Even though Southern California and Mexico are far away from Jaffa, these audiences were able to identify with the children depicted in the film — Noor, Alaa and Lois — in a deep way. This enabled me to see firsthand how the issues portrayed in the film are relevant in other parts of the world.
For example, some Palestinian Israeli parents decide to enroll their children in Jewish schools so that they will have a better chance of finding a job and the opportunity to compete within Jewish society. An Arab enrolling in a Jewish school challenges social norms and compromises the ideals upon which previous generations of Arabs were raised. At home, they speak Arabic, but they do not know how to read and write well, as Hebrew is the language taught in Jewish schools, and the focus is also on Jewish culture. This troubles parents as they do not want their children to lose sight of their Arab identity.
Fast forward to our screening of Dancing in Jaffa
in San Diego. A man in the audience said that, growing up in San Ysidro, he rarely came across English-speaking people, with the exception of his teachers. He only started interacting with other ethnicities and cultures later in his life. His wife added that their first language is Spanish and they didn’t learn to speak English until she started school. So they decided they wanted their children to speak English growing up so that they could have more opportunities to be successful. But now, they are concerned that their children are losing their culture.
Issues like these are as relevant to the community in Southern California, as they are to the Jaffa community. Where does the boundary between separation and assimilation lie?
These conversations spark discussion and consideration of these issues. The goal of the film, Dancing in Jaffa, is to present tolerance for one another regardless of what color your skin is. Pierre Dulaine believes that through dance and music, people get to know each other in a different way. Even though Jaffa is on a different continent, here in America, we have similar issues of negative feelings between communities. By dancing with each other, these negative feelings can be dissolved.
I am very grateful to Film Forward and MOPA for giving us the opportunity to share our work with the local audiences of San Diego and Tijuana. I am looking forward to the next trip.