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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Israeli-Born Arab Journalist Sayed Kashua’s Life In America

Arab journalist Sayed Kashua, who was born in Israel, moved to Illinois with his family after violence in the Gaza Strip escalated this summer. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Arab journalist Sayed Kashua, who was born in Israel, moved to Illinois with his family after violence in the Gaza Strip escalated this summer. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Israeli-born Arab writer Sayed Kashua had long made Jerusalem his home. He’s the creator of the successful sitcom “Arab Labor” which took a humorous look at life for an Arab family living in Israel.

He’s also a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. But when violence escalated in the Gaza Strip this past summer, Kashua decided that his family’s yearlong sabbatical in Champaign, Ill. would begin earlier and last longer than he had originally planned.

Kashua told Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson that he felt he and his family were no longer safe in Israel. He talked to Jeremy about how life in America has been going for him.

Interview Highlights: Sayed Kashua

On life in the U.S. versus life in Israel

“It’s surprising to know that ‘yes you can live that way’—that war and racism are not really supposed to be part of your life. I’m sure that racism is still happening in the states and I’m sure that people are a little bit separated and there are differences. But it’s not the governmental position and it’s not something you cannot break through it. So yes, you know what it is surprising—taking my son to the movies and fishing in the small lake, I never imagined such a thing.”

On ‘Arab Labor’

“’Arab Labor’ was a huge success and I’m very much happy that I didn’t continue making ‘Arab Labor’ and did a little bit more dramatic spin-off because I felt something horrible was going to happen. And I always believed that humor can deal with racism and stereotypes and that TV and writing can be helpful… But now I’m not sure if I can use humor for Israeli TV. The situation, there’s a war going on there. The state of Israel, unfortunately in the West Bank—so many countries now think and so many people also in Israel that there’s going to be a real apartheid. So it’s very difficult to use humor.”


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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