It's always sunny on West Bank's Sesame Street
By Joseph Nasr
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - It's always a sunny day on Sesame Street in the West Bank, where the neighbors are friendly and the muppets never see an Israeli army checkpoint all day long.
The Shara'a Simsim version of the popular television program teaches Palestinian children they can achieve their dream of an independent Palestinian state through tolerance, education and national pride -- and not anti-Israeli violence.
"Our problem is that for so long we've been focusing on resistance and we gave up on other things like culture, education and tolerance," said executive producer Daoud Kuttab.
"I believe that an educated, confident and tolerant society will help us build an independent, peaceful and non-violent state," he added.
The fourth series, which airs on Palestine TV in January and has 52 half-hour episodes, aims to teach Palestinian children -- mainly boys -- non-violent ways of expression, by exposing them to empowered characters who serve as role models.
One such is six-year-old Basel, meaning brave in Arabic, who in one episode is seen brushing his teeth, wearing his clothes and tying his shoelaces alone and then waving a Palestinian flag and declaring: "It's Basel's independence day!"
The show's Palestinian producers chose to make no reference to symbols of the Israeli occupation such as the West Bank barrier and the network of Israeli army checkpoints, which Palestinians say are sources of hardship.
"This is a program for pre-schoolers and we don't need to show them all the things they see too much of anyway, which are the tensions that exist in their daily lives," said Gary Knell, president of Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street. Continued...