‘Sesame Street’ puppeteers launch campaign for E. Jerusalem theater

Well-known children’s show actors launch puppet-themed protests against Israel’s cancelation of a Palestinian children’s festival at the Hakawati Theater in East Jerusalem.

'Sesame Street' puppeteers launch campaign for E. Jerusalem theater
Ariel Doron, who plays Elmo on the Israeli version of Sesame Street, started a Facebook campaign to protest Israel’s cancelation of a Palestinian children’s puppet festival. (Facebook)

The creative protests over a cancelled Palestinian children’s festival continued online this week, as puppeteers from the Israeli version of “Sesame Street” opened a new Facebook page in protest.

Ariel Doron, the voice of Elmo on Israel’s version of Sesame Street, and Yousef Sweid, who voices an Arab Muppet on the show, created the “Puppets4All” Facebook page, the Associated Press reported. They asked online protestors to take a photo of themselves with a puppet and sign, calling on Israel to rescind its ban on the annual children’s puppet festival at el-Hakawati Theater in East Jerusalem.

Approximately 100 photos of Israeli and some international puppeteers, actors and artists have been posted on the page.

Doron, who also made a puppet protest video recently, told the AP, that the initiative “was private and not coordinated with Sesame Street.”

On June 20, Israel’s Public Security Ministry notified el-Hakawati’s executive director that the annual children’s festival was cancelled, claiming festival organizers received funds from the Palestinian Authority, in contradiction of the Oslo Accords.

The theater director Mohammad Halayka denies the government’s allegations.

Halayka told +972 he would be following up with the lawyer representing the theater about developments in the legal challenge against the festival cancellation.

He said he has received many letters and emails in support of the theater. He even got a letter from an Israeli theater in Tel Aviv considering cancelling their children’s festival in solidarity with el-Hakawati, Halayka said.

But Halayka said he declined the offer, not wanting other children to be denied cheer and enjoyment.

“That’s not the way to do it,” he said, but added that the gesture showed the level of solidarity against the festival’s cancellation. “That gives you an indication of how on both Israeli and Palestinian sides, both are angry about this,” he said.

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