Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

He wasn’t the kind of nanny a privileged Israeli girl might have expected to get in the days following the Six-Day War. But in 1967, when Mahmoud “Musa” Obeidallah, a Palestinian father of 11, came knocking on the door of Israeli author Amos Elon, he was hired anyway. And watching over the Elons’ daughter, Danae, turned out to be a job Musa carried out with verve. Over the next 20 years, he became the central male figure in Danae’s life—“a little bit more” than a babysitter, as his charge puts it—only to fade from it as Intifada-sparked unrest drove the Elons out of Jerusalem. The job of reconnecting with Musa (as well as with her own lost childhood) is the subject of the now 38-year-old Danae Elon’s rigorously tender, surprisingly subtle documentary Another Road Home. Seeking her old caregiver, Danae travels from Paterson, N.J., where several of Musa’s sons have emigrated, to the Palestinian village of Battir, where Musa still lives. Wherever she goes, she presses against sore spots: the caste systems of occupied lands, the double edge of immigrant assimilation, the lingering call of homelands. It’s to her credit that she can probe these areas without alienating either Musa’s family or her own parents, themselves outspoken critics of Israeli policy. One ends up wishing, naively, that the nuanced generosity of Elon’s film could be applied not just to its subjects but also to the tribal warfare that has stranded virtually all of them far from home. And yet, if Another Road Home questions anything, it’s the notion that the personal need always be political. We watch Musa gaze at the young woman he nurtured from infancy; we watch Danae’s face soften under that gaze; we realize that we are watching not a political diatribe but a love story. “In the end,” says one of the characters in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, “everyone can do without fathers.” Another Road Home suggests just the opposite: that, as fatherlands fall apart, fathers become all the more vital. When Danae confesses that the memory that most haunts her is of Musa patiently ironing her Israeli army uniform, it is her nanny himself who extends the clemency that no nation would dare: “I not make it for the army. I make it for you.”—Louis Bayard