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The blending and confluence of identities is the quintessential story of the modern world. It is also the quintessential story of the Jews. Modern citizens of the world for whom geographic boundaries are meaningless will relate to this film, which has a universal appeal. A primary target audience would be Jews in the diaspora and also Lebanese people as well. However, Return to the Valley of the Jews is about the search for personal identity and a homeland. No external forces can come in the way of personal and collective identity formation. The Jews depicted in this film have strong national identities and call themselves Lebanese. Things did change after the 1967 wars, when Arabs started to persecute Jews even in areas once characterized by peace and tolerance like the Wadi. Ironically, Lebanon tore itself apart, in a civil war pitting Muslims against Christians. Jews were in the crossfire, showing that the tensions in the Middle East are not between Arab and Jew. They are unnecessary tensions, but have almost nothing at all to do with religion or even the creation of Israel. This film corrects a lot of misinformation about the root causes of problems in the Middle East, and shows how propaganda and politics can create animosity.
Return to the Valley of the Jews is about destruction and rebirth, too. There is hope for the future even though there is much despair permeating the film. Lebanon is a good case study for paving the way toward tolerance and respect. The government of Lebanon has been relatively tolerant and has enabled the reconstruction of the synagogue at the heart of this film. Returning to the "valley of the Jews" is a spiritual metaphor. The people depicted in the film maintain their community identity whether or not they are in Lebanon. Language and a shared nostalgia for the geographic beauty and history of Lebanon are their social and cultural glue. Religion is not as central as people think, and this film is necessary in dispelling the myth that religion is a source of trouble in the Middle East. Land and civil rights are central issues, but not religion. Furthermore, Lebanon needs to be seen on its own rather than being lumped in with other Arab nations. Israel has had ambivalent relations with Lebanon. Not as friendly as Jordan, but friendlier than other nations, Lebanon may come to play a critical role in the development and evolution fo future peace processes in the Middle East.
It may be idealistic to believe that films can change the world. In this case, the film may at least shed light on a critical issue. The film may open hearts and change minds. It might help viewers reconnect with their own cultural roots, and help people to see that all the people of the world seek belonging within a community. That community may be defined by nationality or geography, language or religion. What matters most is that love and compassion define social relations.