Shams, a hijab-wearing, Palestinian woman went on the Israeli reality TV show to teach Jewish Israelis about her humanity. She was naive to think she’d succeed, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support her.
It’s hard with these Palestinians everywhere, even on Big Brother. I admit and confess, I know next to nothing about the reality show. When I was approached a few months ago in an attempt to interest me in participating in the show, I was amused and laughed at the very mention of the crazy idea. The network representative who tried to persuade me to come to the audition told me that if I wanted to convey a message to the people, this was the best platform. I want to convey a message, I replied, “Just decide who counts as the people, and I will consider.”
I explained that the participants in the program, especially the women, are objectified, and why this is contrary to my feminist ideology. I received, in return, an explanation that there has been a conceptual change — this time there will be a “big sister”. I quickly realized that there was no chance that the message would be conveyed in a telephone conversation, so I elegantly refused the offer. Since then, I have wondered, who is going to be the Arab woman to raise the ratings for Big Brother. Who would nonetheless dare to enter this artificial human laboratory, a beehive of Israeli Jews looking for instant fame?
And indeed, on the first episode of the show, a Muslim woman entered the Big Brother house — with a hijab, as the media like to point out. Shams Marie Abomokh, 30, an art therapist, married, and mother of three from Baqa al-Garbiyyeh. I recognized on the screen the woman who, weeks earlier, destiny had brought us together for a long discussion about the role of the Palestinians in relation to the refugees from the civil war in Syria and our relationship to Israeli aid organizations.
I was impressed at the time by a woman who knew what she wanted, articulate, ambitious, and opinionated, who was aware of the complexities of Palestinian identity in Israel, and, like most of us, laboriously refined her identity. Between the sentences and the glances, shone forth a naiveté that stems from a good place of deep faith in human beings and their ability to listen, understand and change. In...Read More