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Witness Palestine Film Festival 2023

Witness Palestine
October 21-22 & October 28-29, 2023
Little Theatre 5

Tickets available at the Box Office

General Admission: $9
Students: $6

The Witness Palestine Festival is a project of Rochester Witness for Palestine, which seeks a just peace for the people of Palestine wherever they may be. Our advocates have traveled to Israel and Palestine on at least one political tour where they have met with and heard stories from both sides.

This film festival is an attempt to communicate some of this information to others in the Rochester and Western New York area by working with a broader, more diverse segment of the community. The Witness Palestine Festival Committee includes activists involved in interfaith and Palestinian solidarity work.

This event is run and organized by a third-party, taking place at The Little. The Little is not the organizer or programmer for this event. Please note that Little Theatre discounts, passes, and member benefits do not apply.


Saturday, October 21, 2023 at 3:00pm

Little Theatre 5

2023 • 94 minutes • Documentary • English

Preceeded by the short film ‘Coming Home’

Tickets available at the box office

Our guides through this movie are two young American Jews:

 • Simone Zimmerman attended a “Jewish state school”, took part in a high school program in Israel, is a 2013 UC Berkeley grad, former Hillel member, and co-founder If Not Now

• Eitan grew up in a conservative Jewish family in Atlanta. Took is first Israel trip at age 8. After school graduation, volunteered for the IDF, speaks of a beating, which he didn’t report

When they witness Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinian people with their own eyes, they are horrified and heartbroken – the Jewish institutions that raised them not only lied but built their Jewish identity around that lie. They join the movement of young American Jews battling the old guard over Israel’s centrality in American Judaism, and demanding freedom for the Palestinian people. Their stories reveal a generational divide in the American Jewish community as more young Jews question the narratives their synagogues and Hebrew school teachers fed them as children.

H2 – The Occupation Lab

Sunday, October 22, 2023 at 3:00pm

2023  • 94 minutes • Documentary • Hebrew, Arabic, English

Preceeded by the short film ‘Coming Home’

Tickets available at the box office

An opening card explains that “H2” is the area where 800 Jewish settlers live at the center of the largest city in the West Bank, population 250,000 Palestinians. Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard (whom we featured in 2021 with Occupation & De Facto Annexation) explains the “occupation lab” part of the title: Hebron is a test location; successful occupation tactics will appear later elsewhere.

Hebron is revered for its holy Cave of the Patriarchs, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe their common faith-ancestor, Abraham, is buried. This is where the massacre of 1929, known as “year zero” of the conflict, took place; where the Jewish settlement movement was born, and where the policy of ethnic separation was first implemented by the military.

The filmmakers highlight selected years including:

  • 1967 when the occupation started just after the six-day war. Jews gain access to the Cave of the Patriarchs
  • 1986: First intifada
  • 1993: Oslo Accords; increased tension among the Jewish population in Hebron that resists becoming part of the proposed Palestinian state

Near the end of the film, a former Israeli soldier, now with Breaking the Silence, summarizes: “I think of Hebron as a gift from God. It’s 2 km2 that you can walk in half a day and understand how Israel controls the West Bank. If you zoom out from Hebron, everything you see in Hebron you’ll see in the West Bank: separation, separation roads, blockades …” Hebron is a model for the occupation.

The Law and the Prophets

Saturday, October 28, 2023 at 3:00pm

2023 • 114 minutes • Documentary • English 

Preceeded by the short film ‘Coming Home’

Tickets available at the box office

In Israel, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, the law is whatever Israel deems to be in the best interest of Jewish Israelis and to the detriment of Palestinians. Israel violates the civil and human rights of Palestinians as a matter of standard, accepted policy. However, there are brave, determined individuals who are trying to expose the destructive, unjust, and sometimes invisible ways in which Israel exploits and oppresses Palestinians.

The Law and the Prophets explains the mechanisms of control that Israel deploys to subjugate Palestinians including these, which highlight our 2023 theme, “the 75th Year of the Nakba”:

  • Descriptions of various individual permit systems and the intentional delays in obtaining them. Palestinian-American Sam Bahour consulted on telecommunications and needed residency permits. After he married a West Bank Palestinian, his status changed such that his U.S. passport was no longer sufficient to travel inside Israel
  • Yahav Zohar’s description of house demolitions
  • How the Israeli government attempts to defuse Nazareth as natural tourist attraction because it’s majority is Palestinian

These mechanisms have been perfected through decades of civil and military rule of Palestinians both within Israel, and in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This film is told through the lens of eight brave people from different walks of life and backgrounds but with the same passion for seeking peace and justice for Palestinians. The Law and the Prophets amplifies the voices of these smart and courageous women and men, many of whom toil in tragic obscurity.

A Program of Shorts

Sunday, October 29, 2023 at 3:00pm

2023 • 89 minutes • Documentary 

Tickets available at the box office

Coming Home

2023 • 9 minutes • Documentary • English

Amer Abdelrasoul, leader of the Freedom Dabka Group, describes the group and what it means to his community living in Bay Ridge (Brooklyn). Debka, a folk dance from the Levantine region, represents Palestinian aspirations, struggle, and history.

“Doing Debka is the closest thing I know to being back home in Palestine … Something that’s warm and filled with hope,” one of the dancers said.

Amer’s mother, Bassam Abdelrasoul, added, “I am happy because they are keeping the Palestinian heritage alive.”

Liwan: a Story of Cultural Resistance 

2021 • 29 minutes • Documentary • English

Liwan: A Story of Cultural Resistance is about a “culture café” in Nazareth. It opened in 2016 when the old market of Nazareth was a no-go area, run down following an Israeli “redevelopment” project. Despite many difficulties, they opened, and many new cultural spaces have followed, driving a revival of the souq. They practice ‘cultural resistance’, organizing activities that focus on the Palestinian identity.

The Liwan café; run by co-founders Silke Wanner, Sami Jabali, and Sally Azzam; maintains a Palestinian presence in the old city for political tours, gallery, café, and a space to interact. E.g,

  • Mahmoud Yazbak, book presentation
  • Ruba Shamshum, concert
  • Great Book Robbery film
  • Jani Zoabi, Palestinian former member the Knesset

Music duo Haqy Zaarty, songwriter and guitarist; and Kevork Estephanian, percussionist

Hummus: A Story of Appropriation

2022 • 51 minutes • Documentary • English with open captions

Since the start of the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government has placed restrictions on the Palestinian population, which in turn has left them in an unprecedented time bubble. Using the cultural appropriation of the popular chickpea dip Hummus as a frame, the film chronicles the lives of some ordinary Palestinians in Jerusalem. Conditions in the city affect their lives such that they cannot mourn the past, live the present, or contemplate a future. Their very humanity is appropriated. In many ways, their lives parallel the fate of Hummus.

Featured are:

  • Palestinian director/narrator Lafi Abood who says that he was exiled from his grandmother’s house in 1979 and “it took 35 years to come back to Jerusalem as prompted by an American-based NGO.”
  • Samer Abud-Aisha, “a regular guy from Jerusalem… They know this is Palestine and this is our hummus. To compensate for their inferiority complex, they keep adding more flags, more propaganda, more partitioning, more repression, just to prove to themselves that this is their land and their hummus.”
  • Abud Falah, who stands watch 24 x 7 in his small blacksmith shop in Jerusalem’s old city because the Israeli government threatens to evict him.