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Egypt soap flattering to Jews surprise hit among Palestinians

A dozen Palestinian Muslim men gathered after midnight at an isolated farmhouse this week to indulge in a new delight. They were going to watch a soap opera about Jews.
“Hush, hush. It’s starting!” someone said. The group settled down, sipped fresh lemonade, nibbled sweets, sucked on water pipes and then cranked up the volume for the opening credits of “Haret Al-Yahud,” or “The Jewish Quarter.”
The Egyptian soap tells a Romeo and Juliet tale of a beautiful daughter of a well-to-do Jewish merchant and dashing Muslim army commander falling in and out and in love again in old Cairo during the earth-shaking 1948 Arab-Israeli war and its aftermath.
“I never in my life imagined that I would be seeing this,” said Mahmoud Dadoh, a chicken farmer who had become a fan. He was not amazed to see Jews in Arab media. Not at all.
No, what stunned the chicken farmer and his pals was that “The Jewish Quarter” is aired on Palestinian Public Television, with the implied consent of the Palestinian Authority, and it shows Jews in a positive light — as ordinary, even extraordinary, human beings.
“This is very new for us,” Dadoh said, pointing to the big-screen television during a scene where the Jewish patriarch counsels patience. “Look at them. Look at their dignity!“
The other men nodded.
“It is amazing,” said Midhat Abu Nigmeh, a construction foreman. He added, in a contemplative mode: “It is as if we are one house.”
Meaning: On the show, the Jews speak perfect Arabic, drink endless cups of strong coffee and talk endlessly about business, family and politics — just like Muslims.
It takes place in a glossy, romanticized era when Muslims, Christians and Jews existed in harmony in Cairo.

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