El-Yateem Returns to Bay Ridge for ‘Father K’

Rev. Khader El-Yateem (right) with Council member Justin Brannan. (Photo by John Alexander via Brooklyn Reporter)

Rev. Khader El-Yateem returned to Bay Ridge for a screening of “Father K,” the award-winning documentary based on his City Council campaign in 2017 and his political activism, writes John Alexander for Brooklyn Reporter. The founder of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, and the first Palestinian American to run for a Council seat, moved in May to Florida where he is the director of ministries for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Before leaving, he founded the Yalla (“let’s go” in Arabic) Brooklyn political club to empower Arab voters.

The film, directed by Flatbush resident Judd Ehrlich, begins with El-Yateem’s life in Palestine where, as a college student, he was arrested by Israeli authorities, and survived nearly two months of torture before he was allowed to leave. He said he would not retaliate: “I am going to commit to non-violence. I’m going to commit to dialogue.”

El-Yateem came to America in 1992 and became a U.S. citizen in 1996. That was a cathartic time for him.

“For the first time in my life, I registered to vote,” he said. “That was something I never had the right to do. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was somebody.”

And that was when he decided to engage people in the political system and strive for needed changes.

Justin Brannan, El-Yateem’s opponent in the Democratic primary who would go on to win the seat, joined the reverend at a Q&A after the screening, which took place at Alpine Cinema.

El-Yateem was asked about the status of his fight for Arabic interpreters to assist non-English speaking voters at polling sites, an issue that might have cost El-Yateem votes during his primary run. He lost to Brannan by less than 800 votes.

How did Brannan, who recently introduced a bill that would require Arabic interpreters at select polling sites, respond? And how did El-Yateem, when he first arrived in Bay Ridge, commit to what he vowed when released from prison, and later on when he ran for City Council? Find out at Brooklyn Reporter.

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