Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What the Middle East is really like

Most of the people in the Middle East, most of the time, are just people, as they are anywhere else. They spend their time working and having fun, rather than blowing each other up. And they are not really as interested in the games of politicians as the politicians make out. Is there a political party that represents all these people?
That's an important part of any reality.
Ami Isseroff
4 Palestinian women escape into reality
They've had enough of war, they've had enough of politics, and they are looking for an escape from their daily realities.
They've had enough of war, they've had enough of politics, and now four young Palestinian women from Gaza and Jerusalem claim they are looking for an escape from their daily realities by becoming the stars of an on-line reality series that aims to show the world how people in this region really live.
"There are so many documentaries about the [security barrier ] or about Gaza and about politics," Samar Stephan, producer of Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem, which aired its first episode Monday evening, told The Jerusalem Post Monday. "People both here and abroad are sick of hearing about the politics in the region and we have decided it's time to show people what life is really like."
The concept is simple: A camera will follow the girls – two from Gaza and two from Jerusalem, two Muslims and two Christians – on a daily basis and record whatever they do.
"Whether they are out buying tomatoes or going out drinking and dancing with their friends, we will show it. The content is up to them," explained Stephan, 29, from Ramallah.
However, the interesting twist to this show, which has enough funding for some 90 half-hour episodes over the next three months, is that it will harness the wildly popular social networking Web site Facebook to garner fans and will be broadcast each evening on the video self-promotion site YouTube in order to reach as many people as possible.
"This is a non-profit project," explained Stephan, saying only that anonymous funders in Egypt and Abu Dhabi were behind the initiative. "We want as many people as possible to watch it. YouTube is a really popular medium and it is open to everyone. We want to show what this generation [of Palestinians] wants."
The series already has its own Facebook fan page and within 24 hours of broadcasting its trailer on Sunday more than 200 people had decided to join. In addition, the webcast on YouTube was viewed by close to 1,500 Web users in less than one day. And on both Web sites, just the anticipation of the series has already garnered talkbacks and discourse among Palestinians and Israelis from across the globe.
"It's amazing that so many people have joined [our Facebook page] already," said Stephan. "I think people are looking for new things in their lives and a huge percentage of people around the world use Facebook every day. It's a way of building bridges and reaching as many people as possible."
Jerusalemite Ashira Ramadan, one of the four young women who will be followed by cameras for the next three months, added, "When a show is on a certain TV channel there is always one group of people that is alienated. By being on YouTube it is open to every side – Israelis, Palestinians and anyone across the world who wants to see what we are doing can watch us. It's the best way to reach people."
Ramadan, 25, who is a presenter for the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation and was previously a reporter for the now defunct RAM FM radio station in Jerusalem, will be joined in the series by Gazan Nagham Mohanna, a documentary filmmaker, Ala Khayo, a Jerusalem-based accountant, and teenager Dona Matras from Gaza.
"No one has made a reality TV show about life in this area yet," said Ramadan, who hopes to show that "we have normal lives like the rest of the world."
Though the show features two professional journalists and the women obviously have their political convictions with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Stephan and Ramadan claim that the overall goal is to demonstrate that despite the issues, most young people just want to enjoy life without politics.
"Obviously we will not ignore what is happening here," stated Ramadan. "Occupation is something that you cannot erase or get rid of and it affects me every day, but I would also like to show my family life in Jerusalem."
"I go out with my friends and we have fun," she continued. "It's just fun under occupation, with borders and boundaries, but I think people will be shocked to learn that we do go to parties or to the cinema and that there is culture behind the wall."
"Of course there are a lot of people struggling in this area," said Stephan, "but at the same time there are many people who just want to get on with their lives.

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