After seeing the campaign for the upcoming Comedy in Bomb Shelters Tour, featuring Jewish-American comedians traveling to Israeli bomb shelters to perform stand-up comedy, I was inspired to expand this idea to Gaza. They could probably use a little laughter in Gaza right now. After all, laughter is the best medicine, next to actual medicine, which they have no access to, along with food and other basic human necessities. The World Health Organization even warned last week that health services are on the brink of collapsing.
I would love to hop on a plane in JFK and make it to Israel and Gaza for the comedy tour, but unfortunately, there are a couple of glitches preventing me from doing so. Even though I was born and raised in Alabama—how much more American can you get—both of my parents, although U.S. citizens, were born in Palestine. And so Israel’s “democracy” and “national security” won’t let me anywhere near it. Unlike Israel that has killed of over 1000 Palestinians, of which nearly 80% are civilians including 200 children, the only killing I’m capable of is with my jokes. I guess Gazans are just not lucky enough to know the “true, peaceful, loving, generous, and creative Israel” as described by the comedy tour’s organizer, Ari Teman.
Though fellow New York based stand-up comedian, Ari Teman, and I, are both U.S. born and come from Arab descent, his Jewish heritage grants him more rights than I have in my own country. It’s not like Israel is being racist; they only give citizenship, equal rights, and freedom of travel to people based on religious beliefs and ethnicity. But how can we expect Jewish people supporting Israel to understand what it’s like for a country in power to arbitrarily treat a group of people as lesser than based on religion and race? If only I wasn’t born the wrong religion and ethnicity, so I could experience Israel’s model example of the only democracy in the Middle East.
Perhaps I can manage to swim to Gaza through Egypt, but that still leaves the problem of a proper stage. I’ve seen some pretty terrible and cramped stages in New York, but in Gaza I wouldn’t even have the luxury of performing in a bomb shelter, because they don’t exist. I can probably just stand on one of the 1,255 piles of rubble that were once Palestinian homes, schools, or hospitals, but I don’t think the lights from the constant missiles flying above me will make for the intimate ambiance desired for comedy performances. Plus no one likes to perform for an inattentive audience, whether they are bored tourists in Manhattan or mothers who just won’t stop crying and screaming after holding their dead child in their arms. Besides, children don’t belong in comedy clubs.
It’s such a shame I can’t make it on the tour, because I have shared stages with Ari and many other Jewish comedians in New York comedy clubs and I think it would’ve been fun to extend that to the Israel-Gaza edition. I think watching a bunch of American comedians talk about their online dating problems would’ve been a nice respite from the usual type of bombing Gazans are used to. So even though I can’t personally be there to perform comedy in Gaza, at least I can still rely on Israel to blow them away.