Umbilically-connected. After many years of marriage, I have slowly seen that Meg’s soul is bound up with the souls of her children. It cannot be otherwise, and while it is always wonderfully and sometimes painfully complex, it is the way it ought to be.
I thought of this while watching the film, “The Other Son,” set amidst the ages-long conflict between Jew and Arab, “blood brothers” as they are, in Elias Chacour’s insightful image. Just released here last week, the story is a tenderly truthful account of two families, one in Tel Aviv and one in the West Bank, whose hopes and histories are inextricably twined together.
You can read reviews for yourself, so the plot is not a surprise. The two mothers gave birth in the same hospital 18 years earlier, in a scud attack during the Desert Storm War. In the confusion of care, their infant sons were switched, the Jewish son given to the Palestinian family, the Palestinian son given to the Jewish family. And years pass, long loves develop, and the deepest possible bonds form. Of course this is the drama, and the tension, of the story.
While the issue of land and people is necessarily political, the film is not politicized. No points are scored for one people over another. If it has a message, it is simply that Jew and Arab are human beings first, and their lives—past, present, and future –are inseparable. Knowing that, what will we do?
We were sitting beside our good friends and neighbors, Judi and Todd Deatherage. Given their lives and loves, seeing the film together was poignant. Todd had just returned from more than two weeks in the Middle East on behalf of the Telos Group, on whose board I sit. They offer “uncommon experiences for the common good,” principally for Americans who want to understand what they do not understand.
Long a chief of staff on Capitol Hill and in the State Department, Todd’s own history in Israel has convinced him that most people in the U.S. simply do not realize the reality of life on-the-ground, and that has tragic consequences. He has spent so much time over so many years, walking through the streets of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and Ramallah and Hebron, that those who live there have become his dear friends, Jew and Arab alike. That most of us assume we must choose one over the other is a short-term geo-political fiction. Both peoples have histories, both peoples have hopes, and both peoples have to be taken seriously—if justice is to be done, if mercy is to be loved. And yes, if we are to walk humbly with God.
In the strange grace of “The Other Son,” this reality is played out. The mothers were umbillically-connected to both sons, tearfully so. How could it not be? And if we have eyes that see, will see that– perhaps with our own tears.