Wafa Idris, Movie Star

This year, Hanan Turk, whose fame and beauty now puts her among one of the most influential actresses in the Arab world, was proud to announce her acceptance of the leading role in a new film dedicated to the life of Wafa Idris.

Angela Bertz

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As President Sadat delivered his stirring words of peace and reconciliation to Israel's parliament in 1977, a pretty little girl from Cairo with alluringly large brown eyes was dreaming of becoming a ballerina. Hanan Hassan Mohamed Abd El-Karim, a.k.a. Hanan Turk, was not even three years old. By 1993, she had blossomed into a beautiful teenager and was a member of the Cairo Ballet Group.

Her talent and destiny though did not lie in ballet. As early as 1991, Hanan's sultry good looks had already attracted a famous Egyptian Director who offered her a role in a movie. By the year 2000, Hanan Turk had relinquished her career as a ballerina and was well established as one of Egypt's best-known and best-loved actresses.

By some curious coincidence, Hanan Turk was almost 27 in the early part of 2002, the same age as Wafa Idris. Their lives could not have been more different, but they were destined to cross paths. 

Wafa Idris was divorced after nine years of marriage and, worse still, was childless. Scorned and tainted in the eyes of Palestinian society, she moved back in with her mother, brother and sister-in-law and their five children, close to the Palestinian Authority town of Ramallah. With little hope of remarrying, and almost certainly destined to remain at the lowest level in her society's hierarchy, she was proud of the two certificates that adorned the walls of the living room. They attested to her training in a profession dedicated to saving lives.
On January 27, 2002, investigators believe, she used her position as a secretary to the Red Crescent medical organization to issue documentation, and possibly the use of a medical vehicle to ease her way through Israeli army roadblocks. She then headed for the center of Jerusalem.
On that same morning, an 81 year old, and a proud, fifth generation Jerusalemite, Pinhas Tokatli, father of four and grandfather to 13, left his home and made his way to the center of town in pursuit of one of his greatest passions - art. At just after midday, he was standing at a spot on the Jaffa road not far from where British soldiers had caused permanent damage to his vision by beating him up in the 1940s. He had no possible way of knowing that what happened to him 60 years ago would be as nothing when compared to what Wafa Idris had planned for him that fateful day.
Just after midday, Wafa came out of a nearby shoe store, where she had spent a couple of idle minutes, emerging into the packed thoroughfare of one of Jerusalem's busiest streets. Pinhas, a keen cyclist and one of the founders of the Jerusalem cycling club, chose to leave his bike at home that morning and he was now on his way to buy some paints.
He never made it.  
By February 1, the Palestinian Authority, whose society had had little use for the divorced and childless woman, had turned her into a figure of iconic heroism, with street parades and young girls carrying posters of her picture, eulogizing her with the words, "The Fatah movement... eulogize with great pride the heroic martyr Wafa Idris."
Wafa Idris had become the first Palestinian woman to become a suicide (homicide) bomber, killing Pinhas Tokatli. Despite her supposed dedication as a medic to save lives and live by the abiding motto of Hippocrates - which is, "First, do no harm" - she wounded more than a 100 more people that day.
True to form, a year later, this society - which thrives on encouraging their poor, demonized children to long not for a life with a bright future, living in peace with neighbouring Israel and dreaming of being a prima ballerina or an aspiring actress like Hanan Turk - named one of their summer camps after Wafa Idris. One hundred girls attended the camp that summer and at the closing ceremony, special thanks was given to UNICEF for its funding and support of the camp.
This year, Hanan Turk, whose fame and beauty now puts her among one of the most influential actresses in the Arab world, was proud to announce her acceptance of the leading role in a new film dedicated to the life of Wafa Idris.
Hanan says she is busy reading all she can about Wafa's life so she can give a believable rendering of a woman who she says symbolizes true faith and courage. She wants to understand what lead this "strong woman? to sacrifice her life for the Palestinian cause and to reflect the humanistic aspect of a woman who was willing to die for her beliefs.  
No doubt a precedent has been set by that other epic, Paradise Now, which was awarded the 2005 Golden Globe award for a very "humanistic portrayal" of mass murder. Of course, it's easy enough for a bunch of useful idiots sitting comfortably in multi-million dollar suites in Los Angeles - far away from the pizza parlours of Jerusalem and the buses of Tel Aviv - to be magnanimous when it's not their children who might not come home at the end of the day.

Pinhas Tokatli lived a long and full life. He was described by one of his sons as a gentle man who refused to grow old. He enjoyed painting with his grandchildren. Maybe Hanan Turk should spend the same time familiarizing herself with the life off Wafa Idris's innocent victim, or even spend some of her time in the company of his grandchildren. Maybe spend an afternoon painting with them, as he did. Will her pride in portraying their grandfather's murderer in a human light, or in any light at all, be extinguished by such a sobering experience? Maybe she will think for a moment of an Egyptian man that almost a quarter of a century ago to the day died not making war or inciting hatred, not preaching denial or breeding ignorance - as the Palestinians do 24/7 - but extending his hand in peace and friendship.

Hanan won't be Pinhas's age for another half a century. Will she be sitting, by then, with her own 13 grandchildren at her feet and showing them her epic 96 minutes of cinematic glory? Maybe her eyes will fill with tears as she watches her closing scene, facing the camera with a handful of earth clutched in her hand to represent the soil of Jerusalem, and a mascara filled tear running down her cheek as the camera shows a splendid Hanan, a.k.a. Wafa, saying, "This is the land I am prepared to die for," before handing the scene over to the special effects team for Wafa to detonate and kill a gentle Jerusalem grandfather.

Is that the sort of pride that anyone really wants?

Will Hanan still think that Wafa was "a strong woman," and, more importantly, in half a century will good have finally prevailed over evil to the extent that one of her grandchildren will look his grandmother squarely in the eye and say: "A strong woman? don't make me laugh."