Ghadir Kamal Meriah, a member of the Druze community, will anchor Channel 1’s Saturday News edition starting Saturday evening. This is the first time that a Druze woman will present a Hebrew-language news edition on Israeli television.
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This is not the first glass ceiling Kamal Meriah, 32, has broken. As far as I know, she is the first woman in her community who has also anchored – and will continue to do so – the Arab language news edition on Channel 33.
To understand the enormity of this achievement, one should remember that in the Druze community, just like in the ultra-Orthodox community, women are still systematically oppressed in the name of the triple hegemony of religion, tradition and social propriety.
As in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the Druze woman’s role is dictated from birth to death, and if she leaves her allocated compound for an academic or another career, she will never be able to completely fit in in the world outside the community.
Druze women’s public visibility is extremely limited. They have no representation in national or local politics, which is seen as a man’s occupation. In contrast to the men, the women don’t go to the army and don’t join work in jobs related to the defense forces or police or even outside the community.
Kamal Meriah has shattered all these ceilings one by one. The ability to anchor the news, or even to function in a language that isn’t her mother tongue in front of cameras and viewers is rare and not to be taken for granted. The possibility of doing so in Israel was almost non-existent. You could count the people who broke the language barrier on one hand. Zouheir Bahloul, Rafik Halabi and Shibel Karmi Mansour, as well as a few news reporters on Hebrew television, have done it, but always in set niches, never in mainstream television. Lucy Aharish, who was raised in a bilingual milieu, has never been invited to replace Yonit Levi.
And now, even before her initiation, Ghadir – the name means “stream,” in case you were wondering – will have to deal with at least three other glass ceilings. The first is the uncertainty hovering over the future of public broadcasting. Will she be seen on the screen only until Channel 1 is closed? Will she continue to present the news in the broadcasting corporation? Will there even be such a corporation?
The second ceiling is more evasive. Channel 1’s Arabic broadcasts do not exactly enjoy the confidence of the Arab public, which for the most part sees them as mobilized media in the service of a hostile rule. In Hebrew, Channel 1 News’ rating is simply embarrassing. To forge a significant screen presence you have to find your way out of Romema, and that is not easy for anyone.
The third ceiling is the hardest. To build up credibility and make viewers return to watch a certain broadcaster, he or she must be seen as the most appropriate representatives of as broad a consensus as possible.
Once it was thought, in Romema too, that women weren’t suitable to present the news. In the other channels a suitable Arab man or woman hasn’t been found yet. If Ghadir Kamal Meriah’s television image is perceived as “suitable,” it will be a small triumph of sober public intelligence. From the bottom if my heart, I wish her – and us – luck in shattering that ceiling.