Occupied Minds is the story of two journalists, Jamal Dajani, a Palestinian-American, and David Michaelis, an Israeli citizen, who journey to Jerusalem, their mutual birthplace, to explore new solutions and offer unique insights into the divisive Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film takes viewers on an emotional and intensely personal odyssey through the streets of one of the world’s most volatile regions.
Dajani and Michaelis grew up in Jerusalem just a few miles apart from one another — but in reality, worlds apart. Both have extensive and complex ties to their homeland. Jamal traces his family history in Jerusalem back to the 7th century, while David was born in Jerusalem to parents who had immigrated from Germany in the 1920s to escape growing anti-Semitism.
In their San Francisco offices, the two men were the only Palestinian-Israeli team working together in American media -- at Link TV, the nation’s leading network dedicated to presenting global news, issues and culture. Michaelis, as Director of Current Affairs, brought the national Link TV audience investigative and other insightful news features. Before co-founding Link TV, he was most recently producer of “Popolitika,” the most popular news program on Israel TV. Dajani, as Director of Middle Eastern Programming, produced the 2005 Peabody Award-winning daily newscast MOSAIC: World News from the Middle East and the weekly Middle East new analysis program, the Mosaic Intelligence Report. MOSAIC features selections from daily TV news programs produced by national broadcasters throughout the Middle East, including, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and Iran, among others. Dajani also produces analytical features on the Middle East and Islam, as well as often appearing as a commentator on those issues for networks.
After four years of collaboration and watching the escalation of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians with increasing alarm, they decided to combine their personal experiences and expertise to examine substantial opportunities for peace in the Middle East.
Far from the safe shores of San Francisco, Dajani and Michaelis explore the possibilities of lasting peace in the Middle East by interviewing leading activists, government officials and civilians on both sides of the conflict. Among the myriad of voices they hear from are: a wanted Palestinian gunman, an Israeli soldier who is breaking the silence about his service in the Occupied Territories, an Israeli surgeon who lost his eyesight in a suicide bombing, an Israeli mother who lost her son in the conflict, and a Palestinian activist who lost her cousin.
One man, a leading gunman for the Palestinian Intifada who lost his mother, brother and friends in the fighting, reflects upon the cumulative effect of daily indignities and suffering: “A person is burned on the inside and his life closes in on him… All he wants to do is explode.” When asked about the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians coexisting peacefully, the blinded Israeli doctor says: “We must differentiate between what is needed and what is real. In reality, we’re not so good.”
As Dajani and Michaelis make their way through the many worlds that make up contemporary Israel and Palestine, they struggle to find lasting solutions to what others believe may be a never-ending conflict.
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In this PBS Frontline interview David Michaelis and Jamal Dajani talk about growing up in Jerusalem and the prospects for peace in their homeland.
Read a review, "A New View of Israeli-Palestinian Prospects," by Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
Read a review, "Journey Beyond Hope and Despair," by Alexandra J. Wall, The Jewish News Weekly staff writer.
Read a review, "Occupied Minds: An Honest Account of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict," by Elaine Pasquini, from The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.
Learn more about the years of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians at PBS - Frontline World's Background Facts and Related Links page.
For more links and reviews, visit Jamal Dajani's Occupied Minds page.