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Reel Mama: Sunny days go dark on Palestinian "Sesame Street"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sunny days go dark on Palestinian "Sesame Street"

They say never to talk about religion or politics, and usually they are easy to avoid when having discussions about children’s programming.  But not anymore.  The funding for Palestinian Sesame Street, called Shara’a Simsim, has recently been cut by Congress in retaliation for the country’s bid to join the UN.  Haneen, a big orange puppet, and Kareem the big green rooster, will not be entertaining and educating Palestinian children, and have been sent to New York for repairs in the meantime.  The shows writers and producers are biding their time, surfing the internet and working on a project to develop jigsaw puzzles as the show has gone into reruns.
Ordinarily I might not dare to set foot in the political minefield that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I sympathize with the ordinary citizens in both places who just want to live in peace and have a better life, and there have been things I’ve strongly disagreed with coming from the leadership of both sides.  I condemn the killing of innocents.

But the priceless life lessons that Sesame Street provides -- teaching tolerance, kindness, valuing diversity, and educational lessons ranging from simple to sophisticated -- should be available to children regardless of the political system they live under. With the decades of turmoil the region has experienced, the message of Sesame Street needs to be heard.
I understand those who might question why the U.S. government needs to fund Sesame Street abroad at all when there have been so many devastating budget cuts already here at home, but the money was already allocated.  In addition, Sesame Street and its many global incarnations are financed in part by the purchases of merchandise.  It’s clearly stated on each Sesame Street product, and parents make the purchases knowing that their money will go to fund all of these various productions around the world.  I’m not certain how this money is allocated, but I will try to find out and report back in this blog.
In the meantime, the Israeli Sesame Street, Shalom Sesame, will go on with the show.
Here’s hoping that Shara’a Simsim will be up and running again soon, and that Elmo will negotiate peace in the Middle East.


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