Precious Life (2010)

May 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Palestinian Mother holding up her sick child for a sibling to interact with in Shlomi Eldar's "Precious Life"

Directed by Shlomi Eldar

When my father arrived at his college in Indiana, his room mate discovered he was Jewish. The room mate was a blonde haired, blue eyed Christian. This was 1966. The room mate asked my father if he could see his horns, because a popular myth about Jews amongst the casually anti-semitic was that Jews had horns. My father revealed that he did not, in fact, have horns, but that his anatomy was shockingly similar to that of a Christian’s. The young man presumably learned an oddly valuable life lesson and gained a little bit more tolerance for someone different, who in fact was quite similar.

I thought about this story while watching Precious Life.

A Muslim Palestinian family has been stricken with the terrible misfortune of a genetic disorder that leaves some of their children without an immune system upon birth. They’ve already lost two newborns to this terrible complication and now they have a third new born clinging to life. They’re granted treatment at a Hospital in Israel because doctors in Gaza don’t have the necessary means to help them and they’ve told the family to give up. The family won’t give up. Luckily, one of the Israeli doctors knows a prominent and well respected television journalist, who brings his camera crew to the hospital and they follow him and the family around as they get their story on television and try to raise the $50,000 for the operation, which the hospital is legally bound not to perform unless paid, even though everybody wants to save the child at nearly any cost.

No, it’s not the Lifetime Channel’s Holiday Miracle special, this is in fact a harrowing and heartfelt documentary and an important piece of journalism; a window into the lives of real, everyday Palestians and Israelis. These aren’t politicians, soldiers, extremists or religious leaders, but everyday normal citizens with normal jobs who just want to live their lives. Sadly, life intervenes as there is a push on Gaza by Israelis and all the involved parties must take their place amongst their people. It’s tragic but there is nothing anybody can do about it. They are who they are. The Palestinian family discusses martyrdom in positive terms, because Islam values the afterlife above our mortal existence, while the Jewish doctor who treated their child fights Palestinians in Gaza.

Amazingly, despite living so close to one another, the Jews and Arabs in the film know so little of each other’s religions or cultures. They interview each other as if meeting an alien. They learn, they argue without ever crossing the line of common decency. They frequently stop interviews, stating to one another that if the conversation continues, they will get angry. Yet they each remain polite, because their culture decrees it. It’s very interesting how they don’t see the similarities as they argue the differences. It’s a horrific conflict that I doubt we will ever see the end of, but this small story shows the possibilities when we are able to set aside our differences for a common good.

Precious Life is an important, enlightening documentary that does a good job of being fare and balanced in its portrayal of all parties, Israeli and Palestinian.

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