The Narrow Bridge


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Narrow Bridge
"They are facing the same enemy, one of the men says: the madness that has been killing Palestinians and Israelis alike for generations."

As people gather to remember their deceased loved ones, others collect around the fringes of their event, screaming out at them that they are traitors, that they should be ashamed. At the other side of the fenced off area, another group of people are shouting much the same thing in a different language. Those attending the event simply try to ignore them, to find strength in one another, to listen instead to the voices from the stage. It seems likely that most of them anticipated this. It’s what happens when Israeli and Palestinian people choose to come together instead of blaming each other.

Screening at the 2023 UK Jewish Film Festival, Esther Takac’s documentary focuses on the stories of four people who share this experience. One of them is an Israeli man who lost his young daughter to the conflict; another a Palestinian woman who lost her teenage son. The third, an Israeli woman, talks about her parents’ divorce when she was young, the troubled relationship she subsequently had with her father, and what all that meant when he was brutally murdered by strangers. The fourth grew up in a remote Palestinian village and had no experience of Israeli people until he encountered them as soldiers. Resistance got him into trouble and then an unexpected experience with cinema – Roger Ebert’s “machine for generating empathy” – dramatically changed the way he understood the situation. Sadly, after becoming a peace activist, he would suffer a heartbreaking loss of his own.

Each of these people has a complex story. Finding their way into the peace process wasn’t something that happened easily or without a lot of pain, but their internal struggles seem to have given them fortitude and insight which help when it comes to winning over other people. Supported by a reconstruction, one of them vividly remembers the moment when an Israeli woman showed her a picture of her own dead son and suddenly she didn’t see an enemy anymore, just a grieving mother who needed a hug. Elsewhere, however, it is more complicated. There is talk of the effort and forebearance needed in meetings where some people need to talk about their personal pain but progress still needs to be made. Even in that setting, racism remains a problem – there’s a possibility that it’s unconscious, but everybody who has grown up in this divided land has a lot to unlearn.

A number of different groups with similar agendas feature in the film: Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families, Combatants for Peace, the Rana Arab-Israeli choir and Bereaved Parents for Peace. We see Leonard Cohen addressing the latter at a concert, speaking of something that goes beyond peace, “A radical, unique and holy, holy, holy response to human suffering.” They are facing the same enemy, one of the men says: the madness that has been killing Palestinians and Israelis alike for generations. What unites them is the belief that there can be something beyond it.

It’s a hard sell. One of the men talks about visiting schools, about the vital importance of presenting an alternative to the young. Elsewhere, Palestinian and Israeli adults come together at a festival of sacred music. The key, in most situations, seems to be communicating the difference between one person from the rival group having done something terrible, and the whole group supporting it. Of course, all this was filmed before the awful disintegration of the region in late 2023. Hope is now still harder to come by, and one wonders about the fate of the film’s participants – yet they insist that there will always be hope, and that “A little light can drive away a huge amount of darkness.”

Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2023
Share this with others on...
Two Israelis and two Palestinians, all of whom have suffered horrible losses, come together to work towards peace.

Director: Esther Takac

Writer: Esther Takac

Starring: Bassam Aramin, Bushra Awad, Rami Elhanan, Meytal Ofer

Year: 2022

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: Australia


Jewish 2023

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Bridge Over The Wadi