Israeli puppeteers protest closing of Palestinian theater festival

Puppeteers from the Israeli version of Sesame Street protested Monday against Israel’s closure of a Palestinian children’s puppet festival, arguing that puppet theatre poses no threat to Israeli security.  Israel’s Ministry of Public Security last week ordered the temporary closure of the Hakawati Theater, the Palestinian national theater in occupied Arab-Palestinian East Jerusalem, canceling a children’s festival set to feature puppet shows and plays.

Ariel Doron, the voice of Elmo on the Israeli version of the popular children’s television show, and Yousef Sweid, who plays an Arab Muppet on the show, created a Facebook group named Puppets4All calling on Israel to permit the festival. Two other Israeli Sesame Street puppeteers, along with a number of fellow Israeli actors, uploaded photos to the Facebook group holding puppets and signs protesting the closure.

Am I a danger for [Israel’s] security? (Photo: Puppets4All)

The new Israeli version of “Rechov Sumsum” includes a Muppet of Arab origin, as well as characters representing Israel’s diverse population. “Sharaa Simsim,” the Arab-Palestinian counterpart, has sought to offer positive role models to Palestinian children.

In recent days, more than 2,350 Israelis signed a petition protesting the closure of the theater. The petition aims to remind right-wing Israeli government the ways in which the state simultaneously neglects the residents of East Jerusalem while preventing them from providing for their own needs. It also refers to the latest Israeli statements on the willingness to re-enter negotiations with the Palestinian Authority: “Can the way to building mutual trust go through the prevention of a puppet theater from showing?”

Israeli shuts down Palestinian childrens theater festival in occupied east Jerusalem