The Israeli sitcom Avodah Aravit, or “Arab Labor,” is a hilarious look at the way Israeli Arabs see Israeli Jews–and an unexpectedly meaningful take on one man’s cultural schizophrenia.
Now in its second season in Israel, (the first season is available in the US on DVD, with English subtitles), Avodah Aravit is written by novelist and humorist Sayed Kashua, an Israeli Arab (who himself lives in a Jewish section of Jerusalem).
The show follows Amjad, a middle-aged Arab journalist who, in the first episode, moves into an all-Jewish apartment complex–and is instantly mistaken for the janitor. As the series progresses, it lurches back and forth between uproarious humor and deadly seriousness. Prejudice and the economic divide become fodder for jokes; but something as innocent as the neighborhood dogs‘ aversion to Amjad turn into a powerful metaphor for racism.
It’s all held together by Amjad’s attempt to balance two cultures: the Arab world where he grew up, and his lust for all things Israeli, from a luxury showerhead to Passover dinner.