Israeli beauty, brains and brawn

February 27, 2013 - 9:09 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, Entertainment, General, Israeliness, Life, Pop Culture 

The IDF candidates for Miss Israel. (B'Machaneh)

The IDF candidates for Miss Israel. (B’Machaneh)

We all know about how Israeli women are making their mark in the army in combat units and breaking down gender barriers across the social spectrum.

So here’s an old-fashioned twist on the ‘new Israeli women’ courtesy of the IDF monthly magazine B’Machane.

Six of the 20 young ladies vying for the title of Miss Israel and the chance to represent the country in the Miss Universe pageant later this year are currently IDF soldiers, with specialties like paratrooper instructor, Air Force operator, squad instructor or logistics specialist.

The magazine interviewed the women about their feelings on serving in the army at the same time as serving themselves up on plate of media glare wearing skimpy clothes to boot.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the models join the competition because they want to represent their country,” said Sg. Gaya Shukun. “Now that I’m in the army, I have a better insight into the real Israel. I see how badly we’re portrayed in the international arena, and as an IDF soldier, I feel a responsibility to better explain what really happens here.”

That combination of brawn, beauty and brains is the special ingredient that makes Israeli women the most attractive in the world. You have a problem with that? I’ll send these beauties after you.

Stones roll at the Western Wall

February 25, 2013 - 12:41 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, Blogging, Entertainment, General, Holidays, Israeliness, Life, Music, Pop Culture 

A photoshopped image of The Rolling Stones announcing their shows in Israel.

A photoshopped image of The Rolling Stones announcing their shows in Israel.

People will believe what they want to believe. Especially on Purim.

The Jewish Press, not especially known for their humor, published a piece for the holiday announcing that The Rolling Stones had booked two shows for Israel on Yom Haatzmaut in April to help the country celebrate its 65th birthday.

Perhaps because their version doesn’t go overboard and reads like a staid news story at the beginning, focusing on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) groups opposing the shows, some people thought that it might actually be a real news item. Especially anxiety-provoking was the line that the two shows – in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and in Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, were already sold out.

Evidently discerning readers didn’t get to the part later in the story – where some tongue in cheek humor revealed itself.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood will all arrive in Jerusalem on Thursday, ahead of their opening concert, to meet President Shimon Peres who says he’s been a stoner for ages.

“When ‘Get Off of My Cloud’ came out, Dayan brought me the single from London,” Peres said. “We played it for hours in the office until Paula Ben Gurion threatened to throw us out.”

David Ben Gurion’s wife, Paula, was a Kinks fan.

Despite that giveaway (Paula Ben Gurion really loved The Yardbirds, not The Kinks), messages on Facebook and Twitter began proliferating announcing the imminent arrival of The Stones. I received at least three messages from musically savvy friends asking if I could help them get tickets.

Alas, it was a good Purim joke, and if The Stones do make their maiden voyage to Israel, it’s unlikely that The Jewish Press will scoop everyone else with it. But let’s thank them for providing us with some hope, and a little levity, on this festive Purim day.

Oscar conundrum for Israel

February 23, 2013 - 10:58 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, General, Israeliness, Life, Movies, News, Politics, Pop Culture 

gatekeepIt’s quite a predicament. As a rule, Israel and Israelis are usually proud and overflowing with accolades for native sons who achieve acclaim abroad.

Ten Israeli films have been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, most recently Joseph Cedar’s Footnote in 2012 and Beaufort in 2008, and Ari Wolman’s Waltz with Bashir in 2009 and Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Ajami in 2010.

All of those films showed sides of Israel that were gritty and real, and some were perceived as being highly critical of Israeli policies. However, the makers of the films had no problem representing their country at the gala ceremony in Hollywood.
On Sunday night, two Israeli films are nominated in the Best Documentary category – Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers, focusing on extensive interviews with former heads of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and 5 Broken Cameras, a look at the ongoing clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian and Israeli protesters at Bil’in, a village in the West Bank being encroached by the Israeli security barrier.

Neither have been embraced by the Israeli political establishment, to say the least. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he was not planning on watching the films, resulting in Moreh retorting to an Israeli TV station that if the prime minister doesn’t want to watch a documentary that deals the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of six people who he worked with, “it says more about him than about the film.”

If either film walks away with the Oscar Sunday night, it will be interesting to see what happens. Will Netanyahu or President Shimon Peres call the directors to congratulate them and invite them to an official ceremony, as happens when an Israeli athlete does well abroad? Or will an award that Israel has been waiting to win for decades go unmentioned and overlooked in official circles. It will be one the of the minor dramas that Israelis will be focusing on when the red carpet is unrolled.

Awaiting the world premiere of ‘Ah, Jerusalem’

February 17, 2013 - 9:02 AM by · 2 Comments
Filed under: A New Reality, Entertainment, General, History and Culture, Israeliness, Life, Pop Culture, tv 

ah jerusalem_invitation_finalIt may sound like an alternative Seinfeld plot to the Bette Midler Rochelle Rochelle episode. But the makers of Ah, Jerusalem, the new musical comedy debuting this week in the capital are dead serious about its chances of becoming an entertainment and cultural landmark on the city’s long term landscape.

Debuting February 21 at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem, Ah, Jerusalem! is slated for two performances a week in its initial six-month run, in the hopes of establishing it as “must see” event for any tourist coming to Israel.

What it has going for, despite its rather kitschy name, is the talent and experience of Bernie Kukoff, a veteran TV and Broadway producer, writer and comedian from Hollywood, who has devoted the last year to writing, producing, casting sand nurturing the show.

Kukoff used to write sketch comedy for everyone from Steve Allen to Pat Boone, before moving into production with seasons of The Cosby Show, Rags to Riches and even creating his own show – Diff’rent Strokes, the Gary Coleman comedy vehicle. Moving on to New York in his 60s, Kukoff produced five Broadway and off-Broadway shows, including I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (the second-longest-running musical in off-Broadway history), The Thing About Men (2004 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical), and the Elvis Presley musical All Shook Up.

Ah, Jerusalem is a collaboration between Kukoff and Danny Paller, an American immigrant to Israel who was sure that Jerusalem was ripe for a musical that combined comedy, romance and the history of the Jewish people.

Kukoff, who has been visiting Israel with his wife regularly for decades met with Paller. “He told me that there was a big entertainment gap in Jerusalem for the huge number of English speakers who come all year long. They don’t really have enough to do at night, they go to eat, walk on the Ben Yehuda midrehov [pedestrian mall], and then what? He thought that an English-language musical that was performed regularly would be a big addition to the city’s culture.”

After months of revisions, they wound up with a script summarized by the following elevator pitch:

“Charlie and Madeline Axelrod and their teenage daughter Robin are packed to go on vacation to Mexico when Charlie gets a nighttime ‘vision’ from his ancestral Uncle Mordechai imploring Charlie to go on a mission to Jerusalem to retrieve a family treasure.

“And so begins the adventures of the Axelrods of Indianapolis, as they travel through centuries – encountering love in the time of King Solomon, danger in the time of the Crusades, and a ‘ticket to history’ in the Jerusalem bus station circa 1920.

The show is full of humor and twists, as the Axelrods experience a high-energy, transformational journey through Jerusalem.”

Whether it becomes a legendary Jerusalem landmark, or a fly-by-night good-intentioned effort remains to be seen. But by the end of this week, Ah, Jerusalem will be a reality, and the latest chapter in Bernie Kukoff’s colorful career.

Yes Elaine, Israelis can discern tastelessness

February 15, 2013 - 12:09 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, General, Israeliness, Life, Pop Culture, Social Justice, tv 

The old adage that any publicity is good publicity is being put to the test by Israeli cable provider YES. A seemingly innocuous TV ad to attract subscribers starring American comedian Julia Louis-Dreyfus must have seemed like a winning combination, but as Allison Kaplan Sommer pointed out in her blog on Haaretz, the backfire could light up the sky on a moonless night.

The campaign focuses around the tag line “Made a mistake? Just fix it!” and viewers they are told how to fix their ‘mistake’ of signing up for cable and how to switch to YES satellite, the main competitor for the other big Israeli cable provider HOT (neither of them are very good, actually – how many times can you watch American Pie 4?)

The commercial starts in an elevator where Louis-Dreyfus encounters a large colleague munching on a bag of potato chips, pats her on the stomach and congratulates her on her pregnancy. “Oh, my god! Congratulations! I bet it’s a girl.” Oops. The colleague, she learns, isn’t pregnant – she’s just fat.
The action proceeds with Louis-Dreyfus demonstrating ways to correct her mistake, only to offend and annoy others in the process. Ultimately, she concedes and tries to say she’s sorry. She stands up in front of her co-workers: “I would like to apologize to Betty for thinking she was pregnant. Obviously, she hasn’t dated anyone forever and yeah, you need a man to get … so, um … I’m sorry!”

As expected, the backlash from what used to be called ‘feminists’ but now is just mainstream correctness, began immediately, with Sommer writing that the Na’amat Israel women’s had complained to Israel’s Second Television and Radio Authority public ombudsman about the condescending and insulting message contained in the ad.

YES has gotten into trouble in the past with their ads, spoofing an Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear power plant. That may have just angered the Iranians, but this time, even though they may think they’re just skirting the edge of tastelessness, they’ve actually fallen right in.

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