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Friday, January 26, 2007

A Palestinian-Israeli comedy tour? You must be joking!

Haaretz, Jan. 26, 2007
A Palestinian-Israeli comedy tour? You must be joking!
By Daphna Berman

A group of Palestinian, American and Israeli comedians has teamed up for a local comedy tour in English billed as an attempt to "solve the Middle East conflict in only six shows."

The group debuted in Jerusalem on Wednesday night to a packed crowd and has performances scheduled for the coming week in Tel Aviv and again in the capital.

"Humor is a great way to remind people that we are all human," said Ray Hanania, a Palestinian-American comedian who helped initiate the tour and is performing for Israeli audiences for the first time.

The comedy lineup also includes African-American Jewish Aaron Freeman and Israeli Shachar Chason (who acts as the emcee), as well as American-Israeli comedians Charley Warady and Yisrael Campbell.

Hanania, who complains that people confuse him with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, says this may be the first time Israelis and Palestinians have ever done a comedy tour together - "not including the peace negotiations."

The performance, which had the audience laughing nonstop for nearly two hours, explored politics and the conflict, along with the requisite Katsav jokes. But it also dealt with issues such as conversion to Judaism (Freeman: "I became a Jew to confuse Louis Farrakhan"), aliyah (Warady: "When I first drove up to a checkpoint, I threw some change and kept driving"), being Arab in the U.S. (Hanania: "I don't think of you as an audience, but as potential hostages"), and integrating into Israeli society (Campbell: "The Hebrew word for hell is ulpan").

"The tough part isn't getting Israeli and Palestinians to perform together, but convincing four headliners to cut down to 20 minutes each," Warady said. "That's when the real negotiations begin."

The five will perform tomorrow night at Tzavta Theater #3 in Tel Aviv and Wednesday at Kol Haneshema Synagogue, Jerusalem. More shows may be added to the lineup. For information and tickets, contact

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