MUHI IS A YOUNG Palestinian boy who has had all his limbs amputated due to an auto-immune disease and can only get the treatment he needs at an Israeli hospital.
Muhi has lived so long in the hospital that he speaks Hebrew and knows more about Jewish culture than Muslim. In addition, his parents have trouble getting permission to visit him. But as the film opens, Muhi and his grandfather, Abu Naim, are unable to leave the hospital because the Israeli government won’t give either of them a permit (although Abu Naim is later granted a permit after much lobbying by an Israeli volunteer) .
This heartrending documentary, Muhi – Generally Temporary, was shown in a special screening on Thursday night at Bankstown, in Sydney’s western suburbs.
The screening was organised by Dr Jamal Rifi, a prominent Muslim community leader and member of Project Rozana, an Australian initiative that seeks to “build bridges to better understanding between Israel and her neighbours through health”.
After the screening, which was attended by the Mayor of Canterbury Bankstown, Khal Asfour, the founder of Project Rozana, Melbourne businessman Ron Finkel, and members of Sydney’s Muslim community, Dr Rifi led a discussion about Project Rozana and the confronting issues contained in the film.
Clr Asfour told the audience he was overcome by the multiple dilemmas, including Muhi’s conflicted identity and his parents having to pass three checkpoints to try to visit their son. “And then, after all that, they get denied!”
Dr Rifi explained what he had learned on a recent fact-finding mission to Israel – including the need for full-time interpreters and volunteers to help Palestinian patients and their families navigate the hospital and security systems.
But he added that the message of cooperation between different religious groups was one that should also be applied at home, here in Australia.
Ron Finkel reiterated Dr Rifi’s message. “Project Rozana is not just about helping people ‘over there’. It’s about getting people out of their own little silos in Australia and talking to each other, not being scared of ‘the other’.”
Photo: Dr Rifi speaking at the screening (Michael Visontay)