It's Christmas in Bethlehem. In the final year of the 20th Century, the town was expecting 5 million visitors to celebrate the end of the millennium, but the streets are deserted, the hotels are shut, and shops are empty. The Israeli army has closed off Bethlehem since the 2nd Intifada began the previous September. Areas of the town have been heavily shelled and ruins are everywhere.
BETHLEHEM DIARY focuses on two Palestinian families and an Israeli human rights lawyer during this tumultuous period. We witness their lives amidst extraordinary events - moments of despair, confusion and anger - and the ubiquitous presence of the Israeli army. The intimate, surreal, and humorous stories they tell help us to understand how violence and uncertainty affect both their public and private family lives.
Marwan is an academic who is trying to run a peace education program for Palestinians and Israelis, but most days he can't get to work. War gets in the way. Rifat directs the YMCA in East Jerusalem, a twenty-minute drive from home. But between him and his office is the Middle East's most powerful army.
Both men's families have difficulties as well; getting the kids to school, shopping, or visiting the doctor are trying experiences. The army has bulldozed many roads around and in the town of Bethlehem. Movement means trouble, a struggle over rubble.
And then there is Tamar, an Israeli, Tel Aviv based attorney. She has plenty of work, because she is a human rights specialist with many Palestinian clients.
As the local tourist economy collapses around them, we see former shopkeepers sitting, playing cards and backgammon. Their businesses are ruined; ordinary life is on hold.
Six months later, July 2001. Bethlehem is buckling under the pressure. As high-rise Israeli settlements go up a few hundred yards away, the heightening tension and violence are forcing these families to consider the painful decision of leaving their homes.
Today, as Israeli troops roll over the West Bank, the quality of life in Bethlehem continues to deteriorate, such that life itself is constantly threatened. This is Caccia's fourth and most personal film about the region. Going beyond the newscasts, sound bites and government press releases, BETHLEHEM DIARY brings Palestine into focus, personalizing experiences that are being repeated throughout the region at this very moment.
"Impassioned filmmaking and measured analysis... a revealing account of what life is like for two middle-class Palestinian families living under the Israeli military. What makes this film powerful is its intimate view of ordinary people trying to cope with the most trying of circumstances." - The Big Issue (London)
2002 Middle East Studies Association Film Festival
2002 New York Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
2002 London Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
"A very earthy production showing real people and real events, this film stands in contrast to what one is accustomed to seeing... Very thought provoking... [and] very timely." - Catholic Library World