Arab food bloggers are heavily followed on social media during Ramadan
LONDON: In a region plagued by conflict, crisis and disputes, it can sometimes be difficult to see past the disheartening news swirling around the Middle East.
But a new show, however, aims to focus on the light shining through the dark.
Launched in December, the show “Yalla” was put together by Len Khodorkovsky, a marketing manager and former US State Department official, and Hayvi Bouzo, a Syrian-American journalist covering the Middle East.
Presented in Arabic, “Yalla” features stories and interviews with interesting people from within and outside the region who have left their mark on the Middle East.
Khodorkovsky told Arab News, “We wanted to come up with a show that inspires people and features positive stories and developments happening in the region.
“We both come from different perspectives, I was born in the Soviet Union and came to the United States as a teenager. And Hayvi was born in Damascus, Syria, and found her way to the United States d a different way.
Given their extensive work with the US State Department and their interest in the region, Khodorkovsky and Bouzo said the idea for the show stemmed from their desire to remain engaged in the Middle East and relay all stories that fascinated them about the region.
Bouzo said, “When people see the hope and the positive changes, the potential of where they could be, what they could do to be successful and have that bright future, then you actually see the change happening. .
“The media plays a very important role in inspiring and changing not only perspectives, but also the direction of things. That’s what we hope ‘Yalla’ will do,” she added.
Yalla, a common word in Arabic and Hebrew meaning let’s go or let’s go, is used frequently throughout the Middle East, so much so that it has become very familiar to Western audiences.
Khodorkovsky said, “We were looking for a word that reflected what we were trying to represent. And of course, yalla in Arabic and Hebrew is the same thing. It’s just a very active word, you hear it at the end of pretty much every sentence, so it made sense to us.
The co-founders revealed that the show was inspired by the Abraham Accords, the agreements that normalized ties between Israel and the UAE in August 2020, and they wanted to show the possibilities arising from this cooperation.
“We want to show people, success stories and open people’s eyes to what the future may be, and what it is already in the present,” Khodorkovsky added.
He and Bouzo noted that 10% of their audience was in Israel, while the remaining 90% came from the Arab world.
“These are not countries that we initially thought of, but people have pivoted and are looking for this kind of content, whether they’re in Lebanon, Algeria, Kuwait or Baghdad,” he said.
The show features interviews with notable figures from the region and abroad. One of the most important discussions took place with former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who played an important role in bringing the Abraham Accords to fruition.
Other guests included Israeli Hollywood star Lior Raz, best known for playing Doron Kabilio in Netflix’s political thriller series “Fauda”, and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori, the first Emirati to venture into space.
Moving away from the traditional interview style, the show focuses more on intimate personal stories and anecdotes that guests may never have shared with the public.
Bouzo said: “What really connects people is the commonalities, your favorite movie could be my favorite movie, right? And no matter where you come from, it’s those things that will bring people together. people.
“Our show wants to create and promote coexistence, love and tolerance, all of those things that we unfortunately haven’t seen so much in the past, so we focus our questions on those things that bring people together and connect them,” she added.
Khodorkovsky said, “It’s very easy for us to tell people about these simple things that each of us has experienced. Sometimes you’re surprised at what comes out of these questions, and frankly, sometimes it surprises the guests too.
The couple stressed that the show will focus on untold stories and new ideas that haven’t been covered in the media before in hopes of inspiring change and collaboration across borders.
Looking ahead, they revealed that they had an exciting guest list to interview, but what interested them most was visiting countries in the region and conducting on-the-ground interviews with people from around the world. Middle East.
“We want to talk to young audiences and people who are making changes in their country, creating new things, music, food. So we want to go to the countries that are on the axis of moderation in the Middle East,” added Khodorkovsky.