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Update – 5 November 2010

Posted by Emily Chrapot on 5 November 2010 at 1:42pm:

Dear All,
Whenever I find myself in Israel, I am amazed at how differently things are viewed from within.

Living in the Diaspora, we often make the mistake of imagining a country that exists purely in the minds of certain parts of the world’s media and often from afar through the eyes of those whose views are affected by their own agendas. Many of these people live in what I call “a world of unreality”.

I often think that the picture that I might paint in responding to this imaginary of Israel is sometime rather bleak in comparison to the reality of the wonderful, uplifting, free and tolerant society that I know exists in Israel.

The reality of your everyday Israel is that it is a place where its citizens still find the time to enjoy their culture, food, entertainment, sport and yes … even the modern day phenomenon of reality television.

And this is where I am going to take my cue today, because I have recently witnessed two things on Israeli reality television that have reinforced my vision of the open and diverse society that is Israel.

My first story centres on the new version of Israeli Masterchef, which, much like the Australian version, showcases the top Israeli cooks from around the country, albeit with a little bit more hummus. Among the twelve contestants is Moussa Abu Saris, an Israeli Arab who hails from Jaffa. Moussa is a guide for youth at risk and he uses cooking as one of the ways to help kids break out from the cycle of crime. So far he has brought an array of home-style dishes learnt from his mother’s kitchen which has wowed the judges and the audience.

Moussa’s presence on the show is not a publicity stunt. In fact, no fuss has been made at all of the fact that he is an Arab; he is just another Israeli citizen trying his luck on the show (and this is not the first time with Arab contestants faring well on Big Brother and Israeli idol, just to name a few). Watching him on the show resonates with me and this is particularly so because I viewed the programme on exactly the same weekend as those seeking to delegitimise Israel came together in Melbourne to find new ways to punish what they view as “racist, apartheid Israel”.

The deligitimisers who raise this false accusation are possibly unaware of people like Moussa and to my mind, it is they who live in that world of unreality.

They might be delusional or they might simply not be aware of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ vision for the future state of Palestine which is one in which no Jew can ever be a contestant on a Palestine version of Masterchef. If they are aware of the vision, then it should be abundantly clear they don’t really care or even know what “apartheid” means. Certainly, our local media is not in a hurry to inform them of Abbas’ clearly stated vision of a juhdenrein Palestine or of the intolerance and hatred at official levels and within the society he governs in the West Bank and I am not even starting to address the oppressive, totalitarian regime in Gaza whose misdeeds are not only repressed by the media on a daily basis but which finds misguided support from some media groupies whose entire world view is one of unreality.

The second cue we can take from reality television is Israel’s latest season of “Dancing with the Stars”, which put Israel into the world headlines and the gossip pages for an entirely new reason. This season features a world-first for the world-wide franchise with two females paired together for the show. The “star” is Gili Shem Tov, an openly gay sportscaster from Israeli television and her professional partner, Dorit Milman was happy to be a part of it. Dorit declared, “Everyone knows that Israel has a lot of extremes… When we go on primetime TV as a couple, we’re showing everyone can love everyone. It’s about respecting the way of life of other people, even if it’s not your way of life”.
Dorit’s words basically sum it all up for me. Like every country, Israel has her shortcomings. Like every society, Israel has a way to go in bridging the gap on inequalities. But if prime-time television can continue to showcase the diversity of Israeli society, then it is certainly heading in the right direction.

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Best Wishes,

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