We joined the people of the show at their premiere party to find out how a show about Arabs and Jews living together in the same building has become the No. 1 sitcom on the Israeli primetime.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Palestinian journalist and the creator of "Arab Labor," Sayed Kashua, admits he based the show on his personal experiences but he hopes he is not as neurotic as his alter-ego, Amjad.
“I based the show on my own private experience sometimes, but I'm not trying to tell the truth about myself," he says. "To be honest, I'm not sure what is the truth about myself. But yes, it deals with Amjad, who's an Arab, a Palestinian journalist in an Israeli newspaper, just like myself or at least I used to be.
"He's married to a psychotherapist, just like me, and the whole show is about the pregnancy, a very difficult pregnancy of Bushra, his wife, just like we had with our little baby last year.
"I hope I'm not that neurotic like Amjad in the show. Although my wife, when she watched, she said, 'It's exactly you.' But I think I'm a little bit smarter than the actor and I'm a little bit more handsome than him.”
'Arab Labor' cast (Photo: Eldad Refaeli)
Actor Norman Issa, who portrays Amjad, admits viewers were hesitant to embrace the show initially because they were afraid to look at themselves closely.
“In the beginning people didn't like it very much because it spoke about themselves, and afterwards they started to understand that this is a comedy, a sitcom, a TV show, and it's not a documentary," he says.
"Why is it so successful? I think because both Jews and Arab are afraid of each other, so this series makes them not afraid and get into the game… It's very easy to get to these people through comedy and not by facing them about a fact or something.”
'We can learn how to live together'
Veteran actor Salim Dau, who portrays the very comedic Abu Amjad on the show, admits fan reactions on the Jewish and Palestinian sides are very different.
“In the first season some Arabs didn't like this show. They said to me that we show the Arabs in a very bad situation. I thought, and I think now, that they are wrong," he says.
"And the Jewish side, they told me many times one thing which is very interesting: If we think a little bit, we can learn how to be together, how to live together, because we don't have any choice. For that we have to be clever and sensitive and to understand, and in the show we see that it's possible. Why don't we do it in our life?”
Even though the Palestinian actors in the series seem skeptical about the influence of the show, with 30% average rating per episode there is no doubt the show captures all sides of the Israeli audience.