Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Jerusalem in Between—The Story of Two Boxers, One Conflict

February 24, 2023 marked the one year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. As part of student led prayer, we discussed the loss of lives, the devastation and displacement of Ukrainians from their home. Though tragic, it is good that young people are aware and informed about this war. Obviously, they are having conversations in class and at home for they were able to easily share and offer insights about what they knew. 

Just two days prior, one of the bloodiest battles in nearly a year of fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem took the lives of at least 11 Palestinians. Over 100 others were injured. It is too rare, that a student brings up this tragedy. I get it. As an educator, this conflict has never been easy to teach or understand. It is political, problematic, pointed and polarizing. And yet, how can we secure peace unless we understand the rationale (or lack thereof)? How ought we lend support and offer our prayers if aren't aware of the struggle, the special forces, the strife, and more. The short film "Jerusalem in Between" is one way to start....

This short film was shared with me by a trusted educator with whom I traveled to Israel. It does not chronicle the history of division or why it persists today. It is simply a personal story of two men from both sides of "enemy lines." Let me be very clear, I am in no way equating the war in Ukraine with the conflict in the Middle East. And yet, I think it's important to raise awareness  of any place where war, violence and conflict persist. 

Featured in the Jewish Film Institutes short film series, Jerusalem In Between offers profound connections between sport and spirituality. If you teach the course or even a unit on this topic, you will find a piece that allow for conversation over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the way our religious traditions shape our identity, how sport can bring people together and ultimately leads to connection.... which leads to love. 

Each man comes to boxing for different reasons—one because he wants to, the other because he has to. They discover "it is everything," including the bedrock of their friendship. Where they train—the Jerusalem Boxing Club—is the only boxing club for Jews and Arabs. Before they knew one another, neither Nour nor Arthur knew the religious identity of the other.

Thanks to the Jewish Film Institute (JFI) this short film is available for all! Given the on-going death, destruction and violence in Jerusalem, the concluding message from one of the boxers is hard to believe. He says "I know there is going to be peace, eventually, but it's going to be hard." And yet, we must have hope and work for peace. Jerusalem in Between is their story: two boxers, one Israeli, the other hailing from Palestine, come together in sweat and blood to face off and discover their similarities.

Please note, this film has some profanity. I told my students in advance and vetted the program before that with another teacher (my class consists of seniors). We agreed that though it is profane, it the film has too many valuable points of discussion to abandon it.

I spent five weeks in the summer of 2017 studying in Jerusalem. While violence was contained, the climate was one that always proceeded with caution. I walked so many of the same sidewalks and streets that Arthur and Nour traverse, and it was always so hard for me to grasp that this holy city can be a place of such division and conflict. 

Mother Teresa diagnosed the world's problems correctly—both in the Middle East and in Ukraine. She wrote, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." These boxers? they say it, the live it...they belong to one another.

I have a study guide for teachers on my website here.

Information about Ukraine as of 2/24/23: In just one year, about 100,000 Ukrainian troops and an estimated 200,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured in combat. In Ukraine, an estimated 30,000 civilians have died and about a third of the country’s population have sought refuge out of the country or been displaced within Ukraine. Reports show that at least 500,000 people have fled Russia. Some fled to neighboring countries following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s draft-like order. This is the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II.

Information about the West Bank/east Jerusalem as of 2/24/23: One of the bloodiest battles in nearly a year of fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem took the lives of at least 11 Palestinians. Israeli forces carried out a four-hour-long raid in the West Bank city of Nablus. According to AP News, "Authorities said they were searching for three militants involved in the killing of an Israeli soldier last year. When the alleged suspects refused to surrender, Israeli troops fired missiles. A top Palestinian official called the raid a “massacre.” The Israeli military said Palestinian militants fired six rockets from the Gaza Strip toward the country’s south in retaliation. I had to read and review three different articles just to be sure I understood the situation correctly.

No comments:

Post a Comment