From Wife to Martyr

A distinguished looking man rises from the audience of well-wishers and friends to claim a prestigious award. It recognizes him for his exceptional contributions to surgery and to his country. The country is Israel and the man’s name is Amin Jaafari. In his deft acceptance speech he proudly mentions that in the more than 40 years that Israel has been awarding this coveted prize, this is the first time it has been awarded to an Arab. The next day he is back at work, responding to the needs of people killed and maimed in a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber. Later that night he is awakened by the police who inform him that his wife’s body has been recovered from the bombed restaurant where l7 people had died, including 11 children who were celebrating a birthday. What’s more, the police say, from the pattern of wounds left on her body they suspect that his wife was, in fact, the suicide bomber. This scenario comprises the first few minutes of the Arab-Israeli film The Attack, and from there the film rolls out to become a quiet film noir that would be a credit to Alfred Hitchcock. Nearly paralyzed by disbelief, Jaafari (convincingly played by Ali Suliman) sets out to prove his wife’s innocence by tracing her activities on the last day of her life. The pursuit takes him from his comfortable apartment in Tel Aviv to various sites around Israel, including the Arab village of Nablus where angry Palestinians congregate. He meets a Catholic priest who blandly berates him for not sharing his wife’s convictions—convictions that she felt so strongly about that they were enough to justify her martyrdom. Convictions that her husband was completely unaware of. He meets a Sheik who spits out a vitriolic diatribe against the Jews that hasn’t been voiced since the Third Reich. And Jaafari is left to ponder his own role in the past and future of this troubled country that has allowed him to flourish and prosper, and to confront the fact that there was a whole area of her life that his loving wife had not shared with him. Reymonde Amsellam plays Siham, the wife, with quiet sophistication and sexy charm, and the rest of the Israeli cast is intense and well directed by Ziad Doueiri from a book by Yasmine Khadra. Despite the potentially grim subject matter the story unfolds with dignity, and neither the Arabs nor the Israelis are

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characterized as villains. This appears to be confirmed by the fact that myriad companies and corporations throughout Europe and the Middle East have collaborated on sponsoring this slow-paced but compelling production. The Attack is currently showing at various Laemmle theaters around Los Angeles.

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