feeling of separation and danger. The secret of their strength lies in the most impressive female solidarity ever seen here. This is also the point that turns the story from a personal to a general one.

There is no difference between the struggle that the three young women conduct with the whole world; the exhausting competition of women from the nationalist ultra-Orthodox sector against the rabbinical institution and norms that mitigate their rights, abilities and freedom; and traditional women in the weakened outlying communities.

Israeli films like “Sh’Chur” and “Gett” and plays like “Papagina” illustrated this, and since then the situation of women has only worsened.

“In Between” is therefore a powerful expression of one of the most significant internal contradictions in Israeli society, which has become more severe in recent years. It is the contradiction between the great change brought on by feminism, including changes in legislation, and the religious radicalization and conservative withdrawal that is seeping into every part of society. In this sense, Hamoud’s film is also the most political film ever made here. Not about the conflict, occupation or Lebanon war, rather the most highly-charged bomb: women.

Because as opposed to their mothers and grandmothers, today’s women – Palestinian, national ultra-Orthodox, poor Mizrahim in development towns and more – are exposed to broad knowledge and revolutionary ideas. When they gain an education and profession, the sky is the limit. Committees for choosing managers for civilian social organizations, for example, are shocked each time anew by the gap between the male and female candidates.

Most of the women are educated, energetic, brilliant, determined and considerably skilled socially. No less.

But the more independent they become, the more intent the witch hunt. The Jews accuse the women of tempting fighters in tanks and clinging to heroes who didn’t rape them because they are whores, while the Arabs accuse them of insolence, abandon and betrayal of the family.

This way or that, the clash between these powerful and free women and the murky movements that try to drown them is a sign of the deep crisis affecting all of society.