Ayat Al-Akhras was a 17-year-old living in a Palestinian refugee camp. She was beautiful, an A student, and already engaged to be married.
Rachel Levy was a 17-year-old Israeli living in Jerusalem. She was striking, free spirited, and a loving daughter and sister.
On March 29, 2002, Rachel’s mother asked her to go to a local supermarket to pick up ingredients for Sabbath dinner. While Rachel was in the store, Ayat entered the building and detonated a purse full of explosives, killing herself, a security guard and Rachel. The two girls looked so remarkably alike that pathologists had difficulty correctly reassembling their remains. When Newsweek magazine placed their pictures side by side on its cover, many readers suddenly perceived the conflict in the Middle East less as an abstract issue of politics and more as a human tragedy of needlessly wasted lives.
Hilla Medalia is a talented young Israeli filmmaker who was completing her master’s degree in the United States at the time of the bombing. Almost immediately after the incident, she began work on a documentary about Rachel and Ayat and their families. A short student film (Daughters of Abraham
) eventually blossomed into To Die in Jerusalem
, a heart-rending and thought-provoking feature currently airing on HBO
, screening at film festivals
and available online
. The film focuses on the mothers of the two girls and climaxes with an emotionally charged meeting between them—via satellite, even though they only live a few miles apart.
To Die in Jerusalem
is a film about an ancient and enduring conflict embodied by two heart-broken mothers and two lives cut tragically short. It leaves viewers moved and frustrated and anxious for change. Christianity Today Movies
recently give me an opportunity to speak with Medalia about her five-year quest to tell a devastating and important story. You can read the full interview here