Bondi to Beirut
Military tanks, soldiers with guns...and three hundred women in bike shorts?
Bondi to Beirut pedals the road map to peace in the Middle East cycling off the beaten track, to see the view from behind the veils.
In 2008 Virginia Mesiti and Amy Frasca lead an Australian team on a peace ride called Follow the Women, through Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine/Israel. Here is a digital archive of their experiences, in the context of the Syrian civil war, nearly 8 years later, we tribute these pages to all of the friends we made in Syria and also through Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel where we had the privilege to travel and share stories with the sisterhood.
Into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan & Israel/Palestine a team of four Australian filmmakers join the annual Follow The Women peace ride lead by British Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Detta Regan.
Detta Regan is a humble woman from a small country town in England, who had a simple idea: to go to the Middle East and talk to the women about peace.
Now, 5 years after the inaugural ride, women from twentyfive western countries in cluding Estonia, Canada, The Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, Japan, the UK and the USA, show their solidarity for all women in the Middle East, by riding bicycles along side their eastern sisters.
Entering nogo zones as delegates of peace, the film experiences first hand the devastation of war and the forces that undermine the ability to live simply and raise families. Speaking to mothers, daughters and even Syria’s First Lady, we discover what unifies the women on and along the road.
This is a personal journey seen through the lens of the Australian filmmakers.
We track from a melting pot beachside suburb in Sydney to another beachside suburb in Beirut where factious fighting and civil war eats away at the hope of local young people, who we dis cover are just like us.
In Lebanon we meet Bilal who works at Future TV as a director of Superstar (a Pop Idol TV show). Then we join the Follow the Women peace riders to cross borders and go deeper into the region.
In Syria we meet Rasha and discover her Romeo & Juliet story of star crossed love between her home in Damascus and her Druze boy friend in the Golan Heights territory.
In Palestine we meet the Amore Family and learn what it’s like to ne gotiate an Israeli checkpoint while in labour with the family’s, daugh ter and unborn grandchild’s life on the line.
The Peace Ride is intercut with key interviews of Middle East experts from all sides, attempting to make sense of the complicated histories that surrounds life on both sides of the road.
During the film we see the effects of civil war as renewed fighting breaks out in Lebanon. While the postscript we all live in now, is wit ness to more tragic conflict in Gaza, pulling back into focus the geo politics of the region.
It’s as we watch 300 ordinary women, weary from many days of bike riding, who dig deep within themselves to muster the endurance it takes to keep going, that we reflect on the endurance it will take to make a lasting peace.
At a time when the world has a new chance to reengage a peace process in the Middle East, this is a timely and accessible film for audiences to understand what is at stake for people’s lives in the Middle East.