Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 6 Explainer: Purim

Palestinian-American comedian Aron Kader and Jewish-Israeli actress/philanthropist Naomi Ackerman shed some light on what you may have missed in the latest episode of Arab Labor.

Here's their take on season two, episode six, Purim.


Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 6 Explainer: Purim



Aron Kader:

Amjad decides to go to a Halloween party with Meir and ends up being kidnapped by Palestinian radicals. Bushra is upset from the get-go that Amjad is going out to a Purim celebration since he returned home drunk late last weekend. She tells him to stay home, but he doesn't listen.

Keep in mind Amjad is Muslim and drinking is forbidden, but they are a modern, secular, non-religious family so drinking is not as huge of a deal.

Meir dressed up as a Native American for Purim and Amjad as an Israeli soldier. I wonder if that is a statement about Palestinians being the natives and Jewish Israelis being the cowboys. Amjad should have dressed up as an Arab, which is something I did as a kid since we had that kind of gear around the house. Amjad says he feels powerful in the Israeli uniform and Meir responds, "You've been pretending to be Jewish your entire life."

Some really incompetent Arab kidnappers find Amjad outside the nightclub smoking and attempt to hold him for ransom. They think they can trade him in exchange for Palestinian political prisoners and make a name for themselves in the resistance to liberate Palestine. The two men aren't even sure what they'll gain from it, but they're not doing it for the money. When they find out he isn't a soldier, but a Muslim Arab-Israeli, it ruins their plans.

Poor Amjad thinks that the authorities will take action to save him, but they don't. In this situation, Israeli authorities won't use any resources for a civilian Muslim Arab even though he is an Israeli citizen. The police even tell TV reporters that "it may be a prank" and that calling Amjad a "citizen is stretching it." This is a statement about the second class citizenship that exists in Israel for non-Jewish people. Maybe they would negotiate for a Jewish civilian, but not a Muslim.

Amjad's parents and his wife Bushra are so mad at him for going out drinking and partying that they decide to punish him by not paying a single shekel for his ransom. Even the kidnappers feel bad for him and eventually tell him to go home. Feeling worthless, Amjad tells the kidnappers that he has nowhere to go and tries to stay. In a comically ironic moment, the kidnappers literally have to put a gun to his head to get him to leave.

This episode stresses that Jews and Arabs are not physically different. They have a similar appearance and complexion, and can easily be mistaken for each other. At the end of the day, they're all sons of Abraham, cousins that descended from the same history.

Aron Kader is a Palestinian-American comedian and founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour that debuted on Comedy Central in 2007. He performs regularly in Hollywood at his home club, The World Famous Comedy Store.


Naomi Ackerman:

Meir invites Amjad to a Purim party. Purim is kind of a Jewish Halloween where people dress up in costume and party. Amjad is overjoyed to have the opportunity to go to a Jewish event so he leaves his wife and kids behind without a moment's thought.

He decides to attend the party wearing Meir's army reserve uniform. A soldier is a common costume for small children on Purim, but adults who have served in the army and do reserves will seldom, if at all, dress up as a pretend solder. Wearing the army uniform makes Amjad feel invincible. After all, he's always looking for an opportunity to fit in. Meir tells him he's "dressed up as a Jew" his entire life. "This is different," Amjad responds. "This is real and it gives me power!"

Ironically, that source of power later puts him in an extremely vulnerable situation. He's mistaken for a real soldier and kidnapped by two Palestinians and held for ransom. When the kidnappers realize he isn't Jewish, they try to guess his ethnicity.

In Israel there are some minorities that do serve in the army:

•    The Bedouins: A traditionally pastoral nomadic Arab tribe.
•    The Druze: A monotheistic religious and social community. Their religion is a branch of Shia Islam. The Druze's social customs differ markedly from those of Muslims or Christians. They're known for their close-knit social community, but also for being able to integrate fully in their adopted homelands.
•    The Circassians: A group native to Circassia, who were displaced in the course of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in the 19th century. The term "Circassian" includes the Adyghe and Kabardian people. The Adyghe mainly speak the Adyghe language and Arabic.


It's very rare for Muslims to serve in the Israeli Army, even if they are Israeli citizens. In a country where joining the army is mandatory, there has been a long unsolved debate regarding civil service for non-Jewish citizens.

In the end, Amjad is not only regarded as a second class citizen by his country, but his wife and father, who aren't willing to even give a shekel for him. (A shekel is Israeli currency equivalent to a U.S. quarter.)

Naomi Ackerman is a Jewish-Israeli American. She is the founder and executive director of The Advot Project -- a non-profit organization that uses theater for transformation with incarcerated youth. Naomi draws upon her vast experience as an actress in theater, musicals, films, and television to develop programs that promote peace, change, and encourage self-empowerment.

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Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 5 Explainer: Building Committee

Palestinian-American comedian Aron Kader and Jewish-Israeli actress/philanthropist Naomi Ackerman shed some light on what you may have missed in the latest episode of Arab Labor.

Here's their take on season two, episode five, Building Committee.

Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 5 Explainer: Building Committee



Aron Kader:

This episode mocks democracy, tackles the negative stereotypes of Arabs, and makes a poignant statement on peace in both a subtle and straightforward manner. As usual, it confronts issues surrounding classism and racism in Israel and the stigmas associated with it.

The meaning of the title of the show is challenged and dispelled in this episode. Abu Amjad becomes the gardener for his son's building and does such an amazing job that it destroys the stereotype that Arab labor is poor, cheap, and inadequate. If you've seen the movie The Help, you might recognize a similar statement about how views on class in a society where race is a central concern are revealed when dealing with the laborer or the "help."

Amjad's father Abu Amjad takes a job as the building's new gardener just to be closer to his family. It embarrasses Amjad to be the son of a gardener, which, in turn, offends his father. He doesn't acknowledge their relationship in front of the neighbors until the very end of the episode. When talking to neighbors Timna and Natan, Abu Amjad hides his identity and introduces himself as "Abu Zibel" which means "fertilizer" or "manure," another way of saying s**t. Abu Amjad is so offended by his son that he'd rather refer to himself as Mr. S**t.

Abu Amjad has a need to be around his family and grandchildren, which is very common in Palestinian culture. If you spend enough time around Arabs, you'll see how strong of a role the fathers play in the family. Having a lot of kids and being a parent is a source of pride for many Arab fathers. They take it seriously, sometimes to a fault. Their role of raising and mentoring their kids, and teaching and leading their families is all part of the culture. Men are expected to be strong, active, caring, protective fathers. Anything else would bring embarrassment to the family.

There is social and cultural pressure on Arab men not only to provide for the family financially, but to also be involved in every aspect of their lives up until they get married. When Arab men become fathers, they are incredibly affectionate with the babies and kids.

The building's committee chairman, Yoske, decides to step down, leaving his post up for grabs. Amjad ends up being the only candidate, but still loses the election. Amjad is embarrassed that his father is doing menial tasks for money. It starts our with gardening then turns into cleaning the stairs and walking dogs. He ends up being so well liked by the tenants that he's chosen to be building manager.

The greatest scene of the season is in this episode. Amjad is playing backgammon with Yoske when they realize they fought on opposing sides in the 1967 war. They show their scars to each other and describe how they got them. Coincidentally, Yoske was shot by a sniper that turns out to have been Abu Amjad. This one scene seamlessly demonstrates what peace and reconciliation could look like: Compare scars and move on with humor and humility. Let the past remain in the past. That is peace.

Aron Kader is a Palestinian-American comedian and founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour that debuted on Comedy Central in 2007. He performs regularly in Hollywood at his home club, The World Famous Comedy Store.


Naomi Ackerman:

The term "Arab labor" means cheap labor. It doesn't just refer to the amount you pay for someone to work, but also the quality of work. Arab labor is considered shoddy, poorly executed, and without precision.

In this episode, Amjad's new building needs a gardener and his father takes the job, embarrassing Amjad in the process. Amjad then decides to run for building manager so he can fire his father. In his gardening work, Amjad's dad completely turns the idea of Arab labor around, proving that it could be the best labor available. So much so that the people in the building want to hire him to do other jobs.

This causes a dispute between Timna and Natan because Timna feels that Natan is abusing the Arab labor in a racist way. They reinforce and break stereotypes at the same time during their dispute. Timna jokes that Natan should ask the Arab "hand" to make food for them; exactly then Amjad calls and invites them to a barbecue that ends up being the best they've ever had.

Between many of the Jewish and Arab characters, there is always a fine line of the Jewish oppressor and the Arab oppressed. Neither side wants to be stereotyped, they want to prove that they are diffident, better. But by trying so hard, they end up being exactly who they don't want to be time and time again.

Amjad's father compares gardening to serving in the reserves, insinuating that this is the work he was meant to do, work he is used to doing. Before the 1948 War of Independence, the majority of Palestinians worked the land. After serving the mandatory three-year Army Service, Israeli men must continue to do reserve service for one month every year until their 40th birthday.

The scene where Amjad's father and the 1967 vet are playing backgammon shows us what reconciliation can and should look like -- no fear or anger, just shared memories and humor. Both men are basically saying we do not begrudge.

We can joke about our scars from the past and look to the future, accept reality, and move on. The day people can put hate aside, look their enemy in the eye, and sit and reminisce together about the past is when peace will begin.

Naomi Ackerman is a Jewish-Israeli American. She is the founder and executive director of The Advot Project -- a non-profit organization that uses theater for transformation with incarcerated youth. Naomi draws upon her vast experience as an actress in theater, musicals, films, and television to develop programs that promote peace, change, and encourage self-empowerment.

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Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 3 Explainer: Dog

Palestinian-American comedian Aron Kader and Jewish-Israeli actress/philanthropist Naomi Ackerman shed some light on what you may have missed in the latest episode of Arab Labor.

Here's their take on season two, episode three, Dog.


Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 3 Explainer: Dog



Aron Kader:

Everything about this episode is classic to me. It uses dogs to point out that humans are trained to behave and conditioned to think in a certain way. It also plays on a stereotype that Arabs don't like dogs, which actually rings true.

In my experience, the disdain for dogs comes from the belief that they are dirty animals often referred to as "najis," meaning unclean or impure. As a matter of fact, most Arabs consider dogs to be just above pigs. To compare anything or anyone to a pig or a dog is a huge insult in Arabic. A typical Arabic curse might use the word dog ("kalb"). You will hear Amjad's father say that word a lot, especially in this episode.

All the dogs in Amjad's building seem to recognize that he's Arab and bark at him every time he walks into the apartment complex. When he asks a Jewish pet store worker whether dogs can recognize Arabs, he acknowledges this as a well-known fact. This seems to confirm Amjad's irrational fear of dogs, and he resorts to donning a yarmulke -- a small round cap traditionally worn by Jewish men -- to fool the dog into thinking he's Jewish.

This episode is also the beginning of Bushra's character arc as a professional therapist. She starts to observe Amjad and ends up using him as a case study in her class. It's hard to miss the Pavlov's dog metaphor in this episode, which is meant to be a statement on Jews and Arabs living together. Everyone knows that dogs can be trained to do anything, including attack or guard something. It's also true that Arabs and Jews have been conditioned to fear or have prejudice toward each other. This gets to the root of the entire conflict in one metaphor.

The culture among Arab and Jewish people in Israel has a long history of conditioning that needs to be untrained. Cultures are formed over generations and can take generations to undo. It's a long process. But is there an effort to fix it? Being blind to the culture around you can stop you from moving forward in the right direction.

For example, ultra religious Muslims and Jewish people will fight about something that happened so long ago that it's impossible to settle the differences. Cultures nurture or debunk positive or negative stereotypes and in Israel/Palestine, there is a fight between those that want to be part of a global future and those who want to step backward.

Aron Kader is a Palestinian-American comedian and founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour that debuted on Comedy Central in 2007. He performs regularly in Hollywood at his home club, The World Famous Comedy Store.


Naomi Ackerman:

Many biases, generalizations, and racist remarks are based on a small truth that has been taken out of context and exaggerated to a ridiculous extreme. This episode is a clear example of that. It's commonly known that Arabs (and I am generalizing here) are not big fans of dogs. They are not a pet culture. And the conclusion in this episode, that dogs can smell Arabs or bark only at Arabs, is an example of a ridiculous extreme.

There is always great irony in the fact that Amjad himself seems to believe stereotypes about his people, and then tries to do everything in his power to disillusion them. His desire to disprove this assumption makes the situation worse. Bushra, on the other hand, never gives in to what people seem to think of Arabs in general or her in particular. She is confident and proud so dogs are playful with her and lets her pet them.

Bushra seems to be the posterchild for believing in yourself and your values, as well as having a clear understanding of who the Alayin family needs to be as Palestinian Israelis. By being proud of her Arab heritage and not trying to be something she's not, she fits in on her own terms and finds a way to immerse herself in Israeli culture, even if that means being a bystander sometimes.

Amjad uses a Jewish skull cap to "trick" the dog into thinking he is Jewish. It is amusing that he chooses the most ostentatious kippa (head covering). Wearing a skull cap is a political statement in Israel, with each kind of of scull covering meaning a different thing. He chose a kippa that is usually used by nonobservant Jews at religious events; seldom do people walk around wearing these head coverings as he did.

Amjad is perpetuating a stereotype of his people regarding Arabs and dogs, while his neighbor Timna is yet one more extreme. Timna relates to her dog as if it's her child, she is mortified when the dog barks at an Arab, and calls the dog a "likudnik" (a member of Israel's right wing party). She wants to take the dog to see a psychologist for his problem.

At the end of the day, no psychologist is really needed. What is needed is for two diverse cultures to take the time and make the effort to get to know each other, understand their differences, and not let a dog be the one to prove the truth of a silly myth.

Naomi Ackerman is a Jewish-Israeli American. She is the founder and executive director of The Advot Project -- a non-profit organization that uses theater for transformation with incarcerated youth. Naomi draws upon her vast experience as an actress in theater, musicals, films, and television to develop programs that promote peace, change, and encourage self-empowerment.

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Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 4 Explainer: Nightgown

Palestinian-American comedian Aron Kader and Jewish-Israeli actress/philanthropist Naomi Ackerman shed some light on what you may have missed in the latest episode of Arab Labor.

Here's their take on season two, episode four, Nightgown.

Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 4 Explainer: Nightgown



Aron Kader:

I believe this episode was written purposely to break the taboo Arabs have about sex. I don't think that a show has ever brought an audience this far into the bedroom of a Muslim couple. Of course, they're no different then any other TV couple that has been seen in a bedroom, but for Arabs and Muslims, this is a big first.

Sex is never openly talked about among Arabs and Muslims, and Arabs will never show public displays of affection. By using a very traditional old-fashioned nightgown inside the bedroom, which is only sexy to Amjad's father Abu Amjad and probably the older generation, this episode advances the discourse on intimacy. It's quite obvious that there is a comment here on what the modern generation likes versus the older one. Arousal and desire differ from culture to culture, but I think this episode could have been written for any TV show anywhere and should be universally understood since all humans have sex and have different habits around it.

As an Arab married to another Arab, I witnessed how differently our families talked about sex before and after our wedding. This is not limited to Arabs; most married people probably experience something similar. Sex is unspoken before marriage and almost never not insinuated after -- maybe not in specifics, but in general about having babies and starting a family.

Most Arabs assume you're a virgin before marriage so sex is a big no-no to talk about until you're married. Even then, it's only acceptable to talk about it around other married people and really just between your respective sex. Delving into the topic can offend easily, but the humor here should be enough to compensate.

Aron Kader is a Palestinian-American comedian and founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour that debuted on Comedy Central in 2007. He performs regularly in Hollywood at his home club, The World Famous Comedy Store.


Naomi Ackerman:

In this episode, we get a peek into the bedroom of the different couples on the show. Honestly, sex is sex, people and intimate relationships are truly universal. The problems this episode addresses are relatable and on display on every sitcom.

Classically, Bushra, a working mom with small children, doesn't want to have sex because she is tired. Timna is looking for ways to spice up the romance in the bedroom, and tries to roleplay with her husband Natan. Meanwhile, Amjad's parents are the older couple. They're empty nesters still in love and simply having a blast.

What's different here is the cultural context and the opportunity to peek into a Muslim bedroom. I do not think we have ever seen that before. And when we think of the Middle East, most people assume that the people there are very traditional, perhaps religious and old fashioned. Well, I would think again.They use their tradition as a tool of seduction, or not ...

Bushra wears a traditional nightgown to keep her husband away, while her mother-in-law uses it to seduce her husband. The Jew who they give the nightgown to as a gift uses it to try and tempt her husband to act out a playful role as an Arab. It could seem surreal that culture and race enter the bedroom, but doesn't everything we live and breathe follow us to our most intimate places?

Natan doesn't want to engage in the roleplaying game of Arabs on the eve of his reserve duty since he will be dealing with Arabs while in the army. In Israel, everyone over the age of 18 is required by law to join the army. Girls serve for two years, boys for three. Men continue to do reserve service for one month every year until their 40th birthday. Unfortunately, many reserve soldiers spend their month of reserve duty standing at checkpoints that separate the Arab areas from the Jews, checking identification documents.

On the morning Natan has to leave for reserve duty, Timna pretends to be an Arab woman trying to go through the checkpoint and her husband, who is already in his military uniform, cooperates and they have a playful little encounter. It might seem tasteless to someone watching this from the outside, but dealing with the realities of the Middle East requires some humor and lightheartedness. It's no different than someone in the US role playing as a doctor, policeman, or firefighter.

Naomi Ackerman is a Jewish-Israeli American. She is the founder and executive director of The Advot Project -- a non-profit organization that uses theater for transformation with incarcerated youth. Naomi draws upon her vast experience as an actress in theater, musicals, films, and television to develop programs that promote peace, change, and encourage self-empowerment.

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Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 1 Explainer: Shower

Link TV has enlisted Palestinian-American comedian Aron Kader and Jewish-Israeli actress/philanthropist Naomi Ackerman to recap season two of Arab Labor, providing insight into the cultural nuances depicted in the award-winning sitcom.

Here's their take on the season two premiere, Shower.

Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 1: Shower



Aron Kader:

The opening episode of season two deals with a couple of rather serious topics in a funny and brilliant way. The first issue is Israel's control over water, while the second is the discriminatory housing practices and the nearly nonexistent awarding of permits to Arabs.

Water rights have been a controversial issue historically between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. Jewish neighborhoods tend to have higher water pressure as a result of their superior infrastructure and management of water resources. In the beginning of the episode, Amjad looks out Meir's window, admiring the green grass and peaceful neighborhood.

Without getting into the politics too much, here's one narrative surrounding water. Traditionally, Israel has served its own community's needs first and Arabs second, which has led to the drying up of Palestinian lands -- mainly orchards and farms that have been passed down for many generations. Palestinians have viewed this as an Israeli strategy to dry the land out until they're forced to abandon it, leaving their property to be sold. Writer Sayed Kashua brilliantly uses shower/water pressure as a comedic vehicle to comment on social injustice.

After being prompted by Meir to put his foot down, Amjad takes his complains about the weak water pressure to the municipality only to have it tragically backfire. When the authorities look further into his concerns, they determine that his father Abu Amjad's home violates an unexplained property code. They serve an order for its demolition. Unfortunately, this happens to be a very common occurrence in Israel since Arabs typically are not granted permits to build on their own lands and if they are, it's usually accompanied by many obstacles to overcome.

Aron Kader is a Palestinian-American comedian and founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour that debuted on Comedy Central in 2007. He performs regularly in Hollywood at his home club, The World Famous Comedy Store.


Naomi Ackerman:

Saying "have a nice day" and smiling comes naturally in the United States. In order to have that nice day, all people really need are the basics -- for example, a strong, hot shower. Because if we don't have the basics, the entire day can be ruined.

In the first episode of season two of "Arab Labor," Amjad is frustrated with the water power in his house. Water politics in the Middle East is about controlling the supply and allocation of water resources. It is a sore issue that reflects a central aspect of the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact that the Israeli government is the regulator of water to the West Bank, the influx of an additional large population to a relatively fragile geographical area, and the massive expansion of previously existing populations have all caused variance and struggle.

The water in this specific episode also addresses the difference in the utility services citizens of east Jerusalem receive, as opposed to citizens of west Jerusalem. Eastern Jerusalem is primarily populated by Palestinian Israelis, while the West is populated by Jewish Israelis. Palestinians can only be Israeli citizens if they don't live in the West Bank and hold an Israeli ID. Both sides of Jerusalem are served by a joint municipality. Unfortunately, there is a lack of equality in many of the services.

Naomi Ackerman is a Jewish-Israeli American. She is the founder and executive director of The Advot Project -- a non-profit organization that uses theater for transformation with incarcerated youth. Naomi draws upon her vast experience as an actress in theater, musicals, films, and television to develop programs that promote peace, change, and encourage self-empowerment.

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Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 2 Explainer: Moving

Link TV has enlisted Palestinian-American comedian Aron Kader and Jewish-Israeli actress/philanthropist Naomi Ackerman to recap season two of Arab Labor, providing insight into the cultural nuances depicted in the award-winning sitcom.

Here's their take on season two, episode two, Moving.

Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 2 Explainer: Moving



Aron Kader:

This is a pivotal episode that introduces a new cast of characters that will change the trajectory of the entire series. When Amjad moves into an all-Jewish building, it adds another dimension to the show, providing more opportunities for social commentary surrounding race, culture, and prejudice.

One joke that I found very funny could easily be overlooked: The Arab movers arrive at Amjad's new apartment complex in an old, beat-up truck and complain that the address they were given didn't mention a landmark, only a street name and number. A lot of the areas where Arabs live don't use numbered addresses; they use landmarks like "green trash can." I have experienced this myself in the Arab world.

We are then introduced to the characters that will create many misunderstandings throughout the season. Amjad offers a framed picture as a gift to the building that turns out to be an insult to his new Jewish neighbors because of its depiction of the Al Aqsa mosque. Some believe that the Al Aqsa mosque is built on top of where the temple mount used to be, which is considered to be the holiest Jewish shrine from antiquity. There are people that want the mosque torn down so that they can rebuild the temple for the Jewish people. Of course, this would cause a major fight since the Al Aqsa mosque is considered the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. All three major religions have legends attached to that spot, but one major belief is that it's where Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac.

One other thought I had watching as a Palestinian is the phrase, "self-determination." That phrase is used a lot when it comes to being able to move around as you please and not being told where and how you can live by Israelis. Self-determination is likely something Americans take for granted, as we can essentially move anywhere in the country without restrictions. In Israel, there are different territories with different rules, especially around Jerusalem, which is split between Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities.

Aron Kader is a Palestinian-American comedian and founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour that debuted on Comedy Central in 2007. He performs regularly in Hollywood at his home club, The World Famous Comedy Store.

Arab Labor Season 2, Episode 2 Explainer: Moving



Naomi Ackerman:

Like many other cities, Jerusalem is divided into neighborhoods. But because Jerusalem is the heart of the political, religious conflict in the Middle East, this division is taken to an extreme. There are no written rules or laws, but there is a very strong segregation of communities in the city and the suburbs. Jews live in the West and Arabs live in the East; there are no mixed neighborhoods. This segregation is not only between Arabs and Jews, but between religious Jews and secular Jews as well.

In this episode, Amjad, in his desperation for equal social services -- like water pressure, organized parking, beautiful parks -- moves his family from the familiar Arab village to a Jewish secular neighborhood in west Jerusalem. He is the only Arab in the building, if not the entire neighborhood. He wants and tries desperately to make a good impression, fit in, and not be "too Arab," but of course, the more he tries not to be the stereotype of his people, the more he becomes it.

Ironically, you will find in this building every Israeli stereotype in the book: the army vet, the one that fears Arabs and blatantly hates them, the ones who say they are evolved and enlightened but are as racist as the next, and the real friend who doesn't care if Amjad is an Arab. Together they struggle with the idea that an Arab is moving into the building, try to be civilized, and are confronted with their own ignorance and misconceptions.

Naomi Ackerman is a Jewish-Israeli American. She is the founder and executive director of The Advot Project -- a non-profit organization that uses theater for transformation with incarcerated youth. Naomi draws upon her vast experience as an actress in theater, musicals, films, and television to develop programs that promote peace, change, and encourage self-empowerment.

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Backstory: MBC Journalists Strike in South Korea

 
 

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Documenting Life and Death in Nigeria in "The Edge of Joy"

(Guest blog from the director of "The Edge of Joy", originally posted on the PBS NewsHour website)

The Edge of JoyIn the time it takes to read this post, somewhere in the world a pregnant woman will have started hemorrhaging and her baby might soon be motherless. One thousand women die every day trying to bring new life into the world, and this toll is what drew me to shoot my documentary film, The Edge of Joy.

 

I encountered many of the heartbreaking and hopeful stories that underpin this global tragedy, but it was only through the people, the doctors and nurses of Nigeria that I was able to tell them. The roughly one dozen Nigerian doctors and midwives I worked with closely over the course of making the film, didn't push agendas, or act as obstructionists when I asked tough questions or wanted to follow story lines to their natural conclusions.

 

Nigeria is better known for corruption and oil production than as the vanguard of fighting maternal mortality, but this small close-knit group of men and a handful of women trusted me not to create an indicting portrait of pregnancy and childbirth in their West African country.

 

Documentary filmmaking is an art, not a science, and at times during the making of this film, the process was challenging. I always kept my questions dignified and did my reproductive health homework so I could ask informed questions in hospitals and in the communities.

 

Getting permission to film in such sensitive settings requires government approval, a process that Habib Sadauki, the second obstetrician/gynecologist to be trained in the Nigerian state of Kano, helped me through.

 

After many meetings with the Ministry of Health and a mutual understanding that I would have a "minder" assigned to me while filming in the north, I was given permission to film in tertiary hospitals and primary health centers.

 

What I didn't know at the time is that the then Minister of Health Babatunde Osotimehin, recently appointed executive director of the UN Population Fund, had approved the access himself. During his tenure as minister, his office approved some ground breaking research about postpartum hemorrhaging.

 

I caught up with Osotimehin in May of 2009 at a health conference in Los Angeles. Our scheduled time to sit down and talk on camera kept being pushed back, so I made the bold move of taking over the role of the waitress at the café where he was enjoying a coffee.

 

Handing him a glass of water, I introduced myself as the filmmaker who had been documenting maternal health initiatives in Nigeria. I kept going on and on and he stopped me and said something to the effect of "you are persistent and persuasive just like they say" and with that got up, and came to sit with me for more than an hour.

 

We discussed safe motherhood, community leadership for better healthcare and, at the conclusion of our interview he shook my hand and said "your access is continued, enjoy your next trip to Nigeria." My field director and I began breaking down the equipment and she asked why I looked dazed. I said I was not even aware our access had to be renewed.

 

The freedom to shoot in medical settings was crucial to documenting the harsh realities of giving birth in Nigeria. In the film, blood became a ubiquitous character: women were losing too much of it, there wasn't enough of it when you needed it and midwives were always trying to keep it from flowing.

 

"Hemorrhage requires that you stop the bleeding and you repair the blood loss. If you don't repair (replace) the blood loss the woman will die," Sadauki told me.

 

We documented a case of severe bleeding where the midwives were able to manage a patient's hemorrhage with a drug and saline until her husband found a pint of blood and she received the transfusion in time to save her life.

 

And there are new tools on the horizon. A low-tech first aid device, known as the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment, shunts blood out of the extremities and back to the vital organs in cases of hemorrhage. No magic bullet, but a potential game changer for women giving birth in the developing world and new hope for the health care providers.

 

After I showed this film recently, I was embraced by a woman in the audience who thanked me for saving the world. Locked in a bear hug with a complete stranger, I thought to myself: "Thank you, but no, I'm not saving the world, I just make films about people who are saving the world."

 

# # #

 

Dawn Sinclair Shapiro's documentary film, The Edge of Joy, which was featured on PBS NewsHour in April 2011 as a selection of the PBS NewsHour partnership project with The Economist magazine -- the Economist Film Project -- will premiere on independent Link TV on Friday, October 28, at 5 pm ET and Tuesday, November 1, at 8 pm ET, and will stream on Link TV's ViewChange.org beginning on Tuesday, October 25. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, an international journalism organization, has created an online curriculum that accompanies the film to be distributed to high school educators around the country; educators and others can download the film for free to accompany the curriculum at www.viewchange.org.

 
 

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Egyptian Military Tries to Assert Control

(Al Jazeera English Headlines: 0635 PST, February 14, 2011) The opening of Egypt's stock exchange has been delayed until the economy stabilizes. The new military rulers are trying to assert their control over the country, and have warned they will act against chaos and disorder. Meanwhile transportation workers are striking in the capital, demanding better pay and an end to corruption.

 

In other news, the Taliban says it was behind an attack on a hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed at least two people. Anti-government protests in Yemen enter their fourth straight day. The entire Palestinian cabinet has resigned and President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to form a new government. And, in Indonesia, cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has gone on trial over weapons terror charges.

 

 

 
 

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Protests Regain Momentum, and Robert Fisk Interviewed

The latest news from Cairo, and an interview with UK journalist and Middle East expert Robert Fisk.

 

Record Rally in Tahrir, Egyptian Protests Spread, Labor Unions Strike

(Democracy Now! 0930 PST, February 9, 2011) Egypt's pro-democracy uprising is seizing new momentum one day after hundreds of thousands turned out for one of the largest protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square to date. A gathering of protesters led to the evacuation of the Egyptian cabinet building today, and tent camps are also being set up outside the Egyptian parliament. Egypt's labor movement has launched new strikes across the country, with an estimated 10,000 workers taking part. Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous interviews Mona el Seif, a demonstrator outside the Egyptian parliament building.

 

 

 

Robert Fisk on the Gap Between U.S. Rhetoric and Action in Egypt

(Democracy Now! 0930 PST, February 9, 2011) Two-part interview with Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent of the Independent newspaper in London, about the popular uprising ongoing across Egypt, its regional implications, and how President Obama should respond.

 

 

 

Click here for important background information on the unrest in Egypt.

 

 
 

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