Directed by Ibtisam Maraana
The Esra Cinema Club showed, as their last movie of 2008, the sad true story of Khitam, a Gaza-born woman married off to an abusive Arab Israeli. After bearing him six children she was thrown out of his house in Rahat, in the south of Israel, without her children and all he had had to do was to say three simple words, "I Divorce You", three times.
Khitam had no legal status as she wasn't an Israeli citizen and so she appealed to the Sharia court (Islamic court) for the return of her children. It was quite heartbreaking when the writer/director Ibtisam Maraana showed Khitam visiting her children at their nursery schools to see how much she loved her little children Unfortunately, their father had poisoned the children's minds by saying she was a 'whore' or she was "dead" so they were bewildered at her sudden appearance. She kept trying to get her children back but her husband was the cousin of the Rahat mayor and had enough influence to have the hearings delayed time after time. One of the lawyers advised her to take what children she could and run as the Sharia court was one-sided, women had practically no rights and the husbands usually won the case. Whether this was a clever move was anybody's guess but she was desperate and finally one day she took two of her sons and ran to the Israeli authorities to find her a safe haven away from her husband's grasp.
She was taken to a women's shelter in Haifa but again the fact she was not an Israeli citizen tied the social workers' hands. After a few days she was told to leave and, having nowhere else to go, went back to her husband who immediately assaulted her with a knife. She found refuge in the local Sheik's house for a few weeks to recuperate from her wounds.
Ibtisam told us that after the film was released some international organizations tried to help her gain Israeli status to help her in her struggle to be reunited with her children. At present she is in a Jerusalem women's shelter with a two-year temporary residency, still fighting through the courts for her rights as a woman and a mother.
Ibtisam is a young gutsy Israeli-Arab woman from a strict Moslem family. She made this film with a deep commitment to telling the harsh reality of what can befall Moslem women when they marry abusive men. It took her seven years to find an abused woman to tell her story. Finally, Khitam agreed hoping that this would help her regain her children.
Sadly, even though we are living in the twenty-first century women like Khitam might as well be living in the middle ages for all the rights she has as a woman and a mother.
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