Encounter Point – What To Do With The Pain

Posted on May 14, 2008

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Encounter Point is an 85-minute feature documentary film that follows a former Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother who risk their lives and public standing to promote a nonviolent end to the conflict. Their journeys lead them to the unlikeliest places to confront hatred within their communities. The film explores what drives them and thousands of other like-minded civilians to overcome anger and grief to work for grassroots solutions. It is a film about the everyday leaders in our midst.

Website here. Just Vision, the production company, has their own website with further information as well.

The beginning has this quote that sets the tone for the rest of the film:

Sometimes I’m very angry with myself, that I didn’t protect my child. So what do you do with this pain? Do you take it and look for revenge and keep the whole cycle going, of violence. Or do you choose a another path, to prevent further death, and further pain of other parents. – Robi

REVIEW

It is difficult to get a glimpse of the non-violent reconciliation movements that do exist in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Popular media thrives on drama, further acts of vengeance, and surprise. Somehow, in a sick and perverted way, this kind of reporting feeds a sinful appetite within the human psyche. But like C.S. Lewis’ “Turkish Delight” it is unsubstantial, and it ultimately leads to destruction.

Encounter Point is an honest documentary that seeks, not to be a “positive” alternative in the sense of balancing out negative imagery, but rather to be honest and true to the real emotions and feelings of family members who have lost loved ones and yet are able to pave a path towards reconciliation and peace. This is not some euphoric dream of happy neighborliness, but rather a hard look into the difficult and challenging steps of dialogue.

The two prominent characters, Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian who lost his brother to an Israeli soldier’s gun fire, and Robi Damelin, and Israeli who lost her son to a Palestinian sniper, become the heroes of the film, transforming their pain and their own ideologies into movements around reconciliation. They are not saints, however, which makes the message of the film even more captivating. Ali refuses to forgive the Israeli soldier, and Robi is challenged to put her words and movement to personal action by contemplating a meeting with the family of the sniper who killed her son. Neither Ali, Robi, (nor anyone else in the film) lay claim to any awards or accolades. Yet both, in their unique way, choose to be better than the hatred, the pain, and the desire for vengeance. Both choose to lay down their weapons, and pick up words. Both choose to believe in peace, no matter how distant it seems to be. They’ve been hurled stones; they have chosen to offer back open hands.

They, and the others in the film, are my newest heroes. I pray for their success in every mustard seed moment they have in helping others come to see that, as Robi puts it, “it works.” Reconciliation has, and can continue to work vigorously towards peace. I thank the producers for their efforts in documenting well the grassroots movements, and I can only strive towards being a contributor to these ends.

For everyone, I believe Jesus’ message rings true.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies [bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you] and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [1]

I believe Walter Wink has some excellent insights for us regarding the above passage (my review of his book here), and though I have yet to read it, I believe Mark Kurlansky’s Nonviolence book sheds insight as well.

I end with Paul’s word to the Romans, which sums up nicely the teachings that we all ought to live by.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [2]

[1] Matthew 5:38-48 (NIV)
[2] Romans 12:17-21

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