Israel Story

Shatnez

In Israel, there are many things that usually don’t—and according to some, never should—mix: Jerusalemites and the beach, Tel Avivans and the Kotel, HaPoel and Macabbi fans, ‘Haaretz’ and ‘Yisrael HaYom’ readers. But our episode today explores the most complicated and fundamental duo in terms of mixing and not mixing: Jews and Arabs.

December 17, 2021

Israeli society is often described as a collection of demographic bubbles—self-contained ecosystems, each with its own population, its own media, its own culture and, above all, its own version of reality. But in such a small country, those bubbles are bound to butt up against each other and inevitably, there is a certain degree of intermingling. Some see that as the secret of Israeli vitality, while others view it as an existential threat. But no taboo on social mixing has persisted for quite as long, or with quite as much vigor, as that pertaining to Jews and Arabs. Our episode today explores the product of one such unlikely union.

Prologue: “Forbidden Threads.” Host Mishy Harman spent the day at the municipal shatnez laboratory in ultra-Orthodox Bnei Brak, where he learned more than he ever thought he’d know about the perils of mixing wool and linen.

Act I: “The Family Tree.” Afaf Jabarin of Umm el-Fahm couldn’t have children. Batya Levy of Herzliya had just escaped her abusive husband. What united these two women was a deep love for each other and, it turned out, for the same man. Producers Yoshi Fields and Dina Kraft tell the story of Amir, the 27-year-old fruit of this Jewish-Arab love triangle, who has been navigating between cultures, expectations, and identities for his entire life.

Zev Levi scored and sound-designed the episode with music from Blue Dot Sessions. Sela Waisblum created the mix. Thanks to Dareen Jubeh, Sally Abed, Elham Nasser-Eddin, Susan Bell, Yoni Yahav, Wayne Hoffman, Esther Werdiger, Sheila Lambert, Erica Frederick, Jeff Feig, and Joy Levitt.

The end song, “Samson,” is by Regina Spektor.

Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.

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