The cameraman passes a microphone through a gap in the separation wall and a hand from the other side finds just enough space to take it; for one mother and daughter, talking through this crack is the only way they can communicate.
When the wall was built, the family passed through a door to see each other, but in 2008 – 9 even this was blocked. Using the same slit, the daughter passes photographs of her grandson for her mother to see.
For Palestinians, trying to travel from the West Bank to Jerusalem is a journey made almost impossible by checkpoints and restricted permits. For those who want to be reunited with loved ones and sick relatives, get to hospital for medical treatment, and pray at Al Aqsa mosque, this is far too often a distant dream.
Some have given up on the traditional route, and are instead helped across by smugglers who take a symbolic fee to deliver them into Jerusalem. It is their journeys that are documented in ‘Infiltrators,’ which will be screened tonight as part of the Palestinian Film Festival in London.
Director Khaled Jarrar’s debut documentary won the Muhr Arab Documentary prize, the Special Jury Prize and the International Critics Prize at the Dubai Film Festival last year and will premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this summer. His artwork was also displayed at a recent exhibition at the P21 Gallery in London.
The film captures people hoisting each other over the separation wall; a rusty bed frame turned ladder is leant against the concrete and a rope thrown over to the other side. One man comments on how high the walls is; “there is no such thing as short, this is Israel” says another. Some must wait in the sun for hours to find the perfect time to cross, whilst others wait up to four days.
Many break legs jumping over, and some have died negotiating the highway on the other side. But “This is it. We have nothing to lose,” says one. Another man tells how he was nailed to the ground with dogs before the Israeli army arrived; some are arrested and ordered to pay a 10,000 Shekel fine.
In one scene, a man trying to cross is caught by the Israeli police after a citizen alerted their attention. He is kicked and then made to lie on the ground with his hands behind his head whilst the soldier flashes his torch at the wall, searching for more escapees, unaware that he has been caught on film.
The shaky, hand-held camera gives the impression of urgency and danger, as do the interviews with many of the smugglers; the camera only films them from the shoulders down as they drive the length of the wall to find a suitable place to cross.
“Inshallah, one day this country will be reunited,” one of the voices assures us.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.