The Other Son (film & discussion) – 3/19

Saratoga Jewish Community Arts presents the French film The Other Son or Le fils de l’autre with concept and direction by Noam Fitoussi, Lorraine Levy and Nathalie Saugeon

The idea of infants switched at birth, each growing up as somebody else, is an old and potent one in literature.  The possibility of such a mix-up happening in real life evokes both fascination and horror and raises stark, primal questions of identity. Is who you are determined by the genetic fingerprints of your biological inheritance or by the influence of your environment?

Two babies are born at about the same time in an Israeli hospital. One is Israeli. The other is Palestinian.  They’re evacuated during a missile attack, accidentally switched and raised by each other’s families for the next eighteen years. The film centers on  eighteen year old Joseph Silberg who is about to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. During routine tests his family discovers his blood type is different from theirs. Through further testing the family learns that Joseph is not their biological son.

What difference did the switch make, really? In superficial ways, the two boys aren’t so different: they both “look” Jewish or Arab, take your choice. The young men’s households are virtual mirror images of each other.  Each grew up in a relatively stable family and both intelligent and educated.

While alternatively fearful and hopeful, mixed emotions become entangled, compounded by a profound cultural divide. How do they now feel about themselves? “Am I still Jewish? “ The Rabbi tells Joseph that he was one of his best students; however, his mother is not Jewish but he can convert. What about Yacine the eighteen year old growing up in a Palestinian family? Is he now Jewish? Technically, yes.

Their fathers are quiet, solitary men, neither one quite able to deal with the revelations about their sons.  The mothers, in contrast, find ways to express their pain and confusion and capacity to love both of the children they now share. Yet it is the coming together of the “brothers” that offers a ray of hope that in time this festering conundrum may be resolved.

The world continues to struggle to understand the constant schism between Palestine and Israel and the permutations of that unsettled hot fire whose coals continue to smolder between aggressive flares.  “This film about the resolution of conflict, at least on the family level, provides some insights that at least for the moment offer a better understanding of a very long struggle” says Phyllis Wang, Jewish Community Arts Coordinator.  “However, power, politics, despair and lack of economic opportunity may keep this schism alive for too many more generations.” Please join us at Temple Sinai, Saratoga Springs on Sunday March 19 at 7 p.m. for this moving film, panel discussion and dessert reception. $5 donation requested. For reservations or information please call 518 584 8730 option 2.