Why did you create My Neighbourhood?
The story we set out to tell in My Neighbourhood is still largely unfinished. Mohammed’s family and their neighbors have yet to regain their homes, and the specter of displacement remains very real for hundreds of others living in Sheikh Jarrah and across East Jerusalem. In the meantime, protests involving both Israelis and Palestinians continue, though it is still unclear how successful they will be in their campaign to halt and ultimately reverse the evictions.
Yet it was precisely the open-endedness of this story, and the urgency of this particular moment, that led us to create My Neighbourhood. Events in Jerusalem – the geographic, religious and emotional focal point of the conflict – have a way of quickly spiraling outwards and influencing, for better or worse, the atmosphere throughout the region. Jerusalem can either be an unstable powder keg with the potential to ignite the entire Middle East, or, however remote a possibility it may now seem, a shared city that sets a tone of cooperation and mutual respect between Israelis and Palestinians.
My Neighbourhood came out of a desire to bring crucial local and global attention to those working towards the latter option, in the hopes that it will protect and empower them at this extremely fragile time. We created the film with an understanding that these competing visions are being played out on the ground right now, while the city’s future hangs in the balance.
Who made My Neighbourhood? What is the connection of the filmmakers to the conflict and to the region?
My Neighbourhood was directed by filmmakers Rebekah Wingert-Jabi and Julia Bacha, and produced by Just Vision, an Israeli, Palestinian and North and South American team of filmmakers, journalists, conflict resolution experts and human rights advocates.
The filmmakers have a personal relationship to the region, and most of Just Vision’s staff has either grown up or lived in the Middle East for a substantial period of time. Some of our families are Israeli or Palestinian and have lost loved ones, homes and freedom to conflict. We are all committed to promoting nonviolent efforts to resolve the conflict and to end the occupation.
When did you begin work on the film? Who shot the footage?
Rebekah Wingert-Jabi began filming in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in 2008, when Palestinian families started receiving eviction notices. In partnership with Rebekah, Just Vision’s team conducted extensive research into the history of the neighbourhood and the evictions that were taking place there. Our team interviewed the protagonists and several residents, activists and lawyers who have been present and active in Sheikh Jarrah for the last few years.
The story captured in the film series is dedicated to the late Wally Marks, who expressed deep concern about the events taking place in East Jerusalem, and helped support Rebekah in her early stages of filming.
What were the legal grounds for the eviction of the families in Sheikh Jarrah?
The legal battle in Sheikh Jarrah has been long and complex, and each family has had to deal with separate circumstances. However, in most cases, the settlers have relied on a key provision within Israeli law, which allows and in some cases encourages Jews possessing pre-1948 deeds for lands east of the Green Line to submit a formal petition in court to get the lands back. Palestinians, in contrast, have not been able to use such deeds to regain lands that they owned prior to 1948 to the west of the Green Line. The key Israeli laws establishing these terms are the Absentee Property Law from 1950, and the Legal and Administrative Matters (Regulation) Law from 1970.
Based on these provisions, beginning in the 1970s, Israeli settler organizations began turning to Israeli courts claiming that they had obtained Ottoman deeds for the lands on which many of the houses were built, and that they are the rightful owners of those lands. While the authenticity of the documents has been disputed, in many of the legal cases the Israeli courts have recognized them and ordered the evictions to proceed.
For more information regarding legal background about Sheikh Jarrah, please visit www.justvision.org/myneighbourhood/resources.
Was there a Jewish presence in the neighbourhood prior to 1948?
Yes, though the exact size and location of the lands they owned and lived on is unclear. Prior to 1948, significant Jewish and Arab populations lived in both East and West Jerusalem. The Tomb of Simon the Just, located near the homes in question in Sheikh Jarrah, has been a site of Jewish pilgrimage for centuries. At least as far back as the 19th Century, there were several Jewish homes around the site of the tomb. The residents of these homes either fled or were forced to leave their property in the lead-up to the War of 1948.
The Palestinian homes in question today, however, were built in the 1950s by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Sheikh Jarrah (on lands then under Jordanian rule). The homes were built on a previously uninhabited olive grove, at a time when there was no Jewish presence in the neighbourhood. The status and ownership of the lands on which the homes are built is being disputed in court.
What is happening in Sheikh Jarrah right now?
As of May 2013, protests involving Palestinians and Israelis in Sheikh Jarrah are continuing.
Most recently, an additional Palestinian family, the Shamasneh family, has faced an urgent threat of eviction by Israeli settlers, and could become the first family to be displaced in the neighborhood since the height of the protests documented in My Neighbourhood.
On May 20, 2013, after several appeals and delays, Israel's Supreme Court began debating the Shamasnehs' case, but did not provide a final verdict. Major protests in the neighborhood and at the Supreme Court in the days and hours leading up to the hearing helped ensure that public attention was focused on the eviction threat. A final decision on the Shamasneh family's fate could come at any moment, and protests and vigils are expected to continue in the near future.
Other court battles surrounding multiple additional evictions are ongoing, and dozens of Palestinian families, including Mohammed El Kurd’s, are currently under threat of displacement.
The families who were evicted have been forced to move in with relatives, and relationships between the neighbourhood residents and settlers have become increasingly tense, with occasional outbursts of violence.
How is what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah relevant to developments in Jerusalem more broadly?
The events in Sheikh Jarrah are part of a broader process of Israeli settlement-building and Palestinian displacement occurring throughout East Jerusalem. In most cases, these processes are led by well-funded Israeli settler groups working in close coordination with Jerusalem municipal and Israeli government authorities.
Since 1967, when Israel extended its authority over East Jerusalem, it has been continuously expropriating land and building settlements to the east of the Green Line, with the stated goal of strengthening Jewish presence and sovereignty over all parts of the city.
In recent decades, private settler groups, often funded by large donations from abroad, have gone a step further, initiating a series of court-mandated evictions of Palestinian families in order to set up new settlements in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods. Along with Sheikh Jarrah, these include the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, Beit Hanina, Silwan, Abu Dis, and others.
For more on the broader context of settlement building and evictions in East Jerusalem, please visit www.justvision.org/myneighbourhood/resources.
How is My Neighbourhood related to Home Front: Portraits from Sheikh Jarrah?
Home Front: Portraits from Sheikh Jarrah is a series of four short film portraits (roughly eight minutes each), telling the stories of two Palestinians and two Israelis involved in the nonviolent campaign in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. These portraits and additional resources on Sheikh Jarrah are available for free online at www.justvision.org/homefront .
My Neighbourhood is a significantly expanded 25-minute version of one of the four Home Front portraits, focusing on the Palestinian teenager Mohammed El Kurd. Watch My Neighbourhood and find more information here.
Are there materials to accompany the film?
Support materials for My Neighbourhood, including the film's discussion guide, legal and historical background about Sheikh Jarrah, interactive maps, a news hub provided by +972 Magazine and interviews with Palestinian and Israeli nonviolence leaders and experts on the issues facing Jerusalem are available online here. You may also choose supplement My Neighbourhood with our short film series, Home Front: Portraits from Sheikh Jarrah. Find additional resources about Palestinian and Israeli nonviolence leaders by visiting our resources section.
Download press materials for My Neighbourhood here.
When was My Neighbourhood be released? Can I watch it online? How can I invite My Neighbourhood to participate in a festival or be shown in a theater?
My Neighbourhood had its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and was released online for free in March 2013. My Neighbourhood can now be watched online at www.justvision.org/myneighbourhood/watch and is also available on DVD.
If you are interested in booking My Neighbourhood for a festival or theatrical screening, please contact email@example.com.
How do I organize a screening of My Neighbourhood in my community or on my campus?
To organize a screening or event in your community or school, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For guidelines about hosting a screening, please read more here.
In what languages is My Neighbourhood subtitled?
My Neighbourhood is available in English, Arabic and Hebrew. Please contact email@example.com if you would like to help make My Neighbourhood available in other languages.
Is the film appropriate for children?
The film is subtitled throughout, with several scenes involving mild violence and offensive language. Adults are strongly recommended to preview the film before bringing children or teenagers under the age of fourteen to see it.
How long is My Neighbourhood?
My Neighbourhood is 25 minutes long.
What formats are available for screenings?
My Neighbourhood is available in Digibeta NTSC, Digibeta PAL, HDCAM, and DVD. We cannot guarantee that your preferred will be available due to high demand. We recommend booking as early as possible.
Are distribution and broadcast rights still available?
Some rights are still available. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.