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Sayed Kashua is perhaps most known for the wildly popular satirical television series he created, Arab Labor (a phrase that in Hebrew – avoda aravit – usually implies ‘shoddy or second-rate work’). The show holds a mirror up to the racism and ignorance on both sides of Israel’s ethnic divide, and is the first program to present Palestinian characters speaking Arabic on primetime Israeli television.
Kashua was born in 1975 in Tira, and attended the prestigious Israeli Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem. He lived in Beit Safafa, a neighborhood divided by the Green line straddling East and West Jerusalem, and then he moved with his family to a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.
His novels have won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature, and the Bernstein Prize. His 2002 novel Dancing Arabs has been turned into a semi-autobiographical film, Dancing Arabs, directed by Eran Riklis and written by Kashua himself. The film’s Israeli release was delayed due to the Gaza war this summer, but it’s finally now showing in Israeli cinemas. In the aftermath of last week’s tensions in Jerusalem, Ashkelon, and other parts of the country, Kashua’s message is surely increasingly urgent.
Today, host Marcela Sulak reads from his 2010 novel Second Person Singular, which examines the identity of Arab Israelis who have assimilated into mainstream Israeli culture. It has a complex dual plot, and among the characters are a young Arab-Israeli and a Jewish-Israeli who actually exchange identities.
Second Person Singular, by Sayed Kashua. Translated by Mitch Ginsberg. Grove Press (2013).
Dancing Arabs, by Syed Kashua. Translated by Miriam Shlesinger. Grove Press (2004).
Let it be Morning, by Syed Kashua. Translated by Miriam Shlesinger. Grove Press (2006).
Arab Labor (TV show) – Theme song
Dancing Arabs (film) – Original Soundtrack