“Shampoo Summit’

Film offers inside look at hair salon where Christian, Jewish, & Muslim women come together

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In a small salon in the town of Haifa, Israel, the traditional separation of Jews and Arabs is quietly ignored as Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women mingle, chatter, and snack on food while they get their hair done. This, as one of the women tells filmmaker Iris Zaki in The New York Times documentary The Shampoo Summit, is not merely “coexistence,” but “life.” The film follows Zaki, who is Jewish, as she sets out to meet her Arab neighbors for the first time by taking a job at Fifi’s salon, a Christian-Arab salon. A camera positioned above the sink where the women have their hair shampooed captures their reactions and thoughts on the Arab-Jewish divide in the region in conversations with their stylists.

“There’s hatred,” an Arabic woman named Nawal says as Zaki shampoos her hair. “We were taught that the Jews wanted to kill us. It’s hatred. But that fact is you’re working for me, you’ll see that 80 percent of my clientele is Jewish.”

Leah, a Jewish customer, said her son asked her to stop going to the salon after the family suffered a loss in a terror attack, but she refused, saying that she stood “with Fifi.” Karin, a Jewish teacher, said she’s noticed that kids she teaches today are more radical than they used to be. Reem, who is Arab, said that the hatred between the two groups has gotten much worse in recent years.

“Nazareth has become, the situation is really horrible between Jews and Arabs. Let’s say, fifteen years ago there was a calm and peaceful atmosphere, now everything has changed. Both between Muslim and Christian Arabs and the Jews that try to occupy the city,” she said.

“This is what you call true coexistence, actually no not coexistence, this is life,” Judith said. “If women were running things around here including the politics we would have lived in peace with our neighbors ages ago.”

See the film at The New York Times.

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