February 11, 2010
Last evening, after watching "American Idol" (OK, so I'm hooked), I discovered a BBC Four programme on "Syrian Schools". I was fascinated by the girls' school featured, which has many girls in hijabs and rather less without, all in a fetching pink and grey uniform. The Headmistress, a zaftig lady, all charm and heavy make-up but with a steely toughness beneath her sleeveless garb, was fascinating in her ability to keep both male and female (all but one of the latter were in traditional dress) teachers in line, as well as the girls. These young ladies were as aspirational as any westerner, and enjoyed a "surprise" visit and pep talk from Syria's lovely willowy British-born First Lady (who reminded me of a cross between Marie Osmond and Geena Davies). I loved the programme, which also featured a boys' school, at which Iraqi Christian refugees were settling in.
But then I got thinking: could this programme, made by the BBC/Open University, be a propaganda ploy? If you google "Syrian Schools" and read the blurb by Max Baring, you might be forgiven for thinking so. Moreover, this is the subject of the next show:
"Yarmouk Girls' Secondary School sits in the heart of a Palestinian refugee camp that has sat on the southern edge of the city for over sixty years. Nearly all its students are Palestinian, coming of age in a society obsessed with its Palestinian identity and right to return to its homeland.
Two schoolgirls are breaking the mould. Shaza and Rahaf dream of serving the Palestinian cause though rap music, but their plans put them on a collision course with their parents and traditionalist head teacher as they try to bring their radical rap into the classroom."
No doubt Jonathan will be watching this series with due care and concern.
In the meantime, does anyone else agree with my Better Half that it's high time Israel returns the Golan Heights to Syria and normalises relations with that country? I must say, that if Syria is truly represented by that show, it would appear to be a forward-looking, fairly secular country with which Israel might well be able to find peace.