Faraj Adnan Hasan Husein is one of the main characters in the 2001 documentary Promises, a film that examined the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of eight Israeli and Palestinian children. Promises was filmed over a period of five years, from 1995-2000, right up until the second Intifada.
Faraj’s home is the Deheishe refugee camp outside of Bethlehem, where over 15,000 Palestinians live in an area of just 1.5 square kilometers. A thirteen-year-old Faraj smiles broadly on the cover of the film, his face so bright and innocent it is hard to believe that in his young life he has buried so many of his family and friends. Just months before filming, his best friend Bassam, only nine-years-old, was gunned down by Israeli soldiers while tending his family’s flock of sheep. Filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg brought two of the film’s Israeli children— twins Yarko and Daniel— to meet Faraj and his friends at the Deheishe camp, the first time any of the children had met someone from the opposite side of the conflict. Promises received critical acclaim in over twenty countries where it was released, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2002.
Faraj currently lives in New Jersey where he works in construction and travels to schools and universities throughout the country to give talks about his life, Promises, and his views on peace. He is twenty-three years old.
How were you picked to appear in Promises?
The filmmakers found out about me because I played on a soccer team and I had won first place in a dance competition.
What do you think about the film?
I’ve never seen it. Whenever they bring it out at a school I am speaking at I leave for a cigarette. It’s hard to watch, painful to go through the memories. It’s also embarrassing. When they filmed me getting ready for Yarko and Daniel to come to Deheishe camp, and I’m putting on all that hair gel and cologne in the mirror, yeah I don’t need to see that.
How did you come to move to the U.S.?
I came in 2001, in the summer before Promises came out. I got a tourist visa in Jerusalem to come see my aunt and uncle in New Jersey. When I left Palestine, I told my mom the wrong date so she wouldn’t get upset. I tried to sneak out and be very quiet in the morning, but she came out of the house screaming and crying.
I stayed with my aunt and uncle for a while then I lived like a homeless person in New York City, sleeping on friends’ couches and floors. A professor got in touch with me and helped me get into speaking at schools. Then they [The Traprock Peace Center Organization] found me a host family- the Chakours- in Amherst, MA, and organized a visa for me.