Six Questions for Leila Sansour

Bio: Catholic Palestinian film director and founder of the nonprofit Open Bethlehem.
Website: operationbethlehem.com

1. How did Open Bethlehem get started?
Growing up in Bethlehem, I always wanted to leave. I settled in London, but when events started becoming worse and worse in the region, I wanted to do something. So I went back and started working on a film. My cousin encouraged me and said, “Look at what’s happening to our city. Why don’t you do more than just a film?” And so together, in 2005, we started a campaign called Open Bethlehem.

2. What is its main goal?
The idea is to use Bethlehem as a doorway into the region. We created the Bethlehem Passport, which is like an honorary citizenship, inviting people to partake in the town that stands for joy and goodwill to all. The passport is an appeal to everybody to do something to help bring peace to the Middle East. We aim mostly at educating people abroad—policymakers, the media, and church leaders—about the plight of Bethlehem, its Christian community, and the diversity of the city.

3. What’s the focus of your documentary Operation Bethlehem?
It’s about how and why we created this campaign. There were a lot of people that I loved in this town that were no longer there because Israel started building the wall. That became a big challenge to the community, so I wanted to remember their legacy.

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