Pants off to Israel’s motorcycle protestors

October 14, 2009 - 11:32 AM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: General, Life, Picture of the Week 

Motorcycle protest in Tel AvivMaybe it’s the hot weather, but protesters in Israel seem to like to get naked. The latest group to strip down to their underpants were the motorcyclists, hundreds of whom took to the streets of Tel Aviv late last week protesting against a hike in their insurance fees.

This is the fourth demo by the motorcycle community, who are getting increasingly incensed by the thought of the insurance rise, which is due to take place in November. In the last protest they snarled up route 2 causing heavy traffic jams.

Their motto this time was “They are leaving us without coverage”, which in Hebrew is a play on words that also means “without clothes/covers”. Hence the absolute necessity to whip off their clothes.

Walla covered the protest with lots of snaps and a video – naked people make good news obviously.

The demonstration comes just a few months after the Israel Bicycle Association and the Tel Aviv Rollers staged another protest ride to oppose the lack of government support for urban bike riding – in their thongs.

David reported on the bike protest here in Israelity. From a purely visceral point of view, it probably made better viewing, as bike riders and roller-bladers tend to be in much better shape than bikers.

But as Stephanie pointed out in her nude demo post a couple of years back – shape isn’t what counts in a naked protest.

Pic by Liron Almog/Flash 90. The sign at the back, by the way, reads: “The insurance companies strip us naked.”

Afraid to go to sleep – Paranormal Activity hits US cinemas

October 13, 2009 - 10:49 AM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Blogging, Movies, Pop Culture 

It’s the surprise hit of the year. Audiences across the US are afraid to go to sleep after watching a horror film made by Israeli filmmaker Oren Peli. The low budget movie reportedly cost just $11,000 to produce, but reviewers are calling it the most scary film ever made. Think Blair Witch Project, only worse.

The movie, Paranormal Activity , was filmed in 2006 over a seven-day period. It was set in Peli’s own suburban tract home with a crew of just three including his then-girlfriend Toni Taylor, and best friend (also Israeli) Amir Zbeda.

The film was released in fewer than 200 theaters, but raked in $7.1 million in one weekend – a record for a limited release film.

The film, about a couple who think their house is haunted, has now been picked up by Paramount Pictures . It bills itself as “the first-ever major film release demanded by you.”

Peli is not your usual blockbuster movie type director. He dropped out of school at 16, to set up his own software company. Three years later he immigrated to the US with Zbeda and began work developing animation and video game programs.

He got the idea for the film when he moved into a new home and found the sudden quiet of suburbia disturbing. The house was new and still settling, and at night he could hear the house shifting and groaning.

He wrote a script, fixed up his house a bit, held a casting session in Hollywood, and hey presto, shot a movie. He edited it on his own home PC, and then submitted it to Screamfest – a boutique festival for cult horror in LA.

The film was released in September with limited late-night showings at just 13 college towns, but the ball started rolling and the film became a web sensation on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Critics also jumped on board giving excellent reviews.

Originally Paramount planned to reshoot the film with better-known actors, but studio heads – including Steven Spielberg – decided it could stand as it was, with only a few tweaks.

Peli is now onto his next movie, a thriller called Area 51, but in the meantime Paramount Pictures releases Paranormal Activity at cinemas across the US on Friday. Get ready for some sleepless nights.

Nice sentiments help Obama win the Nobel

October 11, 2009 - 12:56 PM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: coexistence, Politics, War 

I went away for a few days camping and came back to discover that President Barack Obama had won the Nobel peace prize. I was so surprised that I wondered briefly if while I’d been away I had got stuck in some kind of time warp, and a whole year had gone by.

And the prize goes to... President Obama meets Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to push forward peace. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash 90

And the prize goes to... President Obama meets Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to push forward peace. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash 90

It seemed a far more likely explanation than that the Nobel prize committee had actually decided to award a US president, in power for just a twinkle of the eye, with a peace prize for doing – nothing actually.

I’m a fan of Obama, and I admire what he stands for and the promise he holds. But that’s all we’ve got so far – just a promise, and a few statements about peace and goodwill to all men.

The peace committee said the prize was “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, while Time Magazine added that it was “primarily for his work on and commitment to nuclear disarmament.” From where I sit, however, with Iran threatening to blow Israel off the planet and fast approaching the nuclear capacity to do just that, Obama’s sugary wish to disarm the world seems pretty frivolous.

I don’t often agree with Republicans, but Michael Steel, chairman of the Republican National Committee got it right when he said: “What has President Obama actually accomplished? It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who made real achievements working toward peace and human rights.”

Here in this region of the world, where conflict is in your face, and peace seems so elusive and unattainable, there are many people working on the frontlines of the peace movement who really do deserve a prize.

They face the conflict every single day, and still continue working for change, even at great cost to themselves.

What about Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish , the Palestinian doctor who lost his children in the bombing in Gaza, and still campaigns for peace? What about the founders of Parent’s Circle , an organization set up by Israelis and Palestinians who lost loved ones in the conflict but use their bereavement to fight ardently for peace, people like Robi Damelin, who wrote a public letter to Ynet warning of the terrible cost of the intifada as talk grows of the possibility of a new third intifada breaking out in Israel?

What about the dozens and dozens of peace organizations here where Jews and Arabs work side by side, bringing people together, and trying to create a different reality. Every one of us could cite an example. These people aren’t just making nice speeches about peace, they are actually out there making it.

If we are really lucky, in four years from now, Obama will actually deserve a Nobel peace prize, but as we all know, nice sentiments don’t always lead to action. In the meantime, couldn’t the Norwegians find someone who’s actually achieved something?

Picture of the week: Acco festival back on track

October 7, 2009 - 11:17 AM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Art, coexistence, Picture of the Week 

pic of the week dressing cropThis time last year, rioting over Yom Kippur led to a temporary postponement of the much-loved Acco Festival – an alternative theater festival that spills out onto the streets of the old Crusader city every Succot.

The festival was held eventually in December , but much was written about how the rioting between Jews and Arabs had damaged the fabric of a city where coexistence is the norm, not the exception.

One year on, and the festival, an event devoted to coexistence, is back in its usual time slot and last year’s unexpected outbreak of violence is being put to rest.

Now in its 30th season, visitors to the run-down, but beautiful World Heritage city, have been enjoying some 450 performances from theater groups across Israel and the rest of the world, including a show that follows six Acco residents who took part in last year’s riots.

Picture by Shay Levy/ Flash 90.

Picture of the week – A green Yom Kippur for all the world

September 30, 2009 - 8:20 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Environment, General, Holidays, Picture of the Week 

Children riding their bikes and bimbas on an empty street in Jerusalem. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

Children riding their bikes and bimbas on an empty street in Jerusalem. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

For some it’s a solemn day of fasting, prayer, and asking for forgiveness, for others – specifically children – Yom Kippur is the day they claim the streets.

Ever year, children all over the country hone their cycling skills as the traffic stops and the roads clear. Whether it’s on a bike, roller blades, scooters, bimbas, or even unicycles, the nation takes to the street in what is probably – ironically – one of the most joyous holidays of the year.

Aside from the sheer pleasure of cycling undisturbed down some of Israel’s main arteries – like route 6, or the Ayalon Freeway, the quality of undisturbed silence is unparalleled. There are no buses, no cars, no trains, no airplanes even. The only sound is the whir of bikes, and the calls of children.

And the air quality, well…

I’ve long thought that some form of Yom Kippur actually ought to be adopted by other countries as an environmental measure. This must be the greenest day in Israel.

Every year there are reports in the local press about the dramatic decline in air pollution throughout Israel’s towns and cities. It’s a chance for the country to breathe again. Imagine what would happen if London followed suit, or New York, or Beijing. Perhaps this should be the latest campaign for environmentalists.

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