Strangers No More

Published: January 28th 2011
in Culture » Movies

Strangers No More

Tel-Aviv’s southern suburbs


Tel-Aviv, and its surrounding cities, is the biggest metropolitan in Israel. Yet it takes only 10-15 minutes to get to the southern part of the city from the luxurious neighborhood of the northern part.


After Israel was established, the southern part of the city was mostly populated with low socio-economic class residents. Life there was relatively poor and simple.


I grew up in a southern Tel-Aviv neighborhood during the 1970's and the 1980's. The people who lived there were mostly Jews who immigrated to Israel from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and even Poland. Some were holocaust survivors, other just made Aliyah and settled in the cheap southern Tel-Aviv neighborhoods.


Strangers in the edge of Tel-Aviv


If you walk in the same streets I walked 30 years ago you'll immediately see that everything has changed. The residents are no longer the veteran Jews but foreign workers that came to Israel from all over the world seeking a better life and income. Recently, the region has been flooded by African refugees from Sudan, Eritrea, South Africa and other Western African states.


The foreign workers have children which go to the same school I went to as a child, the Bialik-Rogozin school. The Bialik-Rogozin school is bounded by three streets, Moledet, Aliyah and Salame.


I always wondered how they teach the meanings of the words Moledet, Aliyah and Salame (Homeland, Emigration, the name of a place where Yehudah Makkabi defeated the Greek army 2,200 years ago) to kids who know nothing about the Jewish culture or history.


Strangers No More


The American director and producer Kirk Simon decided to make a movie about three foreign kids who attend the Bialik-Rogozin school. The movie, Strangers No More, deals with many aspects of being a foreign child in the heart of the Jewish State.


There are children from 48 different nations in Bialik-Rogozin school. Simon decided to focus on Mohammed, a sixteen-year-old refugee from Darfur in Sudan, who witnessed the killing of his grandmother and father before he escaped alone through Egypt to Israel.


Johannes from Eritrea who arrived at Bialik-Rogozin after spending his early years in refugee camps across the Middle East, and Esther, who escaped with her father from South-Africa after her mother was murdered.


The school accepts them all as they are and gives them all they need. The teachers work very hard for those kids, striving to integrate them with the local language, culture and society. Strangers No More puts the State of Israel in a very bright and positive light.


Oscar nominee 


It took one year and seven visits to Tel-Aviv, each for over a week, to finish the 40 minute, heartwarming film. Simon was impressed by the changes that the foreign children were going through, as he saw them growing and flourishing.


Thankfully, someone thought that the 40 minutes documentary film is good enough to be in the candidacy for the Oscar and has been short listed under "Best Documentary Short Subject". 


Kirk Simon, a four time candidate for the golden prize, has never won it. Let’s hope that on February 27th he'll be luckier and the world will have the chance to see a tolerant, open minded and a better Israel.

Related articles: (Strangers No More, Oscar, Documentary)
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