Igal Hecht: A Q&A with the Filmaker

By Alina Olshenitsky

 

FineCut: What inspired you to create this film?
Hecht: What got me psyched about this film is the paradoxes in it: Muslim refugees escaping genocide who are entering a state they’ve always considered an enemy state.
Once there, the Israeli people actually help them, Israeli families take them in.
Here you have a small nation who’s taking a step forward by reaching out and helping. Unlike every other Muslim nation who’s treated them with abuse, Israeli NGOs are feeding them, clothing them, finding them jobs. In Egypt, refugees from Darfur are being murdered every day and nobody is allowed to go in there. There are unconfirmed reports about women being kidnapped, body parts being harvested. As an Israeli-Canadian, I wanted to show to the world, and specifically Canadians, what Israel is doing
about this matter. People say that in Israel these refugees are being placed in detention centres – but at least they get fed three times a day. Most of them are working in
Israel now, making a living, getting Israeli residency.

 

FC: What is the message you are trying to deliver
in this film?
H: It’s very straightforward. Thirteen years have passed since Rwanda. Seventy years since the Holocaust. The fact that the world is allowing genocide to happen again is disgusting. We are completely avoiding Africa and the wars taking place inside that continent. There’s war going on in the Ivory Coast, Eritrea, southern Sudan,
and nobody cares.

 

FC: In your opinion, why don’t we care?
H: It’s simple. We’re racist. We don’t care because they’re black. Why didn’t anyone care about Rwanda? We are living in affluent lifestyles and don’t care about what happens in the rest of the world. We just really don’t care. Some of the people from
the villages who are trying to cross the Egyptian border at night, the Egyptians kill them, jail them, beat them. Families get ripped apart at the border between Egypt and Israel. We care more about fucking Britney Spears than 2,000 kids being murdered.

 

FC: What are some of the social issues the film is dealing with?
H: The film portrays many issues to a backdrop of a religious-ethnic conflict. We have Muslim refugees receiving shelter in a Jewish state. November 2, 2007 was a really memorable date in Israel because this was the day when refugees from Darfur were allowed to protest and voice their needs just like any other Israeli citizen. This is phenomenal. Overnight, these people turned from captives to free men in a state that’s known as a Satan, a demon, in the Arab-dominated Middle East.

 

FC: During the film, the camera follows a Sudanese man in the Jerusalem market, as he unveils his life story in front of the camera. Tell us about this man.
H: We followed this man while shooting, as he was telling us about his feeling as a free man in the Jerusalem market. In the Egyptian market, he used to get beaten. Here, he’s walking freely. No one is touching him. As he tells this story, he gets really overwhelmed and cries. He kneels by Mary’s grave, kissing the grave. A few months later, he tells us
that his child is born in Jerusalem.

 

FC: Given the topics you discuss in your films you must face quite a bit of criticism. Who are some of your critics and what do they say about your work?
H: It varies depending on the film. In the past I have been criticized for having my own point of view in some of my films. I don’t see that as being something wrong. I make documentaries where I offer all sides a say and at the same time present my own point of view. I make no apologies for having an opinion, at the same time I don’t “Michael
Moore” a film. I don’t push my position down someone’s throat.

 

FC: Finally, could you explain why you chose Shield of Solomon as the title?
H: Yasin, the primary character in the movie, was walking around in Tel Aviv while we were filming and had a Star of David necklace around his neck. In his country, he said, this symbol means protection, and ‘Chatam Solomon’ means King Solomon.

 

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