The Israeli left is rarely seen on Prime Time, but that’s changed since 27-year-old Tel Aviv-based artist Saar Szekely arrived on the Israeli version of Big Brother in January.
His presence was expected to be a flop but his unlikely friendship with housemate Eran Tartakovsky –- a former Israeli army officer who said on his audition tape that he hated Arabs — turned affections around and Szekely made it into the final. The show has had its highest ever ratings: 40% of Israeli TVs were tuned in.
In a recent clip, Szekely debated co-stars about the moral position of the Israel army and even Israel itself.
“Israel doesn’t want peace,” he says. “It wants land.”
“Israel is on the brink of catastrophe, and your eyes are closed.”
Szekely was surrounded by reactionaries and viewers set up Facebook pages, calling him a “traitor” and a “terrorist,” and saying that Israel should expel him. His home town of Askelon was officially ashamed of him.
Maariv Daily’s deputy editor, Shai Golden, told the Guardian:
“Until now, reality TV in Israel has been reluctant to put politics in the forefront because it doesn’t make for good entertainment. I think there are two elements to Israelis’ obsession with reality TV: escapism and a substitute for violence. Putting Saar in was a real risk.”
The producer of the Israeli Big Brother, Yoram Zak, said that he had no regrets including Szekely on the show:
“I just really liked his style. When I asked him why he wanted to join the house he said, ‘If you’re going to broadcast this garbage the least I can do is bring some real content to it.’ I liked that.”
Writes Ami Kaufman:
Inside the house, everyone was falling in love with him. Even the right wingers were finding it difficult to have a debate with him. He was just too convincing. And too nice. He rarely got into a fight. He was always the responsible adult. He was funny, caring, and warm and supportive when needed.
Outside, the left was getting all dreamy eyed over this chiselled, articulate young man. “Finally, a good-looking leftist who knows what to say! Where do we vote for this guy?”
· Find out more about the incident in the village of Bil’in which Szekely mentions here.