I saw a good movie a couple of nights ago, also as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival, called “Crossing Borders.” It was in Arabic, with Hebrew subtitles (as a result, I followed most of it but sometimes couldn’t keep up with the subtitles). The movie followed two Israeli Arab women who live in Arab towns in the Galilee (in the part of the country called the “Triangle,” which is more Arab than Jewish). One of them was in a fairly traditional marriage, with several children – for the first part of the movie it mainly showed her cooking for the family and visitors.
Her husband was involved with a group called Ta’ayush, which is a joint Arab-Jewish political organization that is concerned with providing aid and support to Palestinians in the occupied territories. The movie showed him going to Ta’ayush demonstrations and other activities (such as helping Palestinians to harvest their olive trees), and then calling his wife and asking her to cook for him and all the Ta’ayush members he was about to bring home for a meal.
As the movie progresses, his wife gets increasingly angry at him. She married him when she was fairly young, and his political involvement opened her eyes to the political situation of Arabs in Israel. She eventually becomes part of a women’s organization, and as the movie ends, it seems likely that they will divorce.
The other woman who is featured is a single woman, a teacher in the local school, who is a member of Hadash, the Israeli communist party (which is largely, although not completely Arab). She is running on the Hadash slate for a seat on the local council. We see her campaigning, in particular against candidates from the Islamic movement slate. The day of the elections, there are processions through town by the Islamic movement - cars driving down the street with green flags, honking horns, and also fireworks – so we already get the idea that the communists won't be successful (and in fact, they aren't).
She talks about her life as a single woman in a society which says that everyone should marry, especially women - but she doesn't want to because she likes her freedom. She talks rather bitterly about the influence of Islam on the situation of women. In one scene she is driving around her town passing by the local coffeehouses, which she says she really can’t go to because that is where the men hang out. Instead, she goes to Kfar Saba (a Jewish Israeli town) to hang out in the cafes – but the movie never shows her interacting with anyone there. She is also involved in Ta’ayush, and we see her also in the occupied territories, assisting an elderly man whom Israeli soldiers are not permitting to go through a checkpoint. The film was interesting to watch, but a bit hard to follow, and I think it was necessary to know a lot about Israeli society to understand it.