Israelis, Palestinians Connect in U.S.

Israeli and Palestinian terror victims are the protagonists of two plays staged in N.Y.

A new film about a meeting between two mothers over the deaths of their daughters in Jerusalem, a New York play set in the West Bank and a ceramic art exhibit are each being hailed for getting Israelis and Palestinians to talk to each other.

"To Die In Jerusalem," which premiered in the United States this week after showing at international film festivals, takes a personal look at the Middle East conflict through the mothers of Palestinian Ayat al-Akhras and Israeli Rachel Levy.

Both girls made headlines in 2002 due to their similar age and appearance when al-Akhras, 18, set off a suicide bomb in a Jerusalem market, killing herself and Levy, 17.

"It shows very clearly the difficulties and the bridges that need to be built," said the documentary's maker, Hilla Medalia, 30, who observed the four-hour meeting between the mothers that forms the climax of the film. "I really hope it creates the dialogue that we need."

Medalia, who grew up in Israel, held discussions between Israeli and Palestinian students in New York after a screening this week and plans to do the same elsewhere. Her film will be shown throughout the United cable television channel HBO starting on Thursday.

"To Die In Jerusalem" offers no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, focusing instead on a story that "reflects a reality, a microcosm of the situation," Medalia said.

"Masked," by Israeli playwright Ilan Hatsor, brings to the stage the story of three Palestinian brothers during the first Intifada in 1990. It has gained praise for crossing boundaries of both sides of the conflict and recently had its New York run extended indefinitely.

"It proves that you don't have to be on the other side in order to feel sympathy," Hatsor told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in Israel.

"Masked" debuted in 1992 -- the only Israeli play to solely present Palestinian characters -- before moving to Germany, Britain, Austria, Switzerland and Australia.

Hatsor, 43, said many Arabs had told him the Palestinian perspective was so convincing they found it difficult to believe he was Jewish.

Set in a West Bank butcher shop, "Masked" is also being performed in Arabic in Jaffa, Israel.

"I am not that innocent to believe it can change reality but it has created a lot of dialogue," said Hatsor, who has worked with Palestinians on projects since he wrote the play. "Every collaboration between an Israeli and Palestinian is blessed, but it is very difficult."

Organizers of "Offering Reconciliation," an exhibit of ceramic bowls showcasing the works of 135 Israeli and Palestinian artists, say art can spread a message that Israelis and Palestinians want to end violence.

Featuring prominent artists including Aliza Olmert, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the show was developed by 500 Israeli and Palestinian families who all have lost relatives in the conflict.

It is moving from New York to Chicago, where proceeds from an auction of the bowls on Nov. 2 will go to educational programs in Israeli schools to create a peace dialogue.

Bidding can be done online at