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An Invitation to the Movie “Hotline”

This coming Thursday, October 15, screenings of the movie Hotline will begin at the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Sderot Cinemateques. The movie, directed by Silvina Landsman, documents the work of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants activists during 2012.

In this link you can watch an important scene that was left out of the film, like hundreds of other scenes.

The Eritrean Ambassador in Israel, Tesfamariam Tekeste, manages to overcome his astonishment at seeing representatives of human rights organizations (whose existence is forbidden in his homeland) as well as Eritrean asylum-seekers, who’ve been invited to the Israeli Knesset and even expect to be heard there. The Ambassador clarifies to the Knesset committee that the Eritrean citizens in Israel are traitors, that there is still no democracy in Eritrea because his people are not yet ready for it and that Eritrea is just like Israel: a small country surrounded by enemies, which the world media unjustly presents in bad light.

When one of the Israeli MK, Yaakov Katz asks Tesfamariam with an academic interest if the regime in Eritrea is to be considered as Communist or Marxist, Tesfamariam answers, extremely serious: “It is a social justice regime”….
Unlike Tesfamariam, it is clear from the scene that I don’t manage to overcome my astonishment from the fact that a Knesset committee chairperson in Israel provides a stage for the ambassador of the most oppressive dictatorship in Africa without bothering to remind him that he is situated in a democratic country: the chairperson refused to send to Tesfamariam the important open letter by Dr. Tricia Redeker Hapner and ask for his response to the harsh allegations in

the letter about the nature of Eritrea’s repressive regime. The committee’s chairman also prevented the Eritreans who dared join us, to speak in front of the ambassador. I did not give up. After the meeting I gave Tesfamariam Dr. Hepner’s letter and told him that I expected him to address the facts detailed in the letter. Tesfamariam ignored the letter and said, while escaping the room: “Are you the famous Sigalit who agitates Eritreans to come here? I don’t know what you gain from this but you will lose at the end, you will see.”

Before he escaped the meeting room, I managed to tell him the words of one of my old Eritrean friends, Asmarom: “I understand that you have to say these things since if not, you will be returned back to Eritrea and jailed and tortured in one of these dark underground prisons to which your regime dissidents are being sent.”

So, this scene, presenting the Israeli Knesset in another one of its low points, did not make it to the movie. But several other shameful scenes from the Israeli Knesset did make it into the final cut, as well as scenes that expose the bureaucratic abuse of asylum-seekers by the Israeli authorities, abuse that has only grown since the movie was filmed.

By: Sigal Rozen