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“While Israel and Palestine are not the only places in the world where people are locked into seemingly intractable conflict, it is unique to this situation that the ramifications are felt worldwide, and at times with the same intensity as for those involved directly in the conflict.”

Laurie White

refusing to be enemies: the zeitouna story is a 58-minute long documentary film that profiles without Hollywood patina a self-formed group of twelve ordinary women calling themselves “Zeitouna,” the Arab word for “olive tree.” These six Arabs and six Jews weave an unusual and intimate tapestry of sisterhood. Some of the women are American-born, others are immigrants; one is a Holocaust survivor, another is a survivor of the Nakbah’s terror; their ages span 40 years. Filmmaker Laurie White is a founding member of Zeitouna. Her camera became an invisible member of this sisterhood, capturing the interior of this sacred space without ever upsetting and altering the fragile process of the group’s awakening. The film does not attempt to answer questions of right and wrong, or how to break the deadlock of the Middle East conflict. Instead it offers living proof of how the journey of personal transformation may pave the way to socio-political transformation and peace. refusing to be enemies was directed and produced by Laurie White, while she remained an authentically active member of Zeitouna throughout the filming. Only after the group had been meeting for two years did she approach them with the idea of the documentary. She was convinced that their model and their story could be a stepping stone for others wanting to bridge terrifying divides. Entrusting White with their story. The Zeitouna sisters allowed the cameras to sit with them through 24 months of meetings. The camera also documented an emotional sojourn to Israel and Palestine that five Zeitouna sisters took together in spring of 2006. White’s immense gratitude to her Zeitouna sisters is twofold–for their mere existence and for the blessing they have bestowed on the work on this film. refusing to be enemies features an original instrumental score by Shaun Williams, co-produced by Laith Alattar, that combines classic Arabic and Jewish Klezmer instruments in a harmonious fusion of melodies as well as two songs written and performed by Laurie White. Questions? See FAQs here.

REFUSING TO BE ENEMIES: The Zeitouna Story (58 min) from Libby and Len Traubman on Vimeo.

“We believe this documentary film  is perhaps the best authentic example of how sustainable peace begins – it models for viewers just  how to be part of that change”

Libby and Len Traubman San Mateo, CA. (Co-founders of the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, founded 1992)

“There is a groundswell in our nation right now for different models to address conflict in the Middle East. This film is coming out at a powerful time. A growing number of Americans believe that military force alone doesn’t offer lasting solutions…and the women of Zeitouna offer a way for people to trade suspicion and fear of others for trust and love”

Pastor Lori Carey, Trinity Lutheran Church, Ann Arbor

“Laurie White has made a profound and moving film about people who have proven peace is possible”

Michael Moore, Director, Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine, Roger and Me, Where to Invade Next, Sicko, Capitalism: A Love Story, Fahrenheit 11/9


opening of Zeitouna movie in Ann Arbor

refusing to be enemies World Premiere was a sell-out community celebration at Ann Arbor’s historic Michigan Theater in March 2007. Since then, word of mouth has prompted interest from all over the country. Screenings have happened as far east as Washington DC, as far west as Rapid City, South Dakota, and in Israel as well. White and some Zeitouna sisters have responded to invitations to appear with screenings at conferences, on college campuses, at museums, at high schools and in numerous community venues.