I found in Allegra and Abed’s story an unexpected source of hope.”In April 2002, I went to the wedding of my cousin, Allegra”
With these words, my film Waiting for Quds opens.
Waiting for Quds tells the story of my cousin Allegra Pacheco, an American-Israeli woman who is married to Abed Al-Ahmar, a Palestinian Muslim from a West Bank refugee camp. The film offers a glimpse into a side of Israeli and Palestinian society that rarely reaches the radar screens of the media or even people interested in the region.
At Allegra’s wedding I started a journey to discover how she got to this place, and how she ended up marrying Abed.
Like me, Allegra comes from the suburbs of New York, and was raised in a traditional Jewish home. We both ended up in Israel – me in 1991 as a budding journalist – and Allegra following four years later. She stopped an illustrious New York law career to work for human rights in the region.
I occasionally was in touch with Allegra over the years, but when I heard she was engaged to Abed, I, along with her friends and family, wondered how she ended up so far from our childhood expectations.
I knew Allegra had been working as a lawyer for Palestinian human rights. Was this then a political choice coming at the heels of her activism? Was it an ideological one? Or had Allegra truly fallen in love with Abed?
At their wedding, I started to understand the adult Allegra. We knew each other as kids but she is five years older than me and we saw each other less and less as the years went by. I also started to get to know Abed.
It is an extraordinary thing that these two are now husband and wife, and I wanted to figure out how and why that happened. That is how I began to make Waiting for Quds.
During the making of the film, I found I had to overcome prejudices and pre-conceived notions, as I’m sure Allegra did years ago in order to be open to Abed as a romantic partner. I got to know Abed and his family, and over time I learned that Abed is an exceptional, intelligent and warm person. I am proud to have him in my family.
In the end, I am not sure I uncovered the answers to my original questions. All love is essentially mysterious, and cannot always be explained.
But as the violence of the last four years raged on around us, I found in Allegra and Abed’s story an unexpected source of hope. At a time when everyone focused on what divides Israelis and Palestinians, I explored this story of a couple who have completely transcended that division.
Abed and Allegra are not a Palestinian and an Israeli, they are husband and wife. And even with the tragedy of Abed’s arrest, his administrative detentions, his being kept away from Allegra during the pregnancy and the birth of their son, their union is still, through it all, inspiring and beautiful.
If there is a peaceful future between Israelis and Palestinians, Allegra and Abed are paving the way towards it. In Waiting for Quds, I am privileged to tell their story.
Waiting for Quds will screen at the DocAviv film festival, a documentary film festival in Tel Aviv April the week of April 10. It had its American debut on April 8 at the Chicago International Documentary Film Festival. The film marks Devorah Blachor’s directorial debut.