A Palestinian American artist heals with humor

Palestinian American Amer Zahr wants to heal people through humor.

In 2015, he began bringing other Arab-American comedians from the United States to perform in Palestinian cities such as Nablus, Bethlehem and Ramallah.

Seven years later, the Palestine Comedy Festival in Zahr is still in full swing.

After the most recent performances in Jerusalem, he told the Reuters news agency: “Laughter is therapy… We have to show the world that Palestinians love to laugh, we love life, we love art.”

Zahr and a group of seven other comedians performed at the city’s Dar al-Tifel al-Arabi school. It was created by a Palestinian educator in 1948.

All tickets for the event have been sold out, organizer Hani Kashou said.

The jokes covered many topics. Some jokes were about being interrogated by Israeli border guards; some jokes were about Arabic language mistakes made by people growing up with Palestinian and American identities.

Bilal Sharmoug, who closed the show, joked about why he was tall. Growing up, Sharmoug says, he mixed up the Arabic word for “bon appetit,” which is sahtein, with sahnein, which means “two plates.”

Other mock jokes the stereotypes Arab traditions.

Comedian Reema Jallaq, for example, has spoken of being a “shibsheb survivor”. This term refers to a method of punishing children by throwing slippers on them. When she heard the joke, Mei al-Bakri, 14, said she laughed a lot.

“That was my favorite joke,” she said as she stood next to her mother.

Nihaya Ghoul Awdallah, 70, is from Jerusalem. She said: “It was a great show… We thank them so much for bringing a beautiful smile to our faces and allowing us to release our worries, sadness and difficulties. terms where we are.”

The first year of the comedy festival featured Egyptian American actor Ramy Youssef and Palestinian American comedian Mo Amer.

This year, the seven actors were Palestinian.

Zahr divides his time between Nazareth and Dearborn, Michigan. He said, “We bring Palestinians and Arab Americans here to show that our people in America haven’t forgotten where we come from.”

Zahr performed all five shows this year wearing a black t-shirt that had the word “press” written on it. The shirt was a tribute to Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. She was killed in an Israeli raid in the West Bank in May.

“If she was here, she would be laughing too,” he said. “Comedy comes from the tragedy. Pain and suffering is exactly why we are having this festival.”

I am John Russell.

Henriette Chacar reported this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

therapy – nm the treatment of physical or mental illnesses

stereotype – nm an often unfair belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic

slippers -not. (PL.) a lightweight, flexible shoe usually worn indoors

terms – nm (PL.) the conditions in which someone lives; how something happens: the specific details of an event

tribute – nm something you say, give, or do to show respect or affection for someone

the tragedy nm a very bad event that causes great sadness and often involves someone’s death