I’d been to the West Bank – over 30 years ago, yikes! – as a volunteer teaching English to Palestinian students in Bethlehem. Remember being terrified of teaching for the first time, making up the rules of English grammar as I went along (was teaching trainee teachers, who were mostly kind, but sometimes justifiably sceptical). First time back, apart from a quick visit to Jerusalem. Seemed more crowded – less open land – which probably makes sense – since the Palestinian population has increased, and there are vastly more settlements now – several hundred thousand settlers.
Was filming there for the UN – usual problem – trying to find a character we could hang a story around. I’d been told Murad was interesting – been in jail for 2 years for protesting against the settlement near his village (Tqoa). But when I first saw him, amongst a group of animated young Palestinians (the UN is supporting a youth/democracy project there) I thought, ‘no, ain’t going to work.’ He seemed quiet, maybe shy. Not the talkative type. Wouldn’t work.
But then a slow smile on Murad’s face as they talked about his exploits – in this case, at his most recent protest, he had willingly faced being dragged around by Israeli soldiers. I like the way males here can be playfully physical with each other – a lot of touching, a kind of stroke/push thing with the hand on the head – a lot of it with Murad. Clearly the character. A bit like the lion, slow to rouse, a slow smile – but held in respect – as well as affection.