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The hottest TV show in Palestine right now? A soap opera. About Jews. That's progress.

Soaps might not be your thing, but this one may actually be worth watching.

The hottest TV show in Palestine right now? A soap opera. About Jews. That's progress.

There's a new Egyptian soap opera that's generating all sorts of buzz across the Middle East.

It's called "The Jewish Alley" and it features a love story between a young Jewish Egyptian girl and a Muslim colonel in the Egyptian army, set against the backdrop of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.


Egyptian actress Mona Shebli plays Leila. Image from "The Jewish Alley."

So yes, it's very "Romeo and Juliet," but that's not what's stirring up all the discussion.

"The Jewish Alley" is a Muslim-produced show that depicts Jews as ordinary, sympathetic people, which — believe it or not — is a huge deal.

Negative stereotypes of Jews run rampant throughout the Middle East. Just as Muslims in the United States sometimes suffer unfair judgment due to the actions of terrorist extremists, perceptions of Jews in the Middle East are often colored by regional tension with Israel.

A survey in Egypt even showed a majority of Egyptians believe Jews have too much power in the world and are responsible for most of the world's wars, despite the fact that only about .2% of the world's population is Jewish.

Other Middle Eastern countries showed similar biases when polled.

A Jewish man prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Men like him have traditionally been subjected to lots of unfair depictions in Middle Eastern media. Photo by Asim Bharwani/Flickr.

According to Nervana Mahmoud, an influential Egyptian blogger, these stereotypes are perpetuated by the media. Though there are Jewish populations in Turkey, Lebanon, and Cyprus, Jewish characters are often portrayed singularly in Middle Eastern fiction as Israelis, who are shown as "evil people plotting against Arabs and Muslims," she says.

Medhat El-Adl, creator of “The Jewish Alley," wanted to change that.

"By means of this TV series, I show that we (once) coexisted here with Jews, Armenians, and all other religions and nationalities, in a single fabric," El-Adl said in an interview on Egyptian television.

It's also worth noting that Jewish media, particularly in Israel, often reinforces negative public perception of Arabs, as well. Combating these stereotypes may be a crucial step toward recapturing cultural peace.

Reception of the show has been especially positive in one surprising place: Palestine.

"The Jewish Alley" is dominating the Palestinian broadcast market, with exceptional primetime viewership. Even the Palestinian prime minister is a fan, which is surprising because the history between Palestine and Israeli Jews is long and ... complicated.

The conflict dates as far back as 1948, when Israel was officially established as a sovereign nation. Palestinians and Israelis have been fighting ever since over who should control certain lands. A recent U.N. report noted that 2014, sadly, was one of the deadliest years of the entire conflict, with over 2,000 Palestinians losing their lives to fighting in Gaza.

An Israeli soldier operating in Nablus, West Bank. Photo by Israeli Defense Forces/Flickr.

The fighting has been going on so long that animosity has been deeply embedded into both cultures. And the media's conflation of Jews and Israelis does the greater Jewish population no favors in what, for them, is an already hostile Arab world.

Even with the region's history of conflict, the new Egyptian soap opera appears to be making progress — albeit on a small scale — toward bridging that divide. As one Palestinian viewer told The Washington Post after an episode, "It is amazing. It is as if we are one house."

"The Jewish Alley" won't end the violence on its own. But it can challenge the perceptions that lead to hostility in ways that traditional education can not.

Art is sometimes the most impactful form of media there is, for better or worse. For example, the Nazi propaganda film "Süss the Jew" was used to turn the German people against the Jews in 1940. Why can't a television show have the opposite effect today?

"The Jewish Alley" isn't perfect, but it's an important first step. Image from "The Jewish Alley."

"This series is not perfect in its production," says Nervana Mahmoud, in reference to the show's sometimes overly harmonious view of 1948 Egypt, and its anti-Zionist leanings, which have drawn the ire of the Israeli embassy. "But it is the first to break the stereotypes and challenge the perception that all Jews are bad. However, there is still a long way to go."

A good next step? More shows like this.

For example, the new Israeli action series "Fauda," which gives Israelis a balanced view of the brutal conflict with Palestine.

Both "The Jewish Alley" and "Fauda" are pulling in lots of viewers across the region — and hopefully paving the way for even more shows like them to hit the airwaves soon.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.