Monday, July 21, 2014

A Little Laugh Amongst Tension: "Arab Labor" on LinkTV

TV has been terrible since I've returned home.  If it isn't the reruns it's the daytime TV, and that has been often interrupted with news has been less than ideal.  So as I've spent my time here at Blogger or at TripAdvisor, I have been utilizing a Chromecast and multiple streaming subscriptions to fill the background as I look at this computer screen in the foreground (some people like music, I like plots.  It's how I roll).

However, the best I have found is FREE.  And in Hebrew AND Arabic WITH English subtitles.  It even comes with a message.

"Arab Labor" can be found in its entirety at (think PBS for international television, not just British creations). I was familiar with the written voice of Sayed Kashua through his Haaretz commentaries prior to finding this, so when that same newspaper published an article of eight Israeli shows with English subtitles, I was happy to see this (and the link to it) on the list.

I love this show because it is hilarious; I appreciate this show because it is more real than any other  I have seen as of late.

Kashua's semi-biographical show is based on this premise: Journalist and East Jerusalemite Amjad Alian finds himself in a personal battle; he lives and works in an Israeli realm with Arab roots that keep him grounded to where he came from (even if he tries to free himself from them).  As Amjad tries to strike a balance to make everyone happy, the viewer gets to benefit from the comedic situations that arise from this conflict.

Conflict is something, sadly, this region knows too well, so this show does deal with that as well.  The final episode the third season does an exceptional job at addressing the faceted face of this ongoing situation. "The Shelter" opens with those now-too-common sirens that lead Amjad and his family alongside their primarily Jewish neighbors to their building's shelter. What ensues is an escalation of finger- pointing and an emotional release from all aspects on both sides (including from a traditionally reserved Amjad, after he tries his diplomatic best for peace).

What transpires in that basement refuge is a variety of accusations from a variety of perspectives, from feeling as an outsider to the not knowing where home is, from the fears of a simple bus ride to the terrors of the Shoah. I have been in love with this region for nearly twenty years.  I have read both sides, both histories, as far back as I could go.  I get it; both sides have been treated poorly throughout their existence.  I have learned something else during this research: Evil is not an excuse for anything.  If have learned anything about evil, it is an infectious, blistering rash and the more it is scratched, the more is spreads. Treat it, ignore it, and it will go away.  

The best way to treat evil and the feelings that is festers in its sores? I think Amal hits that best:

I come from the Land of the Hot Dish (often known as a casserole, for those of you who don't speak Midwestern); it is the Minnesotan sign of recognition. New to the neighborhood?  Here's a hot dish. You had a baby?  Here's a hot dish. Someone passed?  I'm sorry; here's a hot dish. We recognize each other at all times--be that times of joy or times of sorrow. We acknowledge, recognize, and live in a cream-of-mushroom-covered harmony.  

Recognition is important.  It does not claim responsibility or guilt; it means being heard. If I recognize you, and you recognize me, that gives us ground on which to discuss what "the middle" may be, and how we can get to it. Interpersonal communications tells us that in order for a message to be a message, it needs to be sent, received, and then that receipt acknowledged. If Amjad is anything, he is a sign of a good communicator; he acknowledges, he recognizes, and he hears.  The humor is in the unfortunate fact that his message is not often received by his fellow characters; fortunately for those that view this show, the message of Sayed Kashua is received, and it deserves acknowledgement: These are encouraging characters, and there has to be more people in this world like Amjad and Meir (a Jewish co-worker/friend of Amjad's that married the proudly Palestinian Amal) that blur lines of societal/cultural expectations and break down the suspicion that creates division; I just wish they were louder than the extremes on either side.

To pull out the classic quote: I may be a dreamer, but I am not the only one.  For those that dare to dream of the day we stop talking about what happened to us in the past and talk about what we did to create a future, I suggest watching "Arab Labor."  Sayed Kashua's characters live in an imperfect world, but do what they can to perfect immediate situations, even if it is just handling the battle within.  Imagine what would happen if we all took that chance to meet know our neighbor, see their perspective, recognize their existence, and acknowledge their stance, even if it opposes with out own?   Nadav, friend of Amjad's daughter Maya, knows:

I agree, Nadav. I totally agree.

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