Emotions stir in Jerusalem as HBO’s ‘Our Boys’ hits local airwaves

The mother of the murdered Mohammed Abu Khdeir watches the show. (Reuters)
Updated 20 August 2019

Emotions stir in Jerusalem as HBO’s ‘Our Boys’ hits local airwaves

  • The deaths of the four youths spiraled into a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza

JERUSALEM: A new HBO series on the killing of a Palestinian youth after three Israeli teens were murdered in a deadly summer five years ago is stirring up painful memories for bereaved families on both sides of the conflict.

“Our Boys,” which premiered in Israel and the US last week, centers on Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian who was abducted near his East Jerusalem home and burned to death by three Israelis, two of them also teenagers, in July 2014.

“I wish I could reach into the screen and grab hold of my son,” Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha, told Reuters, her voice breaking, soon after watching the first two episodes of the series, a co-production of HBO and Israel’s Keshet International and produced by Movie Plus.

“The show brought me right back to the pain, to the day he was kidnapped,” she said.

Prosecutors said Abu Khdeir’s convicted killers were avenging the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens — Naftali Frankel, Gilad Sha’er and Eyal Yifrach — in the occupied West Bank two weeks earlier by members of Hamas.

The deaths of the four youths spiraled into a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

HBO’s 10-episode dramatization dissects Israel’s internal investigation into the three ultra-Orthodox Jews eventually convicted of Abu Khdeir’s murder and the frantic initial days after his parents learned of his disappearance and death.

The Hebrew- and Arabic-language series was written, directed and produced by two Jewish Israelis and an Arab Israeli, who mix documentary footage with live production to delve into the micro details they say drive the conflict.

“We live in an extremely nuanced world where wars erupt because of tiny things,” co-director Joseph Cedar, 50, said in an interview alongside collaborators Hagai Levi and Tawfik Abu Wael. “We tried to peel back the layers of this hate crime,” he said.

But some bereaved Israeli families have said the show largely glosses over the murder of the three Israeli teens, who are referenced throughout the series but not included as characters.

Two Hamas suspects in the murders were killed in a 2014 shootout and in 2015 an Israeli court sentenced a third Hamas member to three life terms for the teens’ abduction and murder.

Levi said the creators felt they had portrayed the context of Abu Khdeir’s killing. “But the crime is the story,” he said.


From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 54 min 8 sec ago

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.