Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

‘Sesame Street’ for Palestinians

Not quite sweeping the clouds away

Print Email
The Shara’a Simsim characters Karim (green) and Haneen at a Palestinian school in March.(NYTimes.com)

A New York Times Magazine article exploring production of Shara’a Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street, reveals a gentler microcosm of the strife that plagues the region. According to executives from the umbrella studio, Sesame Workshop, the difficulty in striking the mandated balance between kid-friendly “core values” and realistic portrayals of local life for Palestinians is “rivaled only by Kosovo.”

This trouble manifests most overtly in the show’s struggle to stay apolitical, which “few of the writers seemed to think…made sense in a Palestinian context.” In fact, some of their early ideas involve more politics than the nightly news: a muppet seeking refuge from bats representing Israeli war planes, a dove being shot down, a poster showing children dismantling the separation wall between the Israeli and Palestinian territories (ditched, in part, because a Sesame exec ruled that “giving a 3-year-old a hammer is something we wouldn’t show”).

The program came about after a protracted and doomed effort to make a version that would incorporate both Israelis and Palestinians, each with their own streets, in order to “emulate the philosophy of Sesame Street, to portray the world they wished for, more than the world that was.” The problem with that, of course, is that both sides wished for different worlds. “We are looking for a divorce from the Israelis,” said Shara’a executive producer Daoud Kuttab, “not a marriage.” Optimism may be one thing, but Kuttab couldn’t suffer the irony of a show portraying Arabs and Israelis dropping in on each other, when, as the NYT Mag says, “in real life, the Israeli production staff refused to travel to Ramallah even for informal visits.”

In any case, the show, which represents a new frontier in Palestinian children’s programming, has challenged an understandably serious populace to lighten up. One producer recalls complaints from writers about a game show spoof: “They’ll say, ‘Oh, the way he’s dressed doesn’t reflect the area he’s from.’…But for God’s sake, it’s a rooster doing ‘Who Wants to Win a Balloon?’!”

Can the Muppets Make Friends in Ramallah? [NYT Mag]
Previously: After 20 Years, a New ‘Shalom Sesame’

Print Email

COMMENTING CHARGES
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at letters@tabletmag.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

‘Sesame Street’ for Palestinians

Not quite sweeping the clouds away

More on Tablet:

Wolf Blitzer Explores His Jewish Roots

By David Meir Grossman — CNN host visits Yad Vashem and Auschwitz for the network’s ‘Roots’ series