A nice surprise I stumbled upon tonight was the documentary Little Peace of Mine, a story that follows a group of Israeli children in search of peace.
The star of the show is 12 year-old Nadav who spearheads a movement called Peace for the Future, aimed to open the gates of dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian children.
Director Eyal Avneri doesn't show too much of the creation process, but we join Nadav and a few of his friends already in-progress discussing what their goals are for the movement in a very Western-looking fast food restaurant. The talk is candid—Nadav is the eternal optimist that wants the movement to begin small and then replicate into the tens of thousands to result in peace; his buddy is less hopeful and remarks they'll be doing well if they get a handful of participants from the other side. Despite their differences of opinion, they pledge to work together along with a few others.
With the help of what appears to be an established peace organization (run by adults), the kids schedule a meeting with a leader of the opposing party. They act like kids, munching on pastries and chatting on the car en route to the summit, but once they arrive they are all business. They carefully explain what their goals are in a respectful and professional manner: they want to meet with kids their own age from the Palestinian side and convince them to join their movement. The leader is hesitant, but polite and promises to do what he can to help them. Then he sends them on their way. As they're leaving the meeting, they very briefly get stuck in an elevator. The lights go out, Nadav panics and you feel the fear they must live with on a daily basis. Thankfully, it's just a minor electrical blip and they're safely deposited a few seconds later, but it was a great way to convey the tension that exists and the inherent lack of trust the opposing sides have for one another.
Later we see the first meeting between the two sides, which is incredibly awkward. Since English is the only common language between the kids, it's what they use during their time together (which makes it a bit more challenging for both sides to communicate). The Israeli kids seem too eager and the Palestinian kids almost appear frightened. The Israeli kids mention this afterward and the adults tell them that next time they'll get children that are more interested in what they're trying to do.
And they do.
What follows is an inspirational journey through the friendship of two groups of friends from both sides and more specifically two young leaders—Nadav (our star)—and Mai, a 13 yar-old Palestinian girl just as interested in peace as him.
We watch them draw together, enjoy arts and crafts, and engage in lively debates about their religions and governments. It's intelligent, thoughtful and productive—which is more than either of them can say for their current government's methods. The heartbreaking thing is that the kids have a terrible time visiting one another because of the danger at the checkpoints. Little Nadav has a clever idea, mentioning that they should all 'be Arab' going into Palestine and when they come back they should all 'be Israeli.' The answers really are so simple, aren't they?
What's most compelling is a talk that Nadav and Mai have after encountering some less-than-friendly soldiers at the border. They discuss the fact Nadav will have to be a soldier when he grows up or else he will be imprisoned. Mai asks him if he will kill her people if ordered to. He says of course he wouldn't. And that he hopes things will be better by the time he turns 18.
We all do too.