“MUHI: GENERALLY TEMPORARY”— Transcending Identity, Religion and the Israel/Palestine Conflict

“Muhi: Generally Temporary”

Transcending Identity, Religion and the Israel/Palestine Conflict

Amos Lassen

Muhi is a young boy from Gaza who for the last seven years has been living in Tel HaShomer Hospital in near Tel Aviv, Israel. He lives in medical and political limbo at Tel HaShomer Hospital, east of Tel Aviv, Israel because of a rare disease that has caused his limbs to be amputated. During four years, co-director Israeli photojournalist Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander, with American videographer Tamir Elterman, have intimately followed Mubi and his devoted and self-sacrificing grandfather Abu Naim.  Even Mubi’s name has become symbolic of the border that his suspicious father, heartbroken mother, siblings, and cousins can rarely cross from faction-torn Gaza. While his family calls him Muhammad; his affectionate Israeli caretakers have nicknamed him Muhi and include him in their Jewish observances.  

The film plays with emotions. Here is a disabled child overcoming adversity with infectiously good spirits while his isolation, dependence and adaptation are used as a prism through which we see the ironies, prejudices, difficulties and tensions of humanitarianism when first world medical care is just 43 miles from third-world conditions. This care is impacted by the bitter strife between Palestinians themselves and between Palestinians and Israelis

We see Muhi is as a migrant for medical care because of the limited facilities in Gaza. His dedicated grandfather’s life finds him in a Middle East limbo full of cultural contradictions and heartrending juxtapositions. While his family can only rarely get through the checkpoints to visit (and are not convinced the extreme treatment of limb amputation was necessary), his grandfather Abu Naim tries to maintain his grandson’s Arabic language and Islamic education. The caring Israelis, including his advocate and long-time peace activist Buma Inbar whose son was killed in war and who give him the Hebrew nickname “Muhi” and celebrates Jewish holidays with him.

When his grandfather finally gets a permit to work, the hospital, unfortunately, misses the opportunity to hire him as a translator or liaison for the many Arab patients and families and condescendingly employ him as a janitor. The prosthetic arms and legs, that give Muhammed the mobility to attend a rare bi-lingual school are not available in Gaza and will keep him waiting as he will need new ones as he grows. This is the kind of film that stays with us long after the screen goes dark and the lights come on.

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