Saturday, January 27, 2007

Palestinian-Israeli Comedy Night

I got an email two weeks ago about this small tour taking place and what enjoyable news it was for me. I had been toying with going plowing and planting with Palestinians, but sometimes that can be scary and stressful (not because of the Palestinians either), and because of the stress in my everyday life, I need something not-so-stressful. So when this item came up I immediately forwarded it to everyone I knew who was into peace activities.

The show I went to was last Thursday night at the beautiful American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem. The place was packed with many journalists there, curious as everyone else there, how this tour came about and who were these joksters anyways.

I went with my girlfriend because Hubby has been a troll of late and they don't like to laugh much. There was free wine and chips/pretzels at the entrance, and I thought if I had a couple of drinks (and probably the comedians thought so too), I'd loosen up and laugh a lot more.

Turns out I didn't need those drinks. The guys were so funny, my stomach hurt and my voice was hoarse from laughing for 2 hours straight.

There were 4 comedians - 3 Jewish, 1 Arab. Pretty much summed up the way the audience turned out as well. A smattering of Arabs and a whole bunch of Jews.

First up was Aaron Freeman, an African-American convert to Judaism, who had us in stitches about reactions to his converting - "Why? What they really want to say is "what's wrong wit' you!! You didn't have enough trouble? You want to be an extra credit target for the Ku Klux Klan?" He explained that Ethiopian Jews in Israel have no idea who Martin Luther King was, and after he explained everything to them - a bit of US history, slavery, the 1960s riots, the deep South, segregation, they were like 'Oh we see you Jews suffered too!" or something like that. Whatever. It's much funnier when you hear it live.

Then Charley Warady was explaining how it was for him to make aliyah - and when he passed a checkpoint, he thought it was a toll booth and threw a couple of coins in and drove through only to get shot at..."Gee they get so mad here when you don't have exact change.."

Ray Hanania, the sole Arab comedian, was up next. "I see you (the audience) as potential hostages!" and told us about his harrowing airport experiences because of his Arab heritage. "Are you on my flight?" is a question nervously asked of him by other passengers. And when he went to the bathroom on his flight into Israel, Alan Dershowitz met him on the way back to his seat to explain why there was someone else now sitting in his seat...

Yisrael Campbell, a ultra-orthodox-looking Jew, also a convert to Judaism, was explaining that he was the nephew of Jesus since his mother had been in a convent and it gets up great parking spaces in Jerusalem, like when he goes to the Church of Scotland he tells people - "I'm His nephew." "Oh sure, go right in". On his reasons for converting? "I was a vaguely Catholic but Catholic enough to know that I was going to hell, so I switched religions." He said that Jerusalem's clergy - Rabbis, Priests and Imams all got together to fight to Gay Pride Parade because they pleased "don't affect the peace of our city!" Huh? Where do they live? They don't get together when there are house demolitions in East Jerusalem or bus bombings in West Jerusalem - what brings them together?" He whispers - the Pride Parade.

I know, I should have written all that funny stuff up. But if YouTube works, I'll get it posted there.

After the show I introduced myself to Ray and told him I work in interfaith. He was very interested in interfaith work himself and years ago he said most groups were afraid it could get offensive, sensitive, or whatever, so he never pursued it.

Someone from CNN interviewed me afterwards, asking if I found any of this stuff offensive. I told her absolutely not - I had seen Borat and if I found THAT funny, this surely wouldn't be more offensive, and yes, I did understand Ray's jokes, I understand Moslem customs about multiple wives and burkas, etc. and that we should have more of this sort of intercultural stuff taking place here, but it breaks down barriers.

My friend and I went to the fireplace lounge to have a drink afterwards. The music was soft Arabic music and the waiters were elegant and genteel and made me feel like a princess. I was feeling so high. And I was sad on the other hand that there was so little of these types of evenings where we can just laugh all together at our government and religious customs. I went home by bus and heard two young men in the front of the bus speaking Arabic. It's quite unusual for Arabs to take "that" bus back from Jerusalem over the green line - they probably live in neighboring Azariya, which they did as they got off the bus just before the entrance of our suburban town. And no one hassled them on the bus, or gave a second glance, and I thought it should be like this all the time, shouldn't it. Just a cacaphony of Hebrew and Arabic all the time, everywhere.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Ray's a good guy. I don't know him personally but we've corresponded since I discovered his blog some time ago.

I feature feeds to both his blog & yrs btw at Israel Palestine Blogs.

You might want to consider adding links in this post to Ray's blog and his Ynetnews columns, which are pretty interesting & funny.

I hope you allow urls/links here...