Arab-Israeli city seeks countrywide ban on film about liberal Arabs in Tel Aviv

Umm al-Fahm municipality says ‘In Between,’ about a religious Muslim girl swept up in Israel’s sin city, is ‘propaganda’ and ‘offensive to Islam’

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Image from a scene in the 2016 film 'In Between,' about Arab-Israeli women in Tel Aviv. (Credit: screenshot)
Image from a scene in the 2016 film 'In Between,' about Arab-Israeli women in Tel Aviv. (Credit: screenshot)

Israel’s second-largest Arab city asked the Culture Ministry to ban the screening of a new film about a conservative Muslim woman who gets swept up in the liberal lifestyle of Arabs in Tel Aviv.

On Sunday, the cultural arm of Umm al-Fahm’s city hall wrote a letter to the Culture Ministry, asking that the movie “In Between” — which premiered on January 5 — be removed from all Israeli theaters.

“In Between” (in Arabic “Bar Bahar” and in Hebrew “Lo Po Vi Lo Sham”) tells the story of a young, religious Muslim woman who moves to Israel’s fast-moving coastal city, becoming the roommate of two secular, party-loving Arab women — a criminal defense lawyer originally from Nazareth whose family is secular Muslim, and a DJ from a Christian family.

In the letter to the ministry, the municipality argued the film is “propaganda” that “distorts the traditional, conservative, and religious lifestyle in Arab society.”

It further argued the film “in its essence is offensive, is offensive to the religion of Islam and to the residents of Umm al-Fahm in particular.”

The letter to the municipality was co-signed by the Islamic Council, the most senior Muslim body in Israel.

Umm al-Fahm, a conservative Muslim town where Israel’s Islamic Movement is based, asked its residents to boycott the film in a Facebook message.

The movie, directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, offers a rare glimpse for Israelis into the lives of Arabs in Tel Aviv.

While Umm al-Fahm city hall is not a fan of “In Between,” Hamoud’s film has already garnered a number of international awards, including one at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, three more at the 2016 San Sebastian Film Festival and one at the 2016 Haifa Film Festival.

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