Ruta Kupfer
October 29, 2010 - 12:00am

The army yesterday prevented children from the West Bank village of Umm al-Hir from entering Israel in time to watch a movie they appear in at a children's film festival in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

The children, first- and second-graders, were supposed to enter via the Meitar checkpoint to watch the film they had appeared in as part of the Children Make Movies project, run jointly by the Education Ministry, the Children's Channel and the Lahav and Mifalot associations.

The project, which took a year, was screened last night at the festival and will be broadcast on the Children's Channel on cable television.

The Palestinian children had passed through the checkpoint several times during the year and the process usually took only a few minutes. But yesterday, they were detained for a long time because one of the group's counselors brought his six-month-old baby with him. The baby does not need an entry permit, but his presence meant the number of permits did not correspond with the number of people.

By the time they were allowed to pass, it was too late to make it to the screening on time, so they returned home.

"Galacticus," the movie they made together with children from Kibbutz Harel, describes what happens when the two communities' children are about to meet for a soccer game that they will play in mixed groups. Yoav, the kibbutz team's captain, does not want to play with the Umm al-Hir children. And Nimer, the captain of the rival team, is forbidden by his father to play soccer because the practices interfere with his schoolwork.

"It was supposed to be a moving moment for the children, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said director Sivan Stavi. "It was missed because of nonsense and it's a pity. The children are terribly broken up about it."

Mifalot spokesman Ran Aharan said, "We're a social organization, not a political one. This is a beautiful project, an opportunity to work together. We'll see to it that the children from Kibbutz Harel come to a screening in Umm al-Hir in the coming weeks."

The Israel Defense Forces commented that the reporter had "chosen to distort the events and write a report based on inaccuracies. The group's passage was approved, except for the two-year-old baby who was accompanied by a woman who did not have any papers proving any connection between the two. For fear the woman was not the baby's mother and that this was an attempt to smuggle children, the baby's passage was forbidden. After a swift examination ... the decision was revoked in about 10 minutes, but the group had already left the checkpoint in protest."


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