The Milk Seller–Dispossession and Tourism in Silwan, East Jerusalem

The Milk Seller, Dispossession and Tourism in Silwan, East Jerusalem A project of Art Forces and Palestine Film Club Issa in Arabic or Jesus in Latin is the last goatherd in Jerusalem. Issa’s family has herded goats in Jerusalem for 900 years while living on the same plot of land in Silwan, East Jerusalem. We see Issa milking his goats every day, preserving traditions and maintaining his primary source of income. At the same time, we see how the Israeli Occupation brutally milks Silwan of its resources of land, space, and sovereignty. Issa (36) starts his day early, milking his goats with his son Ezz (14). While accompanying Issa throughout the day as he delivers fresh milk, we dive into this complex city where parallel realities are layered one atop the other, and where one reality has significant military and political might over the other. A tunnel system lies just beneath the surface of Silwan, East Jerusalem–-a densely populated, urban Palestinian municipality located just outside the old city walls. Israel and its tourist industry have renamed Silwan “City of David National Park”. Tunnels steer one million tourists a year between points of interest, including active archeological digs that exclusively search for evidence of King David’s Old Testament reign–ignoring or destroying evidence of many other cultures. This controversial reading of archeology supports the illusion that Jerusalem has an exclusively Jewish history that entitles Jewish sovereignty to the city. Funneled underground, tourists don’t know that Silwan’s Palestinian residents exist or that dispossession occurs on the streets above. The Israeli Supreme Court has backed demolition orders for 75% of Palestinians in Silwan, and hundreds have already been displaced while the Jewish settler population increases. Silwan citizens, including children as young as 5, are frequently arrested and detained. Silwan organizers and the Palestinian hip hop group DAM have launched a chilling documentary about child arrests. Called “Room #4”, it is named after an interrogation room in the Israeli police station because the police tell the incarcerated children that while they have entered on two legs–-they will crawl out on four. The Milk Seller tells Silwan’s story in diverse ways, including using unique metaphors to translate the social map experimentally. These include an international solidarity public art project consisting of massive murals of eyes installed on the hillsides of Silwan. The eyes, of those well-known and not, look the Occupation in the eye from miles away. The film uses perhaps unexpected humor to break standards of representation of the Palestinians’ brutal struggle on the ground. The Director/Producer has worked in Palestine since 1989 and specifically, for the past three years, in Silwan, on aspects of the current project. Co-Director, cinematographer, and editors are born and raised in East Jerusalem.

Art Forces