Israeli soldiers refused to allow children from the West Bank village of Umm al-Kheir entry into Israel while on their way to the Children’s Film Festival in Tel Aviv, after being invited to watch the premiere of a movie featuring them.The children, first and second graders, were supposed to enter via the Meitar checkpoint in order to watch the screening of the film ‘Galacticus’, in which they appear, as part of the Children Make Movies project, run jointly by the Education Ministry, the Children’s Channel and the Lahav and Mifalot associations.

‘Galacticus,’ which was filmed last year, features children from Umm al-Kheir and Israeli children from Kibbutz Harel.

The film describes events taking place when the children are about to meet for a soccer game that they will play in mixed groups. Yoav, the kibbutz team’s captain, does not want to play with the Umm al-Kheir children. While Nimmir, the captain of the rival team, is forbidden by his father from playing soccer because the practices interfere with his schoolwork.

During the shooting of the film, the Palestinian children had passed through the checkpoint several times and the process was usually taking a few minutes.

However, yesterday they were detained at length because one of the group’s counsellors brought his six-month-old baby with him. The baby did not need an entry permit, but his presence meant that the number of permits did not match the number of people. By the time they were allowed to pass, it was too late to go to Tel Aviv and be at the screening on time, so they returned home.

After Thursday’s screening, many people who were involved in the project, expressed their disappointment with the army’s behaviour. The director of the film, Sivan Stavi, said: ‘It was supposed to be a moving moment for the children, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was missed because of nonsense, this is a pity. The children are terribly sad and disappointed.’

Spokesman of Mifalot Association, Ran Aharan, stated, ‘We’re a social organization, not a political one. This is a beautiful project, an opportunity to work together.’

On the other hand, the Israel army commented that what had been released to the media was inaccurate.

Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the army declared: ‘the group’s passage was approved, except for a baby who was accompanied by a woman who did not have any papers proving any connection between the two, so the baby’s passage was forbidden. After a swift examination … the decision was revoked in about 10 minutes, but the group had already left the checkpoint in protest.’