Arie SOVER, Don’t we Laugh the Same as You? Do Israeli Arabs and Jews Laugh at the Same Humorous Situations?

Abstract: This article intends to answer the question, is there any difference to the way Arabs and Jews relate to humor in Israel, taking into account that there are cultural differences between the two populations. This research, carried out in 2015, is a continuation of work carried out in 2013 and examined the same question2 . In contrast to the previous study, in the current one, the group of Arabs was made up only of Muslims and the Jewish group was made up of Oriental origin Jews only. In the previous study, the Arab group was mixed, Muslims, Christians and Druze and the Jewish group was heterogeneous, made up of Oriental and Ashkenazi (from Western culture) origin participents. In order to answer the above question, we selected for both studies, the comic series “Arab Labor”, broadcast on Israeli Television’s Channel 2. Arab Labor is an aired comic series directed at a Hebrew speaking audience. It is the first comic series broadcast on a Hebrew speaking channel, whose stars are Arab actors speaking Arabic, directed at Hebrew speaking viewers who are mostly Jewish. The series depicts an Arab family headed by Amjad, who is trying to integrate into and be accepted by Jewish society. The close encounter between the two populations, Jews and Arabs, creates numerous conflicts and misunderstandings, which in turn, awaken stereotypes, fears, and each culture’s beliefs about the other. This research seeks to examine the comic structure of the series on the one hand, and to examine the differences in Arab viewers’ attitude to the series, compared to that of Jewish viewer’s, on the other, and to see whether the findings in the previous study are repeated. The current study compared to the previous one, was carried out at the end of October 2015, at a time when security tentions were taking place between Israelis and Palestinian citizens of the Palestinian Authority, causing tension between the two populations, Jewish and Arab in Israel. Against this background, the way the two populations related to and accepted this series was investigated. Two main questions underpin this research. The first question – Is the series with its comic structure directed at all Hebrew speaking viewers including Arabs, or is it structured in a way that suits Jewish viewers in particular? The second question – How do Arab viewers respond to the series compared to Jewish viewers? From the research findings one can see that on a personal and social level, there is a relatively large gap between the two populations with regard to their relationship with humor in the daily lives as well to self-humor. The Arabs tend to laugh less at themselves and others, and especially at their society, while in contrast the Jews are more open to laughing at themselves, others and even their society. Another finding that emerged was that despite the tension between the two populations at the time of the current study, no significant differences were found between the two populations’ attitudes to the series. Furthermore, there is no significant difference between the Muslim Arab answers in the 2015 survey and the Heterogeneous Arab’s group that participated in the 2013 research. In contrast, a difference was found between the two Jewish groups – the heterogeneous group of 2013 and the Oriental Jews in the 2015 survey.

Key Words: humor, sitcom, laughter, superiority, satire, tension.

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