Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The World's Strictest Parents: The fightback

Reader Sharon Kanon responds to my criticisms of the couple from World's Strictest Parents: Israel:

As a journalist who wrote about the story behind the shooting of the BBC show in Israel, I was dismayed to read Miriam Shaviv's totally negative piece.

True, her perception was based on an hour BBCTV presentation. She did not have access to the 79 additional hours of on-camera time, where the real relationships were formed and the meaningful message of Jewish values absorbed by the teens. They got it: self-respect, and respect for others; tzadaka; spirituality; responsibility (working on the kibbutz)and learning about the life of a Beduoin shepherd; family values. They loved the frank, open discussions with their hosts and their hosts children. Shabbat, off-camera, with its focus on family bonding time, as well as delicious food, was a welcome relief. They loved it, and the jam session at Havdala time.

You really can't pass judgment unless you see the scenes that were cut -- some were explosive -- the connective tissue of real life during the week -- the building of confidence and trust, and lasting friendship.

Does it seem that Tzippi is cast as the "bad guy"? Seems so, especially if you don't get to see the other 79 hours.

Tzippi and David Shaked are not narrow-minded Orthodox extremists. (Did the cameraman tell them to look stern for the photo?)....

The Shakeds obviously did more than the grossly edited BBC TV show aired. The kids got the message of the role of Jewish values in shaping human experiences. And, thanks to their hosts, they also learned anger control, dramatically changing their relations with their own families.

The problem is that when you agree to participate in a show like this, you know ahead of time that the "whole story" will not - cannot - be shown, not when you are reducing 80 hours of footage down to one. And it is clear, from the outset, that the final cut may not represent the story as the subjects wished to present it.

Anyone who expects anything else is incredibly naive. Since - according to Ms Kanon's report - Mrs Sha-ked has a BA in journalism, the family must have known that ultimately their portrayal was not under their full control, and that this was a risk they were willing to take.

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