Efforts to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian canyon in bold or creative ways are always noteworthy and heartening. This morning’s New York Times carries a lengthy story on pianist/conductor Daniel Barenboim’s latest bold attempt, bringing a group of musicians from Europe to Gaza for a one-night Mozart concert that made attendees, and others observing the move, feel like full human beings for a change. Barenboim, a Jew from Argentina who holds both Israeli and Palestinian citizenship, deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his long-standing efforts (begun with Edward Said) in this same sphere.
Now, on HBO tonight (and then several times more in days ahead), comes the documentary Precious Life, which profiles efforts by an Israeli journalist and doctors, along with a Palestinian doctor and helpers, to save the life of a baby born without an immune system. It is directed by the TV journalist, Shlomi Eldar, and won the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar for best documentary. The medical effort was made possible by a $50,000 donation from an anonymous Israeli (who had lost a son in the military conflict and now knew life was so precious).
It’s a rewarding, if harrowing, film that does not focus on the political, although it can hardly avoid it, as the medical effort is hampered by the restrictions on movement between Gaza and Israel. For example, finding a bone marrow transplant match among the baby’s cousins takes some real derring-do in testing and transporting the blood samples. Then, when a match is found, the girl, while en route to the hospital, nearly gets blown up when the main checkpoint suffers a car bomb explosion. And so it goes.
Another heated moment: The journalist/director nearly pulls out of the effort after a discussion, on camera, with the baby’s mother, Raida, who says that she would not be very upset if the baby grew up to take vengeance on Israel for what it has done to her people. He seems to misinterpret a bit, as he tells someone else that she would "raise" the child to do this, which was nonsense. In any event, raw feelings remain for awhile until resolved. And then there’s suspense at the end as all await results of testing when the woman gets pregnant once again (two of her other children had died from the same deficiency).
I won’t give away what happens to those children, but the film does end on an up note when the journalist fulfills one of her dreams — taking her to Jerusalem.