Foreign Policy Blogs

Arna’s Children (2004)

It is almost impossible to watch this documentary and not be moved to tears.

It is a story about a Jewish woman, Arna Mer-Khamis, who created a children’s home and art center in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin.

Even in her advanced age, Arna was a firebrand who railed against the occupation by Israelis.

Watch the trailer here

Her son, Juliano Mer Khamis, who also helped direct a theater group for children created by his mother, directed the film.

What was unique about Arna was that she engaged the children through art and theater. She encouraged them to own their feelings of anger, fear, and desperation and express them in some way.

Even at a young age the children were suspicious of Arna and Juliano because they are Jews. It takes some time for them to accept them as people who want to help them.

Arna’s Children (2004)

What is hardest to watch is the juxtaposition of clips of the Palestinian children as kids who joke around and play to those of them as adults. One of the children, while an adult, videotapes a message to his family before he commits a suicide attack.

What is plain to see in the parts showing the children as adults is how they have become steeled in their opposition to the Israeli occupation. Long gone is the time when they would laugh and smile for the camera.

While Israelis are barely shown in the film (except for at some checkpoints or in tanks), the fact that Arna and her son give a voice to the oppressed is proof individuals can make a great difference even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]



Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;