My Terrorist

As the never ending cycle of violence and retribution tear apart the minds and bodies of Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli filmmaker Yulie Cohen Gerstel's personal video essay comes as a small but welcome ray of hope. Gerstel was an El Al flight attendant in August, 1978, when a terrorist attack outside a London hotel changed her life forever. Fahad Mihyi,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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As the never ending cycle of violence and retribution tear apart the minds and bodies of Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli filmmaker Yulie Cohen Gerstel's personal video essay comes as a small but welcome ray of hope. Gerstel was an El Al flight attendant in August, 1978, when a terrorist attack outside a London hotel changed her life forever. Fahad Mihyi, a gunman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and an accomplice opened fire on the airline crew as they entered the Europa Hotel; Gerstel and two other crewmembers were wounded; a fourth, a fellow flight attendant, was killed. The shrapnel embedded in Gerstel's arm was removed, but the psychological damage took far longer to heal. Twenty-two years later, while then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat were finally meeting face-to-face at Camp David, Gerstel felt it was time for a peace process of her own. After tracking Mihyi's whereabouts to England's Dartmoor Prison, Gerstel wrote her would-be assassin a short letter, asking him where he was born and why he joined the PFLP. Mihyi's response was filled with regrets and pleas for forgiveness, and while he wouldn't directly address his past as a terrorist, he assured Gerstel that he had changed. Further correspondence led to a visit then, amazingly, to Gerstel's decision to lobby for Mihyi's release. Finding him a lonely, rueful man without friends or family, Gerstel felt that for the sake of her daughters and their futures, she needed to break the cycle of violence through a personal act of forgiveness. Her decision angered many of her fellow Israelis — the film opens with Gerstel's emotional appearance on an Israeli talk-show with the family of the slain flight attendant — and she had her own doubts after the events of 9/11 put Mihyi's past actions in a new light. Rounded out with an autobiographical sketch that reflects Gerstel's own growing understanding of the plight of the Palestinians, this modest film delivers a simple but powerful message: Regardless of inexorable violent outbreaks, precarious peace processes that collapse and road maps that loop back on themselves, the real work of creating a lasting peace must be done on an personal level, one individual at a time. (In English and Hebrew with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: As the never ending cycle of violence and retribution tear apart the minds and bodies of Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli filmmaker Yulie Cohen Gerstel's personal video essay comes as a small but welcome ray of hope. Gerstel was an El Al flight attendant… (more)
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