Girls tell it like it is in My So-Called Enemy

As I watched “My So-Called Enemy,” a documentary that follows six Israeli and Palestinian teenage girls from a peace-building workshop in New Jersey in 2002 and back to the Middle East several years later, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable at times. The Palestinian young women refer to their Israeli counterparts exclusively as “Jews;” Hanin, a Palestinian Muslim, tells Gal, an Israeli Jew, that she should go back to Iran where her parents were born; Inas, a Palestinian Christian, tearfully tells the camera her father died of a heart condition when ambulances were prevented from entering their village during a lockdown.

Lisa Gossels’ film follows six teenage girls who attend a peace-building workshop in the U.S. and then return to their homes in Israel and the Palestinian territories. photo/lisa gossels

But I also felt a more general sense of awkwardness, that strange frenetic energy invariably emitted whenever teenage girls come together for the first time — though in this case a lot more was at stake in the us vs. them dynamic. But the beauty of this film is not simply that it looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new way, it’s that it shows how the particularly vulnerable demographic of teenage girls attempts to deal with and understand the “enemy” — in this case, other teenage girls.

Sitting in director Lisa Gossels’s apartment a few days after watching the film, I told her about my discomfort — and she didn’t seem surprised. The point of the film is to highlight the voices not heard in the news and show the viewer “the realities of life on the ground,” she explained.

Gossels, a New York-based filmmaker who attended the Building Bridges for Peace program in 2002 — a particularly devastating year in Israel — said she was struck by the absence of any semblance of political correctness in the room of 22 girls ages 16 to 19. That they were so brutally honest with each other, she explained, created a depth of communication and allowed for intense, productive discussions. It also makes for a vivid viewing experience, where raw emotions — exhausting frustration, very real anger, and desperate hope —punctuate the budding friendships between the girls.

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JCC screening to foster interfaith dialogue

“My So-Called Enemy” will be shown 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 at the Osher Marin JCC, concluding its “Salaam, Shalom: Speaking of Peace” series.

Filmmaker Lisa Gossels will be present for a discussion following the screening. She will also attend a teen pizza party at 5:15 p.m. and after-dinner talk on stereotyping.

The free series is sponsored by a number of Marin faith organizations, and aims to promote dialogue and understanding among and between faith communities.

The film will be shown in the Hoytt theater at the JCC, 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. To attend the pizza party, RSVP by Monday, April 8: Call (415) 444-8080 or email