Nationwide Tour of Little Town of Bethlehem Wraps at U.C. Berkeley with Standing Ovation 

Oklahoma City, OK—The nationwide U.S. tour launching the documentary Little Town of Bethlehem, produced by EthnoGraphic Media (EGM), began September 21 on the campus of Boston College and wrapped up at University of California Berkeley on October 1.

by Diane Morrow Thursday, October 07, 2010
Since the theme of the tour and film was equality, nonviolence, and peace in Israel and Palestine, it had its kickoff on the U.N. International Day of Peace and ended on the U.N. International Day of Nonviolence. More screenings are taking place around the globe this fall including in India, EU, and Australia/New Zealand.

Ten venues hosted the film followed by a panel discussion with Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian, one of the subjects of the film, and Jim Hanon, the director. The audiences averaged 170 and several of the venues such as DePaul University and the Perry Hall National Cathedral screenings had standing-room-only crowds.

Ethar Zaher, a Saudi Arabian student at the University of Tulsa, stated that the film “touched on the issues from a new point of view. I am very happy that someone from the Arab world (Sami) is talking not as a victim but as a part of the solution.” Alia Braaten from Boston College said, “It was the best documentary on this subject I have ever seen.” At the University of California Berkeley, Pancho Ramos remarked, “It is beautiful and motivating. These are the kind of inspiring examples that help encourage a paradigm shift toward harmony and peace.”

Several experts on nonviolence joined the panel at various venues: Dr. Mubarak Awad, founder of the Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence and professor at the American University in Washington D.C.; Dr. Muli Peleg, research fellow at the Stanford Center for International Conflict Resolution and Negotiation; and Teny Gross, director of the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence in Providence, Rhode Island.

As the tour began, Yonatan Shapira, another of the subjects of the film, was unable to attend due to his involvement with a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. A report was received on September 26 that an Israeli destroyer had intercepted the boat and forced the crew to land at the Israeli port of Ashdod. Travel for Palestinians is never easy or fast. Six months prior to the launch, Ahmad Al’Azzeh applied for his visa. Unfortunately, it was finally granted on October 1, the last day of the U.S. university tour.

Three young former Israeli soldiers took part at different locations to add the dimension of the Israeli voice: Oded Na’aman, a member of Breaking the Silence; Elik Elhanan, co-founder of Combatants for Peace; and Matan Cohen who helped establish Anarchists Against the Wall. Other special guests that included the Israeli voice on the panel at each venue were Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, a peace activist with Rabbis for Human Rights; Dr. Mark Braverman, co-founder and executive director of Friends of Tent of Nations; Dr. Paul Larudee, co-founder of the Free Palestine Movement; and Tal Palter-Palman, professor at U.C. Berkeley.

According to Dr. Liliane C. Koziol, director of the International House on the Campus of U.C. Berkeley, “This is exactly the kind of movie that we want to host here. It promotes the type of international understanding we wish to encourage on our campus.” In the opinion of panelist Palter-Palman, “It is most helpful in demonstrating the process by which individuals from all sides can move towards a commitment to nonviolence.”

There were 218 in attendance at the George Lucas auditorium on the USC campus. Dr. Varun Soni, dean of Religious Life, described the film as “Remarkable! It is neither anti nor pro—actually it is empathetic to both historic narratives and humanizes a conflict that the media has dehumanized. It also helps provide a counter narrative to the popular storyline of violence.” Dr. Ralph Fertig, president of the Humanitarian Law Project, attended the same screening. “It was very helpful” he said. “[Fear] can only be overcome by seeing in the other humanity capable of being loved. Little Town of Bethlehem gives us a context to show how this is possible.”

Sami Awad, who received a standing ovation from the audience at U.C. Berkeley, felt that the tour had been very successful. “I am pleased with the turn-out at all the venues and the sincerity of the questions from students clearly anxious to understand the conflict,” he said. “That gives me hope.”

When the tour began, over 100 schools had agreed to screen this new documentary. One week later, more than 200 campuses were committed to helping launch the film. During the two weeks, more than 2,800 attended the screenings. The Middle East Broadcasting Corp., FOX News HQ, FOX News Strategy Room God Talk, Arab American News, The Jewish Observer, and PNN (Palestinian News Network) conducted interviews with the film director Jim Hanon and film subject Sami Awad. This is only the first stage of the launch. Little Town of Bethlehem is scheduled to begin its campus screenings in the U.K. at the end of October. The film will also be screened in India to commemorate the birthday of peace activist Mahatma Gandhi.

For more information, visit www.LittleTownofBethlehem.org.

Diane is the Vice President of Public Relations at The B&B Media Group/ The Barnabas Agency. Based in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

0    submitted by Diane Morrow
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