Talent show winner builds bridges in Israel

Reality TV isn’t often trumpeted for its positive effects on society, but Israeli talent competition “Project Y” has been spinning plenty of goodwill since the November victory of Israeli Arab Firas Khoury.

He’s become across-cultural celebrity, using his win to spotlight peace between Arabs and Israelis.Ahead of the holidays, he published a message of goodwill, wishing the public of Israel, “of all communities and sectors, Jewish and Arab, rich and poor, young and old, a year of peace, tranquility and success,” and exhorting, “Let us learn to love one another, and forgive those who would hate us.”

Khoury also is busy developing a youth TV show for production company Synergy, the company behind “Project Y,” for launch in March.

Though no format has been set, it is expected that the show, which will see him become Israel’s first Israeli Arab TV presenter, will highlight the same acting and singing skills Khoury displayed on “Project Y,” which placed 15 contestants in a luxury villa for 80 days. Viewers voted each week for their favorite, with the winner getting a one-year contract to host an entertainment show.

Khoury, the only Arab contestant in the house, received 35% of the total votes.

For Israel, at a time of ongoing violence, the show become something of a healing exercise.

“It showed how so many kinds of people are living in Israel,” Khoury says. “We are only a small country, but we have so many races; Russians, Arabs, Americans. ‘Project Y’ showed all these different people living together in this house.”

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