My friend Dave and I are in an Italian cafe in Berkeley on a Wednesday night, having just watched the Israeli film The Lemon Tree, with perhaps twenty more foreign film buffs, most of whom we are meeting for the first time. Now the discussion begins.
“Well, I lived in Israel for twenty-seven years,” says a man with wavy hair and wire rimmed glasses. “And in no way am I an Israel apologetic, but I can say that these hostilities didn’t grow over night. And that’s where this film misses the mark.”
Someone ushers a woman into the discussion to represent the Palestinian point of view. She talks about how the Palestinians had been living peacefully on their lands for thousands of years until the state mandated partition of Jewish and Arab states in 1948.
The tone is respectful but heated, but there seems to be no end to the conflict conversation in sight, as each side attempts to trump the other with who was there first, who is more polite, who is more victimized, none of which was captured in this film, they criticize.
I can’t help but wonder if my own life experiences might have influenced me, because I think I saw an entirely different film.
“Dave,” I say, “I don’t know about you, but I saw a film about love and grieving, of staying true to one’s convictions, and the evolving friendship of two women on both sides of the Palestine-Israel conflict, whose only common language are the shy smiles shared across a lemon tree grove.”
Dave says, “Hey! That’s the same film I saw, too. I’m going to join in the discussion.”
I fear this is a risky move, and I go back to my facebook app on my iPhone, but I can hear Dave outlining this perspective. I look up from my iPhone, and I see the group contorting their faces to make sense of his words.
There is an uncomfortable pause and then the woman representing Palestine says with a sympathetic smile, “And that’s fine.”
The debate resumes, just as heated as it was before.
The Lemon Tree was the winner of the Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival. It’s probably playing in an indie-theater near you. I give it two thumbs up.