MESA hosts Palestinian film night

Muhlenberg’s Middle Eastern Student Association held a movie screening of “Operation Bethlehem.”

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Leila Sansour's film "Operation (Open) Bethlehem" screens at the Palestinian Film Festival. Photo by Shajnin Howlader '27.

On Feb. 2 the Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) hosted a Palestinian movie night along with serving food from local Allentown Halal restaurant Crispy Spice at the Red Doors. MESA is a new student group that was approved by SGA in the fall 2023 semester. The film they screened was “Operation (Open) Bethlehem” which is a documentary in which Director Leila Sansour combines archival footage of the city of Bethlehem in Palestine along with her own personal video journal to document the building of an illegal wall dividing Palestinian and Israeli areas. Sansour’s original goal was to make a film about her childhood city, but she ended up staying to honor the memories of her late father who founded Bethlehem University. Eventually, she realized that she must shed light on the plight of her city. 

Lujane Alkhmos ‘27, secretary of MESA summarized the film, saying, “[it’s] a documentary film about Leila Sansour returning to her hometown, Bethlehem, Palestine, soon to be enclosed by a wall. As she documents her journey throughout the city, Leila decides to begin a campaign to save her city through themes of identity and unity. Sansour hopes to keep her city’s spirit alive and open the world’s eyes to the beauty of her hometown. Through interviews with politicians, activists and Palestinian citizens, Sansour sheds light on the hardships of everyday life under Israeli occupation, while also highlighting the resistance and resilience of the Palestinian people.” 

Alkhmos mentioned why it’s important to highlight the voices of Palestine at this time. She said “Palestinians have been occupied for decades and have long been dehumanized by the rest of the world. Because of how long the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians has been going on, people have become desensitized to the current genocide in Gaza unfolding right in front of our eyes. The Palestinian people have been crying out to the world for ages and continued to be ignored, but now that Gaza is finally in the news headlines, it is important to shed light on Palestinian voices now more than ever. Giving a voice to the people who have lived through oppression and apartheid their entire lives is absolutely critical. There is nobody who can better speak on and advocate for Palestine better than the Palestinian people themselves.” 

MESA has lots of plans for the upcoming semester. They are currently planning a jewelry fundraiser to raise money for Palestine. They are also preparing for general meetings to teach dabke, which is a traditional Middle Eastern folk circle and line dance and intend on throwing a big, campus-wide event. Make sure to check out their Instagram @bergmesa to stay updated with future events. 

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