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Sunny day on 'Shara'a Simsim'

The Palestinian version of 'Sesame Street' teaches tolerance, education and national pride.

October 23, 2009|Reuters

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — 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.

"Shara'a Simsim" teaches Palestinian children they can achieve an independent 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 Daoud Kuttab, executive producer of the Palestinian version of the TV show. "I believe that an educated, confident and tolerant society will help us build an independent, peaceful and nonviolent state."

The fourth edition of the series, which airs on Palestine TV in January, aims to teach Palestinian children -- mainly boys -- nonviolent ways of expression by exposing them to empowered characters who serve as role models.

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."

"This is a way to bring some hope into their lives."

An Israeli-Palestinian version of "Sesame Street" was made in 1996, but Kuttab insisted on having a purely Palestinian version, which translated into "Shara'a Simsim."

In Israel, "Rechov Sumsum" promotes coexistence between the country's Jewish and Arab citizens through muppets Sivan and Mahboub.

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