Floridian-Palestinian Filmmaker Screens ‘Gaza Is Our Home’ at Hippodrome; Encourages Mayor to Fight For Justice Amidst Presidential Associations

Floridian-Palestinian Filmmaker Screens ‘Gaza Is Our Home’ at Hippodrome; Encourages Mayor to Fight For Justice Amidst Presidential Associations

On June 20, filmmaker Monear Shaer screened his documentary film ‘Gaza Is Our Home’ at the Hippodrome theater. 

Shaer said Gaza Is Our Home was a film made out of obligation. Towards the end of October 2023, Shaer got an auto-generated slideshow on his iPhone from when he visited his family in Gaza in 2021. Shaer spent the next two months making Gaza Is Our Home, interviewing his family members on their experiences visiting Gaza and showing how he and his family are represented as Palestinians. 

A large part of Shaer’s obligation came from Israeli military attacks that have trapped and taken the lives of his family members. From his immediate family to his extended family, Shaer has over 150 family members currently in the Gaza Strip.

Since October 7, over 33 of Shaer's family members have been killed. On December 4, the Israeli military utilized a United States-funded F-16 fighter jet to bomb the house of Shaer’s aunt, killing dozens of his family members. 

After the screening, Shaer clarified that the film documented the first sixty days after October 7. He said, "Now we're at over half-a-year. I think we have an urgency to continue sharing this film because the other option is to not believe the film can impact people. I produced the film out of necessity and agony.... Many people take the option to not do what needs to be done, so I want this film to serve as an example for all of us looking at our daily lives in standing up for the oppressed.... I'm not just trying to devastate you or make you feel paralyzed in the way I did when I was producing this. Rather, I want the exact opposite out of each and every one of you. I want a hope that is unyielding."

Shaer wasn’t shy about looking for distribution partners and ways to make Gaza Is Our Home grow. He said, “I truly do believe it has an impact, so my hope is that we can continue to fund projects like this and make Gaza Is Our Home a full platform that can share the stories of these unbelievably deserving individuals. They’re more deserving than Hollywood could ever compare, and we deserve to pay them exponentially more than any actor, ballplayer, or CEO.”

During an interview, Shaer further detailed why he chose a familial theme for his film. "You need to know who they are, see them, their smiles, and then you can realize how much we have to struggle to save them. It's not that our words alone save them, but we have to believe we can influence those in charge. If not, we have to do something about it and change the people in charge. Gaza Is Our Home shows us that we all share the same home.”

During the interview, Shaer was informed of Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward’s history regarding cease-fire initiatives and his controversial affiliations with President Joe Biden and former Israeli military soldiers. 

In November, Pro-Palestine activists were asking Mayor Ward and Gainesville City Commissioners to pass a ceasefire resolution that would demand an end to hostilities in Gaza. The resolution said, “Anyone in public office has the responsibility to use the platform provided by their office to advocate for measures that will result in the least amount of death.”

The Gainesville City Commission did not pass a ceasefire resolution, electing to have Mayor Ward send a letter to President Biden in which he thanked the president and his cabinet and asked for the “safe return of all hostages, and a cease-fire."

In February, Mayor Ward took a picture next to two former Israeli military soldiers, UF Hillel employee Shlomi Kahana and public speaker Rom El-Hai. El-Hai took the picture with Ward while he was in Gainesville, speaking about escaping during the Nova Festival Massacre on October 7. The speaking event attracted a large protest, as UF Hillel did not advertise that El-Hai was an Israeli military veteran. The picture with Ward, El-Hai, and Kahana was reportedly deleted shortly after it was posted. 

According to a New York Times article released May 10, Mayor Ward “has become one of three mayors consulted by the White House on the war in Gaza.” (The article is locked behind a paywall and at the bottom of another article with an unrelated headline.) The article says that White House officials stayed in touch with Ward after he sent the aforementioned letter to Biden.  

A post on Mayor Ward’s LinkedIn account corroborates this, with him standing next to Vice President Kamala Harris. The caption says he “thanked her for the tools and opportunities [Gainesville] has received through the Biden-Harris administration.” 

Despite his proximity to President Biden, Mayor Ward has not made any statements regarding whether he stands with the people of Palestine or Israel. Since October 7, the United States has provided an estimated $12.5 billion in military aid to Israel.

As a man who has experienced the deaths of dozens of his family members and the displacement of dozens more by a United States-funded Israeli military, Shaer had a strong statement for Mayor Ward, asking him a series of questions.

"I would ask him if he would like to meet my family members. If he met my cousins, my little baby cousin Sarah, If he met Iman, Mahmoud, Mohammed, and Ahmed, then I think he would maybe realize he's on the wrong side and that it's okay because now he can see their humanity. I'd ask him if he's afraid. Is he afraid that they might hurt him or kill him? Is he afraid that the people of Palestine are against him? Is he afraid of standing up for the thousands upon thousands of innocent children that are being slaughtered? I would ask him how he could value himself without fighting for the voiceless. How can you sleep at night when you know you have such an abundance of safety, security, and luxury? Are you proud of yourself? Is this your peak limit of manhood and humanity? You have an obligation to stand up for those less fortunate."

Gaza Is Our Home can be viewed for free on Shaer's website Gazaisourhome.com

Gaza Is Our Home // 2024 Feature-Length Documentary
A personal look into the lives of those that call Gaza home. This is NOT just a documentary. It’s a reminder that behind-the-headlines…are people just like you
Jack Walden

Jack Walden

Jack Walden is the creator of Gnvinfo and a 2nd year journalism major at Santa Fe College. From general information, to exposing falsehoods and corruption, Jack seeks to deliver the truth.
Gainesville, FL