Bedouin filmmaker mourns soldier brother killed in Gaza combat as movie premieres

Kaid Abu Latif’s youngest sibling Ahmad fell while serving in the IDF weeks prior to film festival in their hometown Rahat

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Kaid Abu Latif (far right) with his youngest brother, Ahmad Abu Latif and their mother, Mansoura Abu Latif, before Ahmad was killed in Gaza on January 22, 2024 during combat as a reservist (Courtesy)
Kaid Abu Latif (far right) with his youngest brother, Ahmad Abu Latif and their mother, Mansoura Abu Latif, before Ahmad was killed in Gaza on January 22, 2024 during combat as a reservist (Courtesy)

When Kaid Abu Latif’s film “Bedouin Dream” is screened at the 2024 Rahat Film Festival, February 10-17, he will mark its premiere while mourning his brother, Sgt. First Class (res.) Ahmad Abu Latif, a Bedouin IDF reservist soldier killed on January 22 while serving in Gaza.

Abu Latif’s film is about Rahat, marking the 50th year of the largest Bedouin city and the place where he and his 10 siblings were born, raised, and still live.

“We’re not celebrating, we’re marking the date,” said Abu Latif. “We also don’t have the luxury of sitting and mourning, we have to continue our communal life.”

Abu Latif’s film is based on archives of Bedouin life in Israel that he’s been collecting for years, including from Oxford University, creating a journey through the city’s timeline and history.

The festival, now in its second year, will see the screening of some 20 Mediterranean Basin and Middle Eastern films at the Rahat Cultural Palace, as well as panel discussions and talks, including one with renowned film director Avi Nesher and Arab Israeli actor Ala Dakka about their film “Victory Picture,” another with director Shlomi Elkabetz and others with local luminaries. All tickets cost only NIS 10 (around $2.70).

Abu Latif’s “Bedouin Dream” is being screened on Saturday, February 17.

From Kaid Abu Latif’s 2023 film, ‘Bedouin Dream,’ premiering at the 2024 Rahat Film Festival on February 17, 2024 (Courtesy)

“Bedouin society suffered terrible blows on October 7,” said Abu Latif. “It’s a difficult war that didn’t distinguish between Arabs and Jews.”

Twenty-one Bedouins were killed in Hamas’s attack, some while working on the farms of the communities that were attacked. Another six were taken hostage; two were released at the end of November, and one, Samer al-Talalka, was one of three hostages accidentally killed by IDF gunfire while trying to escape.

Many of the Bedouin victims of the attack were from the city of Rahat.

A composite image of the four members of the Bedouin Ziyadne family — a father and three children — from near Rahat, in southern Israel, who were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, 2023, and taken to Gaza as hostages. From top left, clockwise: Aisha (17), Youssef (53), Bilal (18), and Hamza (23) (courtesy)

“This war [hit] the Arab community. We’re suffering from abductions, from the war, we lost friends on October 7,” said Abu Latif.

When his youngest brother Ahmad, 26, was called up for the reserves, “he didn’t think twice,” said Abu Latif, “because it was very clear to him that the war is against an organization that didn’t differentiate between Jews and Arabs.

“He said, ‘Yes, I’ll be there,'” said Abu Latif.

Ahmad Abu Latif was the youngest of Kaid Abu Latif’s 10 siblings — he is the oldest in the family, with nearly 20 years between the two.

“It’s like losing a son for me,” said Abu Latif, who lives near his entire family in Rahat. “We all live near our parents.”

His brother, who was part of HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, an Israeli youth group that has significant participation from the Bedouin community, felt strongly about his role in Israeli society as a young Bedouin man.

Ahmad Abu Latif, a reserve Bedouin soldier killed in combat in Gaza on January 22, 2024, with his baby daughter, Mansoura (Courtesy)

Before being called up to the reserves, Ahmad wrote a Facebook post in which he expressed pride in having served in the IDF as a fighter in the so-called Bedouin patrol unit, officially the Desert Patrol Unit.

He wrote about the army enabling him to connect with all parts of Israeli society, by inviting his friends to partake in Bedouin feasts or playing Israeli music together at nearby Kibbutz Shoval and singing songs by Israeli rocker Yehudit Ravitz.

Abu Latif was one of the 21 Israeli soldiers killed in the deadliest single incident since the ongoing Gaza ground operation began, when a group of reservists came under RPG attack in the southern Gaza Strip, which triggered a blast that collapsed two buildings with the soldiers inside them.

He worked as a security guard at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and was married and the father of a one-year-old girl, Mansoura.

Mourning him has only begun, his brother said.

“It’s little by little, I’m like a baby that’s starting to learn how to walk,” he said.

Ahmad Abu Latif, a reserve Bedouin soldier killed in combat in Gaza on January 22, 2024 (Courtesy)

As the Abu Latif family mourned Ahmad, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited them, which was a surprise.

“A prime minister who’s running a war doesn’t have time for us, but he honored the family and Ahmad’s memory,” said Abu Latif.

Abu Latif believes in Rahat’s ability to bring different parts of Israeli society together, where some 5,000 Jewish Israelis come to work every day at schools, industry and the community.

Like other Rahat natives, Abu Latif took part in Rahat’s “war room” when war broke out, a volunteer effort run by Bedouin and Jewish Israelis to bring aid to the Rahat community, offering psychological help, donations and bereavement support.

“People came from all over and they wanted to be here,” he said. “Now I hope they come for the film festival, too.”

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