International Documentary Film Festival: Soldier on the Roof

Imagine living in a city divided by religion – everything is dust-coloured, it’s a blessing for your children to come home from school each day, you seal your windows for safety and privacy, and on every building there’s a soldier on the roof.

Until two nights ago, I never imagined a place like this would still exist – or perhaps even worse, I chose to ignore it. Any ethereal dream-land I was previously floating around in came to an abrupt end when I saw Soldier on the Roof at the International Documentary Film Festival. It was, to say the very least, an insightful and educational 80 minutes into the ancient West Bank city of Hebron.


Hebron is described in songs and books (including the Bible, Quran and Torah) as the holiest place on earth; a city of enlightenment. However after immersing herself in the city for three years with nothing but her handheld camera, the documentary director Esther Hertog gave a much less majestic, and a much more accurate portrayal, of what exactly goes on there. Hertog’s raw depiction of Hebron focusses on a small enclave at the centre of the city’s oldest neighbourhood, where Israeli soldiers are posted on the rooftops to protect the 800 Jewish colonists who live among 120,000 Palestinians.

It is near impossible to accurately articulate the thousands of years of history that have caused the seemingly irreversible damage between the local civilians. But I can say this – the children of Hebron aren’t born with the knowledge of this history, nor are they born with a grudge. It is therefore time that adults pass down lessons of wisdom rather than lessons of war. This is the only way they can ensure the safety of their childrens’ futures. If that’s not reason enough, then I don’t know what can save them.

Soldier on the Roof has won multiple awards, including Best Dutch Documentary IDF Amsterdam 2012.

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