• The “Jerusalem Girls”
    Farah Ammouri, Revital Zacharie, and Nadia Tadros starred in the 2013 documentary Jerusalem.

    Photograph by George Duffield, courtesy National Geographic Entertainment

    By National Geographic Education Staff

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Revital Zacharie, Farah Ammouri, and Nadia Tadros are movie stars. The young women shared stories and experiences about their world-famous hometown in the documentary film Jerusalem. 
    Although their lives have changed since the film’s release in 2013, the women remain advocates of Jerusalem’s varied and rich cultural history.
    Revital recently graduated from high school and has yet to decide where she will study after she completes two years of service with the Israel Defense Forces. She will consider future offers to act, but is more interested in studying political science or public relations (PR), and possibly working at an Israeli embassy.
    Farah is open to future acting opportunities, but is more interested in science. She is currently adjusting to her first year of college, studying sciences at Collin County College in Plano, Texas. Following the completion of her studies, she plans to return to Jerusalem to work as a genetic engineer or a neurologist.
    Nadia Tadros is an actress who is looking forward to her next film role. She is also studying marketing at Birzeit University in the Palestinian Territories and vocal studies at the Magnificat Institute in Jerusalem. 
    Revital, Farah, and Nadia all auditioned for their roles in Jerusalem. The filmmakers were looking for three young Jerusalemites of different faiths. The director, an Canadian filmmaker named Daniel Ferguson, was not necessarily looking to cast all girls for the movie. 
    Nadia, for instance, went on the audition to accompany her brother. Nadia brought her guitar, and her impromptu performance made such an impression that she was the first person cast in the film. Nadia is a Christian.
    Farah, a Muslim, was the second person to be cast, after hearing about the auditions at her school. After casting her, Daniel decided to give all three of the main roles to girls. 
    “I think it was a good decision,” says Farah. The casting forces viewers to look at the city in “a new perspective, because women in the Middle East are not known to be a powerful force. Or, they’re seen to be oppressed, which is a wrong image . . . We thought it was a good opportunity to show how we actually live our lives beyond the conflict and the tensions.”
    Revital, who is Jewish, was the last to be cast. She heard about the auditions through a post on Facebook. Less than a month later, she was Daniel’s third leading lady.
    All three girls “hesitated a bit” before accepting roles in the film. 
    “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take part in the movie or not,” remembers Revital. “I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to be an ambassador. But in the end, I understood that there was going to be a movie made about Jerusalem from the three perspectives, and I would have the privilege to be the girl that represents my religion, my people.”
    “I was scared in this movie that I’d be the bad guy!” says Nadia. “But there was no bad guy in the movie. Everybody had their own beautiful Jerusalem.”
    Farah agrees. “In order to create understanding,” she says, “we should communicate with each other even more. This will create tolerance, eventually. This is important to change history, rather than repeat history.”
    Farah remembers the long day of shooting the last scene in the movie, a scene that involved all three girls. While waiting to participate, they watched everyday life unfold in Jerusalem. 
    “You’ll see this priest walking by, and then an imam, and then a chacham, a rabbi . . . This is a really special moment, because you see the interaction between religions. They don’t realize they’re in the same area.
    “I’d be sitting there, really tired,” Farah continues, “and a priest would come talk to me. And he’s Italian, and . . . he’s telling me stories, and buying me juice. These are things I cherish about filming the movie. I got to witness how kind people are to each other, and how Jerusalem is not a city of conflict and constant tension.”
    Nadia recalls one of Jerusalem’s most memorable scenes—the interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Easter, illuminated by hundreds of candles. These Easter ceremonies are so popular that it’s difficult to enter, even for a native Jerusalemite like Nadia. Through filming, Nadia was able to participate in what she calls the “holy fireworks.”
    “I was thrilled, thrilled!” she says.
    Revital enjoyed filming in the “Machne,” the local name of the Mahane Yehuda Market, or shuk. The Machne is a huge market with hundreds of vendors selling everything from food to clothing to appliances to games. 
    Scenes shot in the Machne were not part of the finished film, but Revital thinks the scenes had enormous value.
    “The movie focuses on the old part of the city, the Old City. It was very hard for me [to accept] that the modern side of the city was not a part of the movie, because this is a huge part of my Jerusalem . . . Shooting in the market was so fun, so vibrant. Seeing friends of mine going around like crazy people, all before Shabbat. In general, Friday morning is a great time in Jerusalem.”
    Farah notes that some scenes made her the center of attention—and it wasn’t always fun.
     “As [the filmmakers are] shooting me walking, the shop-owners would be looking at me, so it’s obvious they’re filming me,” says Farah. “They would have to [film] the scene over and over again. When they had to do that, I was wearing really slippery shoes. So, I would fall and trip over, and the whole city of Jerusalem would see me! . . . Three times! I mean, everyone in the Old City is looking at me! It was so embarrassing.”
    “I still discover new places in Jerusalem every day,” says Nadia. “The movie helped me fall in love with Jerusalem even more.
    “Just closing your eyes, you will hear more than 10 languages. You will smell more than 100 spices . . . Everybody’s screaming, trying to sell his vegetables, Ethiopians having their daily prayers, muezzins . . .”
    “So many people relate to [Jerusalem],” says Farah, “even though they have minimal knowledge of what it actually is, the diversity of the Old City . . . We’re really fascinated by the sum of languages that pass by: Italian, Greek, Tunisian, from Yemen, from the Arab world, from all over the world.”
    All three girls appreciated the perspective of Daniel, the filmmaker. He is not a native of Jerusalem, but cares deeply about the city.
    “When someone is looking at you from the outside,” says Nadia, “they can see the picture of you better than you can see it . . . We need someone from the outside, an open-minded person, who has no stereotypes, no expectations, and no sides. [Daniel] wants to show the reality. He doesn’t want anything else . . . So, I was very happy that someone like Daniel chose to choose us as subjects for his film.”
    Regardless, the girls had different reactions upon seeing Jerusalem for the first time.
    Although she had seen most of her own scenes, Farah first saw the complete film at a special screening near her home in Texas. She was moved by her friends’ roles in the movie.
    “When I saw [Revital] praying at the Kotel, and when I saw [Nadia] at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—those are really my favorite parts of the movie. It’s so moving to see how different religions interact with their families . . . They’re so similar to my traditions, because we all have celebrations where we gather with our family members, we all have fasting, we all have those similarities . . . We all pray, and it is to the same God, eventually.”
    Revital’s initial reaction was very different. 
    “I just couldn’t watch myself!” she admits.
    When she finally brought herself to watch the completed film, she was struck by the “amazing, amazing festivals of Ramadan, of Easter at the Holy Sepulchre. It’s really moving to be part of that . . . And the Ramadan festival, it looks exactly like the festivals in the modern side of the city. It’s so cool—this music, this energy, the people dancing!
    “The best scene in the movie is in the Holy Sepulchre, with the fire. It’s like ‘wow’! . .  And also, ‘is this happening in Jerusalem and I don’t know about it? I’m not a part of it? I’m like ‘I should be there’,” she laughs.
    Nadia had yet another perspective: “When I first saw it, I thought, ‘I can’t wait for my next movie!’”
    Nadia, Revital, and Farah all encourage people to visit Jerusalem.
    “Something we tell the audience is that you have to go into the city, and just be lost,” says Farah.
    “Go in and don’t come out until you find another door,” says Nadia. 
    “And one day [of visiting] is not enough!” says Farah.
    “One month is not enough!” adds Revital.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    accompany Verb

    to join with someone or something.

    adjust Verb

    to change or modify something to fit with something else.

    advocate Noun

    person who speaks, writes, or otherwise supports a person, idea, or cause.

    ambassador Noun

    person who represents a place, organization, or idea.

    audition Verb

    trial or test performance given to a performer to judge their performance.

    cast Verb

    to hire actors for a film or play.

    chacham Noun

    Hebrew form of address for a respected and educated man.

    cherish Verb

    to love tenderly and protectively.

    Christian Noun

    people and culture focused on the teachings of Jesus and his followers.

    communicate Verb

    to exchange knowledge, thoughts, or feelings.

    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    diversity Noun


    documentary Noun

    non-fiction film.

    Easter Noun

    most important celebration in the Christian religion, marking the day when the deity Jesus rose from the dead.

    embassy Noun

    residence of an ambassador or place where representatives of a nation conduct business in another country.

    encourage Verb

    to inspire or support a person or idea.

    enormous Adjective

    very large.

    eventually Adverb

    at some point in the future.

    fascinate Verb

    to cause an interest in.

    fast Verb

    to not eat.

    genetic engineer Noun scientist who manipulates genetic material in order to alter the hereditary traits of a cell, organism, or population.
    hesitate Verb

    to delay making or acting on a decision because of fear or unwillingness.

    illuminate Verb

    to shine light on.

    imam Noun

    leader of prayer in a mosque.

    impromptu Adjective

    unscheduled, unprepared, or improvised.

    initial Adjective


    interior Noun

    internal or inland.

    Jewish Adjective

    having to do with the religion or culture of people tracing their ancestry to the ancient Middle East and the spiritual leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    Kotel Noun stone wall on the western side of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, held sacred by Jews as a site of prayer and pilgrimage. Also called the Western Wall or Wailing Wall.
    market Noun

    central place for the sale of goods.

    marketing Noun

    art and science of selling a product.

    minimal Adjective

    the lowest or least.

    muezzin Noun

    official who calls faithful Muslims to prayer from the minaret or other elevated part in a mosque.

    Muslim Adjective

    having to do with Islam, the religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

    neurologist Noun

    physician or scientist who studies the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the brain and nervous system.

    Old City Noun

    walled, UNESCO World Heritage Site within the modern city of Jerusalem, Israel, consisting of four quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. 

    opportunity Noun


    oppress Verb

    to unjustly discriminate against, torment, or persecute.

    participate Verb

    to take part in an activity.

    perspective Noun

    point of view or way of looking at a situation.

    political science Noun

    study of political systems and the structure and conduct of governments.

    prayer Noun

    communication with a spiritual deity.

    priest Noun

    title of religious leader in many faiths.

    privilege Noun

    benefit or special right.

    public relations (PR) Noun

    the art, science, and business of promoting an organization, person, or event.

    rabbi Noun

    leading religious official of a Jewish synagogue.

    Ramadan Noun

    ninth month in the Muslim calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.

    regardless Adverb

    anyway, or in spite of something.

    religion Noun

    a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.

    sepulchre Noun

    burial vault or tomb. Also spelled sepulcher.

    Shabbat Noun

    Jewish sabbath, observed on Saturday.

    shoot Verb

    to photograph or film.

    shuk Noun

    open-air marketplace common throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Also called a sook.

    spice Noun

    tasty and aromatic plant substances used in cooking.

    stereotype Noun

    a general characteristic associated with a group of people.

    tension Noun

    uncomfortable relationship between two people or groups.

    tolerance Noun

    fair and respectful attitude toward others and their way of life.

    tradition Noun

    beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.

    vendor Noun

    someone who sells something.

    vibrant Adjective


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