Since the time of Ishmael and Isaac, Palestinians and Jews have never gotten along. So it was in 1982 in the small Arab village of Tira, Israel, which is the setting for the film “A Borrowed Identity.” The Palestinians in Tira are Israeli citizens, but are looked down upon as second-class citizens. The original title, when the film played in Israel, was “Dancing Arabs,” adapted from the book of the same name, written by Sayed Kashua.
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
A young Arab boy, Eyad, was an extremely bright student at a Jewish school. When asked by his teacher what his father did for a living, Eyad proudly proclaimed that his father was a terrorist. His teacher corrected him, saying that his father was a fruit picker. This was true although Eyad’s father was a very bright man. As a college student, he had become involved in Palestinian politics, and was forced to leave school. Because he spent some time in prison, he was able to get work only as a fruit picker.
Eyad is Accepted at a Prestigious School
When Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) was a teenager, he was accepted at a prestigious Jewish high school in Jerusalem, the Israel Arts and Sciences Academy, which made his father very proud. He had to leave home to do it, but his father told him that it was the best way to insure a successful future. Before he left, his grandmother, with whom he was very close, told him her burial preferences and the shroud that she wanted to be buried in. She wanted Eyad to make the arrangements.
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Hostility towards Eyad
At his new school, Eyad was bullied for the way he dressed and spoke. He was forced to listen to anti-Muslim songs being sung by the Israeli students. Other students constantly mispronounced his name. Arabs do not enunciate the letter P correctly; they say “Balestine or Barliament.” In one scene, Eyad practiced before a mirror, holding a tissue and blowing into it as he pronounced “Parliament.” He accepted his bullying without murmur. He was often stopped by Israeli policemen and asked to produce his ID.
Eyad Makes New Friends
A young Jewish girl, Naomi (Daniel Kitsis) became interested in Eyad, which made his life a lot easier. Eyad was also charged with doing community service at the school. He was given the responsibility of caring for a boy in a wheelchair, Yonatan (Michael Moshonov), by wheeling him to his classes. Yonatan suffered from multiple sclerosis. At first, he acted sarcastically to Eyad, but Eyad learned that it was just Yonatan’s sense of humor. They became steadfast friends when they learned that they had the same musical taste.
Eyad Leaves School and Gets a Job
Eyad and Naomi declared their love for each other, but they realized that it might be difficult hiding it from her parents who would be against a match between her and an Arab boy. When Eyad visited Naomi’s house, he said he was Yonatan, whom they recognized as one of Naomi’s friends. Naomi finally realized that she could not deceive her parents any longer and told them of her love for Eyad. Her parents threatened to take her out of school unless she stopped seeing Eyad. Eyad decided to leave school instead of Naomi, which he did. He was able to finish his studies externally and was able to get a job in a restaurant, but could only wash dishes. Eyad’s father was highly disappointed in Eyad’s decision to quit school.
Map of Israel
Eyad uses Yonatan’s ID Card
When Eyad realized that only Jewish applicants could become waiters, he was able to use Yonatan’s ID card to get a job as a waiter. He and Yonatan looked very much alike. He and Naomi were able to see each other secretly, and his life was going well. There are some graphic scenes of nudity which may or may not be offensive to viewers. Eyad realized that his life would be far less complicated if he pretended to be Jewish. With money coming in, Eyad realized the need for a bank account, which was impossible to obtain if you were an Arab. Once again, he used Yonatan’s ID card to obtain a bank account. When mail from the bank arrived at Edna’s house, in Yonatan’s name, Edna did not chastise Eyad, but understood his need.
Yonatan’s Condition Worsens
Yonatan’s multiple sclerosis started to worsen and he had to drop out of school. His mother Edna had full care of him at home, and asked Eyad to come live with them to help her to care for Yonatan. Eyad agreed. He noticed the beautiful relationship that Edna and Yonatan had, and was happy to make her life a bit easier.
Because of his close resemblance to Yonatan, Eyad sat for Yonatan’s final exams at school, and was not discovered. Yonatan obtained all A’s which made his mother happy. His condition became worse and he was forced to go back to the hospital. Eyad came to see Yonatan every day and brought him their favorite music which he could listen to with earphones. Edna became fond of Eyad and was grateful for his attention to her son.
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A New Identity
Yonatan passed away in the hospital, and Edna asked Eyad to make Yonatan’s funeral arrangements as he had done for his grandmother. When he had to give the funeral director the dead person’s ID card, Eyad gave the man his own. The funeral director noticed the resemblance between Eyad and the person’s picture on the ID card. Eyad said it was his brother. The last scenes show Eyad and Edna as the only persons in the funeral cortege, except for the pallbearers who were cemetery employees. Edna and Eyad were arm in arm, indicating that their future relationship was secure. She had lost a son, and was gaining a son.
There was no indication that Eyad and Naomi would be together, except that her parents were introduced to him as Yonatan, and would undoubtedly except him as a Jewish boyfriend. It is a very sad story, but shows the depth of hostility which exists between the two ethnic groups who had nevertheless shared the same cultural background for over two thousand years. Their intense feelings were carried down by word of mouth from parents through the generations.
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