In 2015 the US Consulate in Jerusalem broke the mold of years past and invited a truly American art form to bridge the waning connection between the US and Palestinians by hosting and paying for a comedy Tour of Arab Americans throughout the West Bank! Called “1,001 Laughs Comedy Festival” 8 Arab American comedians performed and ran comedy workshops in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem. The tour was so wildly successful in being able to create joy and affinity the press went wild. The US Ambassador (originally from Detroit) was in the front row of one of the events in Jerusalem and we ripped on him because of the serious ass Secret Service agent behind him sticking out like a sore thumb in a sea of laughing audience members. It created such laughter the ethnic and political walls between the people in the room shattered.
The success of the initial festival was so great they invited us back in 2016 with a brand new rotation of comedians from the US; but days before the tour the Consulate pulled all affiliation and support. It was a sad day as an American Arab because politics got in the middle of hope and distorted possibility. The members of the embassy were so sad and ashamed that they had to disaffiliate themselves.
The festival is my heart. It’s born in the freedom of speech and optimism of transformation that is absolutely an American ideal and pillar of our country. Often taught in school through the stories of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement of the past. Yet, Politics and fear have distracted us from this. This festival brings all types together for a show where we laugh at the silly, mundane and frustrations of the world and occupation. From the comedians, audience and the communities in the area – all are affected by the vibration of joy, laughter and pure silliness.
All cultures laugh…it’s a human instinct. Try to make someone not laugh and boom, they can’t help themselves and it’s language free..laughing is like singing it actually unifies the participants heart beats. In this festival we use laughter to break tension and create connection is such a beautiful thing to watch unfold. I do this with every person i encounter from the Israeli soldier to the little Palestinian kids at a check point. This festival is going to subtly shift the occupation from the occupier and the occupied by laughing and feeling safe to laugh. The attendees are watching more comedy than ever before and are starting their own open mics. They are taking on self expression and feeling heard which as we all know is the most needed desires of anyone. We are preventing self and open destruction…look at the historic American, British and newly booming South African and German comedy scene as evidence of how comedy has been healing old wounds. We are getting in at the ground level of dismantling hate.
This occupation and situation has an expiration date…with this festival it’s not far ahead.
Please check out & donate whatever possible to: palestinecomedy.com today!
Here’s a video to help people see why: