Something Extraordinary Happened …

“You’ve got to be the change you want to see!”


“Heart of Jenin” is a documentary by Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter. It is the story of a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy who was killed in Jenin in 2005, by Israeli soldiers who mistook his toy gun for the real thing. The son of Ismael Khatib, a former Palestinian fighter who had been imprisoned in Israel, Ahmed was rushed to an Israeli hospital where he died. But something extraordinary happened. Instead of seeking revenge Ismael’s family allowed his organs to be transplanted into ill Israeli children. His heart went to Sameh, a Druze girl in Pklin; a kidney went to Mohamed, a Bedouin boy in the Negev; and one kidney went to Menuha Rivka, an Orthodox Jewish girl in Jerusalem. The film recounts the events and the transplant, and then follows the boy’s father, Ismael Khatib, as he journeys to visit three of the children that received his son’s organs.

The Story: Cinema Jenin rolls out red carpet

This happened in the beginning of August 2010. It took me a while to complete the story …

Since Marcus had finished “The Heart of Jenin”, he was restless. He wanted to create a place in Jenin where his movie and hopefully many others could be screened. For two years a team of local Palestinians and international volunteers has laboured to build a new cinema from the dilapidated shell of the old movie house, which shut its doors 23 years ago during the first intifada. He saw the cinema’s restoration as a way of challenging the negative image of Jenin, as well bringing a creative space to a city in which the daily grind of living under occupation had virtually erased cultural activity.

See here my entire interview with Marcus.

The red carpet had seen better days. Faded, threadbare and dotted with stains and cigarette burns, it would not have graced a Hollywood premiere. But this was Jenin, one of the most troubled cities in the West Bank over recent decades and a long way from Tinseltown. And, for once, there was something to celebrate: The re-opening of the cinema.

Its smart minimalist interior – thanks to Johannes Hucke, project architect and co-founder of Cinema Jenin – has got more than 300 original cinema seats, restored by local craftsmen. A state-of-the-art sound system has been donated by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Its new roof, electrical system, 3D projection system, film school, digital library, open-air screen and cafe was paid for, in part, by the German government. And the new cinema runs on solar power. The $1m restoration was largely driven by Marcus and his team at Cinema Jenin.

And, most importantly: “Heart of Jenin” marked the grand opening of Cinema Jenin followed by a three-day film festival. Having helped to raise at least some money, knowing many details and being close to some of the leading figures during this entire process, believe me, it was a very emotional and touching moment when finally “Heart of Jenin” was screened.

Here is my short intro video of the “official” opening event.

Aftermath – We’ve only just begun

Rebuilding and re-opening Cinema Jenin was just the beginning. A very important milestone though. But if the story would end NOW, it would be fatal. So all efforts – financial, educational, political, social, economical, cultural … – are needed to continue the project.
And I know despite all the challenges they are facing Marcus, Dagmar Quentin, close friend of mine and also co-founder of Cinema Jenin, and all the others are working hard to make it happen; to achieve their goal that Cinema Jenin helps Jenin, its people and its neighbours.

For me it is by far the most outreaching example in this region on how “ordinary” PEOPLE from all over the world come and work together and above all SHARE their common goal and their VALUES. Selforganized in many ways. No matter how safe or unsafe Jenin is, how explosive or calm the situation there is, no matter of religion or politics – they are there to make the change (possible). It is this mindset I embrace and this is why I am supporting Cinema Jenin. For me it is ONE way to show how peace can be achieved in this region. Of course we need many more examples …

Travelling throughout Israel and Palestine – and I have done it many times – is a nightmare. Security checks over and over again! No trust, only suspiciousness. Young armed people all over the place. Neighbours without names – Palestinians and Israelis referring to each other as “they”. It really makes me aggressive. Immediately. Don’t get me wrong. I am not argueing against security, I am argueing against the obsession with it. If we anaesthetise young people by hammering hatred and fear in their minds, if governments and media build up a world of distrust and angst … how shall we ever convince our kids that they will look forward into a bright future?

We have to find new forms of governance and security – not knowing how they will look like in detail. But my instinct tells me and very first examples show me that collaboration, networking, participation and as THE key issue transparency will help and that solutions based on these principles and ideas will work out – MacroWikinomics as Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams named it in their latest book.

So far politicians haven’t found an answer for this region. Neither the one-state solution nor the two-state-solution is within reach. As a young Arabic woman, whom we met by coincidence while we were strolling around in some quiet part of Jerusalem a day or two after the opening, said: “This is not about religion any more. Arabic and Jewish people have been living together for hundreds of years. And it worked and is still working. Nothing more to proof. It is all about the power of politicians. Individual interest above people’s interest.”Discussions have been going on for decades without any results … on the contrary! It seems politicians have maneuvered the cause into a dead end street. I am not sure if Martine Rothblatt’s “Two Stars for Peace”
-solution, giving “a grassroots plan to solve the Middle East Crisis by merging Palestine and Israel into the U.S. as the 51st and 52nd states”, will ever be considered seriously in the world of politics. I found the idea refreshing, creative and precious – because it is NOT top-down but bottom-up. It realizes and takes into account that a solution can only be found, if it is convincing and satisfying for THE people. Then people will engage and drive the idea forward … self-organized, in collaborations beyond borders and in peace!

And this is what Cinema Jenin has shown me so far …
So please keep on going in this spirit.

For a better world.

See here my entire interview with Marcus.

3 thoughts on “Something Extraordinary Happened …”

  1. Thank u for honor. I am sure 2 stars is only sustainable solution for middle east peace. I hope people read it in Arabic or Hebrew. I hope grass roots people organize 2 stars movement. It will make everyone’s life better

  2. Thank you so much, Ulrike, for this excellent contribution! I can only invite all people dreaming of and working for peace to come to Jenin, and to visit our project – and to meet our friends there. This is the best way to understand why we all fell in love. And you will fall in love, too!
    Ma’a salama
    If you want to support us, please visit

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