A Canadian sitcom about Muslims living in rural Saskatchewan had its first broadcast in Israel Monday night, aiming to deliver a touch of Canadian humour to an often tense region.
Produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Little Mosque on the Prairie is a half-hour depiction of a small Muslim community living in the fictional prairie town of Mercy.
The show, complete with Hebrew subtitles,was broadcast to roughly 500,000 Israeli households on pay satellite channel Star 3. The channel has also optioned the rights to the show's second season, which is now airing in Canada.
Jakov Aviad gathered with a group of Israeli Jews in West Jerusalem to watch Little Mosque.
"I like the idea of having a show where you can exclude politics and hatred and make it all funny and light," Aviad said.
In East Jerusalem, a group of curious Palestinians also got together for the series debut.
"Our sense of comedy is not what they have in North America," laughed Khaled Amr.
The sense of humour also appeared to differ based on what side of the city was watching the show — scenes that got a big laugh in West Jerusalem were met with silence in the city's east. Palestinians and Israelis both got chuckles from the show, but at different times.
As the show's final credits rolled, reviews were mixed.
"I can watch it as a program that delivers a message in favour of Islam," said Palestinian Rami Tahbub.
"For Israel, it's a funny little show, but not more than that. It's very dull," said Yossi Yudekovitz.
Eva Aviad, an Israeli Jew, says she appreciates the show's humorous outlook.
"To live in Jerusalem or to live in the Middle East, you have to have a sense of humour or you get into trouble," she said.
The show's creator, Regina-based Zarqa Nawaz, has said she hopes the cheeky send-up of Muslim and Western stereotypes will get people laughing.
The show's makers were recently named recipients of the Search for Common Ground award, a humanitarian honour once given to Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. The award promotes collaborative problem-solving as an alternative to conflict.
Little Mosque has also inked deals to air in France, French-speaking Africa, Turkey, Dubai, Gaza and the West Bank.