Director: Michael Eldridge.
Starring: Max Rhyser (Kobi Zucker), Yifat Sharabi (Leila), Penny Bittone (Doron), Shalin Agarwal (Ghazi), Radhika Vaz (Mother), Laurence Cantor (Father), Ellie Diez (Sheila), Pia Shah (Hala), Shayna Padovano (Mona), Anne-Marie Moloney (Agent).
an Israeli man comes to New York City and falls in love with a Palestinian woman; will the politics of division divide the couple
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film. Curse word, the F bomb.
A fellow named Kobi Zucker serves in the Israeli army.
The scene switches to Brooklyn, New York City. A cab driver asks where is his passenger from and Kobi says he's from Spain.
Kobi's family warmly welcomes him to their apartment. His father Abba asks him why he can't stay here for awhile before he leaves to take a break? Kobi replies that he has been waiting for this break for three years now. Abba says he can go when he wants to, but he wants to make sure that his son comes back home again.
Kobi needs a bit of money, so he goes to a friend named Doron who owns an ice cream place. So Kobi starts scooping ice cream. After work Kobi's friend takes him to a bar. He says he is going to get Kobi laid. There are two really pretty women at the bar, but Kobi doesn't show much interest. His friend complains and Kobi starts to say that something bad happened in the territories last year.
In bed Kobi has a flashback to the bad incident. One of his customers, a young woman named Leila, so impresses Kobi that he stops hearing anything.
Three young women, one of them Leila, now put their head coverings on. Leila comes home to her apartment. Her mother is preparing a meal. Her father turns out to be the cab driver to whom Kobi said he was Spanish. Dad grills Leila on what she did after school and who was she with? Leila says she was just out with the girls.
Leila writes in her diary about a young man who served her ice cream. She says he is very cute and he touched her hand when she paid for her ice cream.
At dinner Leila's brother Ghazi says he had a hard day at work. His boss always looks likes he is thinking that the Palestinian fellow is trying to steal from him. In fact, the boss just balled him out at work. He calls the boss a racist. The brother is upset because he has a lot of education, but works at a low level job. Dad says his son can get a better job in time. Sarcastically, Ghazi says the young man says maybe he could be a taxi driver. This shocks the family because this is a direct jab at his father. Ghazi starts apologizing, but he still gets an earful from dad. He asks his son if he would rather be living under the Israeli occupation? And remember that his brother got involved with the al-Shabaab and was killed.
In bed dad tells mom that there are too many temptations in the USA. "It is no place for a respectable girl" He worries about Leila. Dad says after Leila finishes her school, he will send her back home. There her sister can find her a proper match. Mother doesn't like the idea saying that they came to the USA because Palestine was not safe. Leila wants to go to college in this country. Dad thinks marriage is the best step for her.
At the bar Doron is telling Kobi that the Arabs want to push the Jews into the sea. He adds and that goes for the Arabs here in the USA. They all feel this way. Kobi is tired of hearing about the animosity between Jews and Arabs. He decides to go home.
At the ice cream shop, Kobi and Leila keep sneaking peeks at each other. The two girls she is with notice this and one of them says: "I think someone likes the ice cream man." They speculate on his origin. He's definitely not Arab, but he could be Italian or Greek. Leila's friends tell her that her parents will not let her just turn into an American girl. The girls leave the shop. After her two friends leave her, Leila goes back to see Kobi. The two smile at each other. Leila asks him if he likes the book he is reading? He says it's "really great" and she can borrow it when he finishes it. Leila says: "Sure." She says: "See you later." And Kobi says the same thing to her.
At home they think of each other.
Back at the ice cream shop, one of her friends, Hala, warns Leila that she better be careful, because if her family finds out, she is going to be in a lot of trouble. Leila says there's nothing going on, but when Kobi sees her, he says "hi" in a very friendly way. And he gives her his book to read. He goes about his work and Leila's friend tells her that this Kobi is an Israeli. Kobi is an Israeli name. Leila says that doesn't make him Israeli. She then asks Hala not to say anything about this to anyone. Leila adds: "I can do what I want to do." Hala leaves.
Kobi comes over to ask why her friend left so abruptly? Leila says Hala thinks Kobi is Israeli. Kobi replies: "I am. Does that mean we can't be friends?" She says she is Palestinian and doesn't have any Israeli friends. Kobi sits down and asks where she is from? She says she grew up in a refugee camp. She says "you" pushed their family out of their traditional homes. Kobi says that the Palestinians left because the Arab leaders told them to. Leila says no, he is very wrong. He says the other Arab nations thought the Palestinians were in their way, so they told them to leave their homes and they could come back later. Leila gets up and says: "Zionist propaganda". The discussion gets really heated and she tells Kobi that he can keep his Jewish books and the one he lent her. She leaves.
Leila returns home to find her brother there. He got fired from his job. He asks Leila if she knows how much they are really hated by those around them? Leila says it isn't true. Her brother says people just say there goes another "fucking" Arab. That night Leila can't sleep. Her mother comes to her door to tell her to go to sleep. Leila would like to tell her mother what's going on, but she cannot. She prays saying that she does not want this fight to be in her new home.
The next day Leila returns to the ice cream shop and tells Kobi that they shouldn't talk about Palestinian-Israeli problems. Kobi agrees. He asks Leila her name. It's Leila. She leaves the shop as the boss comes in.
Leila's brother goes to see the holy man, who asks him what he does? Brother holds his head down and the holy man says that none of this is his fault, so don't be ashamed. "We are living among a vile and racist people." He is to keep his faith in Allah and Allah will provide for him and his family.
The next time Leila comes to see Kobi, she leaves a note for him on the table. Kobi comes to the library where Leila waits for him. She tells him that her family is very strict and would not like to hear that their daughter is talking to an Israeli. He asks her if she can be friends with an Israeli? She replies: "I think I can try." A little later she says that her husband would have to be a good Muslim. But what if he wasn't a Muslim? She tells Kobi that such a thing "just couldn't happen". She smiles and says she's never going to marry anyway.
Kobi tells her he is saving his money so he can go to South America for a year or maybe more. She asks if he has a girlfriend? No. "You are the only woman in my life." She asks him not to say such things, because they can only be friends.
Meanwhile, her brother is being radicalized by the holy man. He comes home with a white knit hat that stops his father in his tracks. Dad asks what has he been doing all this time? He was in the prayer hall. What about his work? The son says he is not going to go back to work at that "filth hole". Allah will provide. Dad says he does not like his sib spending so much time with the sheik. It's too late, however, for his son. He tells dad that he does not follow the laws of Islam. For instance, he watches shows on television that use curse words. Leila goes to a school with boys. The son says: "This is no place for a true Muslim to live." He really makes his father mad when he suggests that they return to their homeland. Dad says to him: "Not another word! I have spoken."
Leila's brother walks aimlessly through the city looking at various sites.
Leila leaves another note for Kobi. The three girls leave. Now Kobi asks to take a break and go for a walk. The boss says sure he can. Kobi goes to an apartment house and then up to the roof. Leila says she just wanted to show him a bit of the city. The couple keeps returning to the roof where they can talk in private.
Leila's brother keeps up with his religious-political studies. He is going to set an example of a completely pure Muslim.
Leila asks if Kobi ever killed a Palestinian? When he hesitates for a long time, she gets up and leaves. He rushes after her and she tells him to just say it. Kobi was guarding a check point. He yells to a Palestinian to stop in Hebrew and in Arabic, but the fellow doesn't stop. So he shoots him twice. Leila becomes even angrier and now asks him if this attention he is paying to her is a way of soothing his guilt? She says she means nothing to him. She leaves. Leila and Kobi both don't sleep well.
The boss is worried about Kobi, so he says let's got out tonight. But that doesn't get Kobi out of his doldrums. The next day he sees Leila walk by the ice cream shop. He chases after her and tells her that Israel is their home too and that he wished this had never happened. She says that during the Intefata (an uprising among Palestinian Arabs of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, late 1987 to early 1990s, in protest against continued Israeli occupation), her older brother Ali went out to throw stones at the soldiers. The army started shooting and Ali got hit by a rubber bullet in the head. He died. That's when her parents brought the family to the USA.
Leila returns to her apartment, but she can't go in because there is a terrible row between her father and her brother. The neighbor woman Sheila asks if she wants to come and talk in her apartment until it blows over. Leila goes into the neighbor's apartment. The neighbor asks how come she hardly ever sees Leila around anymore? Leila says she met this boy. Now the neighbor understands. Leila adds a but to her tale: but he made a mistake. The neighbor tells her that everyman does, but how does he make her feel? Sheila adds that the past should stay in the past.
Doron tells Kobi that he knows about him and that Arab girl. This will shame Kobi's parents. When Leila comes in Doron says "fuck" and leaves the counter. She gives him a note about Allah forgiving sins for one and all. She leaves the shop.
The Muslim holy man praises the Arab bombing of an Israeli bus. He tells his followers to come and prepare themselves for the call. It is coming.
Leila's brother walks home. The FBI are there asking the parents if they know where their son is? Suddenly, the son rounds the corner and the male and female agent start asking him questions. Does he know this man known as the sheik? There was a fire at the place where Gahzi worked for awhile. His name came up as a person with a grudge against the employer when they were questioning others about the fire. The agents ask to see his bag and he throws it on the ground. The male agent empties the contents of the bag onto the floor. The female agent says that the VHS tapes are probably lessons given by the sheik. The agents take a bunch of stuff from the house as possible evidence. They put handcuffs on the Palestinian and walk him out to their car.
Leila comes home and asks her mother what's wrong? Dad asks where was she all this time? Leila says with the girls. Dad says the FBI took Ghazi downtown to be interrogated about a fire at his boss' place of work. Leila wonders out loud if Ghazi committed arson and Dad slaps her for thinking and saying that about her brother.
Downtown Ghazi is tied to a chair and interrogated. The questioning goes on and on.
Doron argues with Kobi about the Arabs and how bad they are. Doron says they shouldn't argue so much. He wants Kobi to go with him to the bar. Kobi doesn't want to. He will stay and close the shop for Doron. All alone in the shop after hours, Leila shows up. She and Kobi sit at one of the tables and she tells him what happened to her brother. He asks Leila: he didn't do anything wrong, did he? Leila doesn't like that question. He changes topics and says he missed her. He wants to go to her father and talk with him. Leila says that cannot be and if Kobi wants to continue seeing her, he will do what she says. He says okay. He wants to take her to the beach and they agree to meet at a certain subway station.
They sit on a bench and he smiles. Leila wants to know why and he says: "I know that one day you will be mine." She says it can never be. So Kobi says they will run away together and no one will ever find them. Now he tells her that he loves her. She says: "Don't say that!" He says he knows that she loves him too. How? He asks her to just tell him She hesitates, but says: "I love you, too."
Returning home, Kobi pushes some curls underneath Leila's head dress. Her mother, walking home with groceries, watches this and goes up to ask Leila where was she? Leila says she was at school. Mom doesn't believe this story. She tells her daughter that she "better get home now and fast". Leila finds her brother at home. She hugs him. He says they tried to find something illegal he may have done, but couldn't find anything. But that's not as important as what he needs to say to Leila. He says he has watched her and he knows what she does: she rips of her head dress as soon as she gets out of the house; she sits in a classroom and the boys look at her longingly; and he knows what they think about her. He says if father were stronger, he would make her stay in the apartment and that way Leila could not bring any more shame to the family. So from now on she will comes straight back from school. There is to be no more hanging out with her girlfriends. Leila is extremely upset and rushes to her room.
Hala tells Kobi that Leila told her to tell Kobi that her parents won't let her out of the house any more. Kobi goes to the library to see Leila. He asks her what is going on and she says it's her brother. He's convinced that she is no longer a good Muslim girl. She also says that she doesn't really know her brother anymore since he has changed so much. He says he will meet her on the roof. She says she will try to get up there. She tells Kobi that she loves him and he says he loves her.
The next day Ghazi goes through his sister's stuff to find anything incriminating. He finds her diary under her bed and sits down to read it. Mom and dad come into the room and ask what's going on? Ghazi says that Leila has been carrying on with a Jew. He says: "Our honor must be restored." Father agrees, but says he will deal with her his way.
Leila and Kobi meet on the roof. Kobi wants her to go away with him. One of Leila's girlfriends comes up to tell Leila that her family found the diary. She cannot go home now. Leila's brother told her father that Leila deserves to die. The girlfriend says she will hide Leila until something else can be arranged. Leila goes with her friend.
Kobi talks with Doron about what has happened. Doron asks Kobi to promise him that he won't do anything rash for at least two days which will give him enough time to think about what he is doing. Kobi promises.
Two big Muslim guys come to the shop. They think Doron is the man with Leila. Doron stands up to them, but gets knifed for it. The Muslims leave a note saying that this was punishment for his fooling around with little Muslim girls. The group called the Islamic Society for Family Protection claims responsibility for the deed.
Now Kobi has to clean up the blood on the shop floor. He cries as he cleans.
Leila's neighbor comes to the ice cream shop with a note from Leila, who is staying with her in her apartment. Kobi tells the neighbor that he will see Leila tonight.
Ghazi is now taking over the handling of Leila. He tells his father that this is all dad's fault and he is sick of his weakness. Leila must be handled with great harshness. He says the sheik is his father, not his biological father. Dad slaps him. Ghazi leaves the apartment. He sees the neighbor and demands that she tell him where his sister is. He also demands to check her apartment. The neighbor is tough and says if he doesn't get out of here, she is going to cut his balls off. Ghazi leaves and the neighbor goes into her apartment. She tells Leila that nothing is going to happen to her.
Later Kobi comes in to see Leila. They hug each other. She tells Kobi that Ghazi threatened Sheila, the neighbor. She also says that the Muslim hit men were after him, not Doron. Kobi knows that already. He says that he will be back for her tomorrow and then they will get away from here. He starts to go. Leila stops him and gives him a kiss. Now Kobi kisses her. She tells him he has to go, but adds: "Remember, I love you."
At night, Ghazi and the two hit men come into Sheila's apartment. Ghazi starts hitting Sheila hard telling her to tell him where his sister is. Leila comes out to stop her brother saying that he will kill Sheila if he continues hitting her Now brother's wrath turns on Leila. Her mother and father come into the apartment. Ghazi is going to kill Leila, but his mother tells him that if he touches Leila she will kill him herself. The three hoodlums leave Sheila's apartment. Dad asks Laila where is her fellow now? She tells him. The three toughs go after Kobi at the ice cream shop. They knock him down, but Kobi fights back. Father comes into the store telling the three thugs that this is not the way to do things. Ghazi scolds his father for his intervention on behalf of an Israeli. Dad says he has already given one son for Palestine. He asks Ghazi where is his holy man tonight? And where are his sons?
Dad adds that he hates the Israelis, but if they can't let go of the hate, they will never get over the past. Ghazi pulls out his knife and goes to kill Kobi, but dad puts himself in front of Kobi and dad is the one who is stabbed.
Kobi now cleans the blood of Leila's father off the shop floor. Leila's mother comes to speak to Kobi. He asks her where is Leila? She says that she is gone and he will not see her again. She says that Kobi should have come to Leila's father and asked him about their relationship. Kobi says Leila would never have allowed it. And he says her mother never would have allowed it either. Perhaps so, says mother. But now Leila is back home with family where she will be married to a suitable husband. She advises Kobi to go home to Israel and start his life. Start his own family. Now Leila's mother is completely alone. No husband, a son in prison and a daughter in Palestine. She too will return to her village.
This is like Romeo and Juliet or the plot from West Side Story. In New York, an Israeli guy Kobi and a Palestinian girl Leila slowly come to fall in love with each other. And this is some accomplishment because there are so many barriers and other obstacles in their way. The worst part for them is the radicalization of her brother by a militant sheik. The fellow becomes a morals patrol boy. What's worse is that brother believes in honor killing and it seems there is going to be a killing of Kobi and Leila, or just one of them. This type of behavior I like to call moralism, that is becoming so crazed over the enforcement of morals that killing is considered justified for moral violations. Many times these moralists become extremists and engage in homicide among other things. Poor Leila is being hounded by her brother even when her father never enforced such strict standards for her. Another problem is just plain old prejudice and discrimination against another group of people. Prejudice, discrimination and racism all lead to a volatile mix in which someone(s) is/are going to be harmed severely.
We only see the resistance from Leila's family, but not from the Jewish family. So we don't get to see any possible moralism and hatred from the Israeli side. Kobi believes that the only way they can be together is if they run away. But will they have time enough as Leil's brother seems about to boil over with hatred and self-righteousness?
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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