Palestinian, 3 Jews Walk Into a Synagogue...


Feb. 4, 2007 — -- What do you get when four American comedians -- one Palestinian and three Jewish -- travel all the way to Israel to tell jokes in a synagogue? A first for comedy.

As far as anyone at the synagogue can remember, there has never been a comedy show with Jewish and Palestinian comedians on stage together in Israel.

Watch Wilf Dinnick's report tonight on "World News." Check your local listing for air time.

Aaron Freeman, Ray Hanania, Yisrael Campbell and Charley Warady make up the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour.

The four comedians turned the not-so funny Palestinian-Israeli conflict on its head. Military checkpoints were mistaken for toll booths, every Palestinian is a potential kidnapper and there were even a few jokes about suicide bombings.

When they promise suicide bombers 72 virgins, the lone Palestinian Hanania jokes, suicide bombers are mistaken.

"It's not like English. You read Arabic from right to left," he said. "So, it's not 72 virgins. It's one virgin and she is 72 years old."

Hanania, a comedian from Chicago whose parents were born in Palestinian territories, opened his monologue by asking the audience in the synagogue, "How many Arabs are here tonight?" And when the mainly Jewish crowd went awkwardly silent, he smiled and said, "Good security."

"There is a taboo in the Palestinians society about appearing with Israelis," Hanania said.

Campbell, who has lived in Jerusalem for 10 years, agreed.

"Any contact is seen as some sort of surrender, I think, on both sides," Campbell said. "Surrender is not a highly valued characteristic in either society."

Since the Second Intifada or "Palestinian uprising," there are few places where Palestinians and Jewish Israelis mix. The comedians said that they are trying to bring both sides of the conflict together with laughter.

The four comedians performed in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They hope to return in several months and tour the "other side" -- cities in the Palestinian territories like Ramallah, Nazareth and Bethlehem.

"Yeah, me and the three hostages," joked Hanania, winking at the other three Jewish comedians.

Outside the synagogue after the show, the Israelis in the audience seemed thankful for the rare chance to laugh.

"We joke about ourselves," one fan said. "Here is someone who said a lot of things out loud that had to be said, and they did it with good humor."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events