“Not many Israelis know the story of asylum seekers. The story that is told by the government is fallacious. What this film can do for us is tell the true story.” - Omer Easa
In honor of World Refugee Day on June 20, JACC co-hosted a meeting of refugee activists from the United States and Israel with Right Now, a group devoted to advocacy for African asylum seekers in Israel. Following the meeting, JACC and the Beshutaf Co-op held a screening of “Between the Fences,” a documentary about the lives of asylum seekers in the Holot Detention Center.
In addition to discussing the current status of policy toward refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, the meeting provided a space to map ways forward together and methods of reaching people with decision-making power. It was great to hear the ideas of activists and community members alike about steps grassroots organizations and NGOs can take in advocating for change in existing policy.
We were honored to be joined by Avi Mograbi, the director of “Between the Fences,” for our screening. The hard hitting documentary explores the lives of asylum seekers detained in the Holot Detention Center in the Negev. Asked about his thoughts on the movie, community member Omer Easa said, “I hope that all Israelis and the entire world will watch this film and will be moved by it. I hope this will consequently bring change in the state's policy toward refugees. I hope they will begin to work with refugees towards a better future.”
The story documented was one of Mograbi and theater director Chen Alon starting a theater workshop for the people at Holot. The workshop gave them a chance to express their feelings about their experiences in coming to Israel and the lives they have made for themselves here. When a group of Israelis began coming to the workshops as well, different role-playing and theater exercises provided an outlet for the original group of people from Holot and a way to shift the perspectives of both the Israelis and the asylum seekers.
After the screening, we held a question and answers session where members of the community and others who attended the screening had a chance to ask the director about his choices in the documentary and his experiences and thoughts during its filming. Members of the community brought up important questions of who was included in the workshop and whose experiences were showcased. Overall, this was a great opportunity for dialogue, an important aspect of shaping the relationship betweens refugees and Israelis. We are looking forward to holding screenings of similar documentaries in the future!