Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Original title: Ha-Kala Ha-Surit
In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles

Arranged marriages are practised all over the world particularly in Muslim countries. The parents negotiate the union between two prospective spouses although the extended family sometimes gets involved as well. Depending upon the circumstances, the bride and groom might meet for the first time at the wedding itself.

The Druze people are a small and distinct religious community residing mainly in Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Turkey and Jordan. They follow a life style of isolation where no conversion is allowed, neither out of, nor into, the religion. When Druze live among people of other religions, they try to blend in, in order to protect their religion and their own safety. They can pray as Muslims, or as Christians, depending on where they are. They use the Arabic language and follow a social pattern very similar to the Arabs of the region. Most are small landowners and engage in agriculture, with apples being the dominant crop. They also raise goats, sheep and cows. The religious elders wear white stubby “stove pipe” hats and most let their beard grow long. Traditionally, the Druze are loyal to the current government of the region where they reside. Before 1967,the Druze in the Golan Heights area were loyal to the Syrian government, then became residents of Israel with no official nationality. They remain torn between their desire to unite with their families in Syria, and their wish to remain under Israeli administration and enjoy its democratic and economic advantages. The villagers practice tribal loyalty and insist that all male offspring continue to live there.

Throughout history the Golan Heights region has been an important trade route. During World War I, England took over control of the Golan from the Turks. When Syria became an independent country in 1945, this area became the extreme south-western tip of the country. For the 19 years that Syria ruled the Golan, the area was used as a military platform for continuous attacks against the settlements in the Hula, Galilee and Jordan Valleys. The Syrian army engaged in the daily shooting, shelling and bombing of innocent settlers who did nothing to them.

In 1967 the Arab-Israeli conflict known in the Western world as the Seven Day War (in Arab states, The June Aggression) resulted in Syria losing the Golan Heights to Israel. The Syrians all fled leaving behind the Druze to live in one of only four villages within the Golan. Since the war, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has controlled a buffer zone between the two countries. In December 1981 the area was officially annexed to the State of Israel. The Red Cross (the Red Crescent in Muslim countries) assists with the passage across the area of separation, most of whom are students, but also pilgrims and future brides. Syria and Israel have held occasional peace talks over the return of the Golan Heights but nothing ever comes of it.

President Hafez El Assad is the chief of state of Syria. Following the death of his father in July 2000, he was elected by popular vote with 97.3% of the vote for a seven-year term.

Mona, the betrothed bride
Her older sister Amal
Their father Hammed
Their playboy brother Marwan
Their brother Hattem who is married to a Russian wife
Amal’s controlling husband Amin
Amal’s eldest daughter Mai
Simon, the betrothed groom

The movie is much more than just the story of Mona, a Druze bride-to-be, living in the village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Quite a few controversial themes are touched upon including the politics of occupation, feminism, ethnic favouritism, tribal customs, and patriarchal domination. The acting throughout is excellent and adequate time is given for character development.

for some sexuality and nudity.

Due to their lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries, anybody with an Israeli stamp on their passport is denied entry to Syria, and vice versa.

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