Nostalgia Sunday – Yaakov Gross documents Israel

Celluloid must run in documentarian Yaakov Gross’ blood. His father, Natan Gross, made films for the early Zionist enterprise. Yaakov emigrated to Israel in 1950 and graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and went on to direct and produce over 30 documentary films for organizations such as the KKL-JNF and Israel Television. He is also heavily involved with the preservation and restoration of the films of early Israeli filmmakers. As part of that labor of love, Gross has digitized and uploaded films made by his father and by himself, as well as films he by others that he has restored, to YouTube.

In honor of Israel’s 65th Independence Day celebrations, Gross has decided to spread the word about his YouTube channel. Several of the videos document visits to the early settlement by dignitaries, royalty and other celebrated personages.

In this first video from 1918, Chaim Weizmann, later to be named the first President of the State of Israel, marches down the main streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem together with other heads of the Zionist CommissionMontague David Eder, Baron Israel Sieff, Sir Leon Simon, Sylvain Levi, Joseph Cowen, Aaron Aharonson, Edwin Samuel, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, Bezalel Jaffe, David Levontin and others — most of whom today are known more as street names than as actual people.

Gross notes that, “This is probably one of the few surviving fragments of the first Hebrew film, “Judea Liberated”, by Yaacov Ben-Dov, a film whose loss was recorded by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in 1927. Yet, I still have hope that I will find it someday.”

The clip entitled Trumpeldor at Migdal is part of the larger 1913 film, Lives of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael, directed by Noah Sokolowski and produced by Mirograf (Odessa) et Mizrah (I. Diesengof, Odessa). The film went missing and was rediscovered in 1997 in the French national film archive, the CNC. It was then reconstructed by Gross on behalf of the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the CNC’s Eric Le Roy into a new, 60-minute long version depicting 20 Jewish communities in the pre-State Land of Israel.

The clip, Allenby in Jerusalem 1917, is part of a movie by Yaacov Ben-Dov and cameraman Harold Jeapes about the entry of General Allenby to Jerusalem following the conquest of the city by the British two days earlier. It was hoped that the British administration would put the Balfour Declaration of 1917 — viewing “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” — into effect.

The visit by Lord Balfour on April 7, 1925 was one of the most exciting in the history of the Jewish settlement. Balfour arrived on the occasion of the opening of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. These clips show him visiting the city of Tiberias and Haifa’s Technion.

Following the 1937 death of King George V, the coronation of his son was celebrated in Haifa. Gross notes that George VI was the king who witnessed the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. The original film was directed by Nathan Axelrod Collection for Carmel Newsreels, and is presented courtesy of the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

For more historic clips, visit Yaakov Gross’ YouTube channel and the Yaakov Gross website.

Foto Friday – Wonderful Country!

Eretz-Nehederet-logoIn a speech on his recent visit of March 21, 2013, US President Barack Obama gave Israel’s favorite satirical TV show a big boost.

Obama said, “Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized. (Laughter.) But I want to clear something up just so you know — any drama between me and my friend, Bibi, over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet. (Applause.) That’s the only thing that was going on. We just wanted to make sure the writers had good material. (Laughter.)”

Whether because of Obama or just because, Eretz Nehederet has decided to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Israeli independence — and its own 10 years of existence — with an unusual photo exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Unusual because the images by photographer Eldad Raphael provide a behind the scenes look at the art, artistry and hard work that goes into making comedy look easy.

So, here is resident wild man, Yaron Berlad, in a pensive moment…

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Alma Zack ready to risk her life for an underwater gag…

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Mariano Edelman getting in touch with his inner Bibi…

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And the cast lining up onstage.

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To get an idea of Eretz Nehederet’s brand of comedic satire, here’s a clip that went viral around the world. In it, a UN mediator tries to neogiate a peace treaty between Angry Birds, pigs and well… you’ll see…

The photo exhibition, We Have A Wonderful Country runs from April 10 through April 24 at the Tel Aviv Museum. Visit the official Eretz Nehederet page or join their Facebook fan page.

Foto Friday – Robin Terry at the Red House

invito300312CardFine art photographer Robin “Rani” Terry lives and works in Mata near Bet Shemesh. Mata (also Matta) itself is a small village of about 700 residents but its location — set among fields adjacent to the Mata Forest, the Israel National Trail, a Roman road and the Hanut, a ruined Mamluk structure that houses a Byzantine-era mosaic floor — provides Terry with endless inspiration.

British-born Terry will be presenting the latest in his ongoing photographic depiction of Mata in a new exhibition, “Rani Terry”, that opens today in south Tel Aviv’s Red House gallery. Terry — who studied photography at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem — uses a technique called orotone.

Gold pigment gives his photographs incredible detail and a red-brown hue that perhaps best represents our local climate, where the punishing summer heat causes everything, living or dead, to twist, wilt and wither in the bright sunlight…

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Rocks and stones…
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Thorns and brush…
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Man-made iron objects rusting in the sun…
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The exhibition “Rani Terry” opens tomorrow and runs through May 11 at the Red House gallery in Tel Aviv. Click here or on the small image above to download an invitation to today’s opening and for more gallery information.

Nostalgia Sunday – Mimouna photo opportunity

mimounaMimouna, the traditional North African Jewish celebration held the day after Passover, marks the start of spring. Israelis of Moroccan and Algerian Jewish origin open their homes to visitors and offer guests special holiday cakes and sweets containing the leavening that had been off-limits throughout the Passover week.

One of the holiday specialties is mofletta (also spelled mufleta, mofleta, moufleta, etc.), a thin crepe made of water, flour and oil, and eaten warm with honey or jam.

Wikipedia describes Mimouna in Israel as “[having] become a popular annual happening featuring outdoor parties, picnics and BBQs” while politely omitting the locations of said picnics, which can take place on any open patch of grass, be it a park, nature preserve or highway median strip.

In 1966, Mimouna was introduced as a national holiday and — in an extension of an already overly-long spring break — yet another day off from school. It has been adopted by other ethnic groups, mainly in the Mizrahi sector.

And therefore, Mimouna also marks the traditional photo opportunity for Israeli politicians to cozy up to the Maghreb communities in towns like Sderot that are known for their large concentrations of North African Jews.

Tradition also requires that the photos be characterized by uncomfortable “East meets West” encounters between suited Asheknazi pols trying to fit in by wearing a red tarbush, sitting on floor cushions, dancing awkwardly and, of course, eating mofletta as if they’d never tasted a pancake before.

But over the generations, this divide has become less pronounced, the photo opp has become a well-oiled machine and Mimouna has been mainstreamed to the point where it’s everyone’s holiday. At least for schoolchildren, if not for their parents who must go back to work.

The Israel Revealed to the Eye family album project, spearheaded by Yad Ben Zvi, has some wonderful photos from Mimouna in Sderot.

And for an excellent slide show of Israeli politicians getting their mofletta on, visit this post on Maariv NRG.

Nostalgia Sunday – Zvi Oron in the service of the High Commissioner

Zvi OronA new exhibit of wonderful old photos by Zvi Oron (Oroshkes) of pre-State Israel opens on March 21 at the Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv.

The exhibition displays Oron’s perspective of the British Mandate years, through photographs that show the construction of Jewish settlements, state and military events of the British administration, and the lifestyle of the traditional Arab population.

Photographer Oron came to the Land of Israel in 1918 with the Jewish Legion. Curator Michal Ben-Tovim writes: “Having already acquired his photographic skills in Poland, he opened his first photography studio in Tel Aviv in 1920.

“Initially, most of his photographic work was commissioned by the information department of the Jewish National Fund. In 1925 he began working for the British administration.

“In 1929, High Commissioner John Chancellor officially appointed him as provider of photography services to the British administration in Palestine. Thanks to this position he was able to move without difficulty between British military facilities, and stay outdoors during curfew hours.

“Because the British trusted him, Oron managed to establish professional ties with the Arab population, and was on friendly terms with Emir Abdullah. He thus became one of the few photographers who were able to photograph the different populations that inhabited Palestine during the British Mandate.

“In a letter he wrote in 1938 to Moshe Sharet, his friend from the Jewish Legion and then head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, Oron described his impressions of the situation in Eretz Israel as reflected in his photos:

“‘…When I went over the collection of the photos I published in the press in the past two years, I had the impression that the English were making extraordinary efforts to calm down the situation; the Arabs were revolting, and the Jews were weeping at funerals.’”

“Oron, a sworn Zionist, made an effort to convey a standpoint as objective as possible in his photographs.”

“His Jewish origins, his ties with British officials, and the trust he had among the Arabs yielded an outstanding photographic archive, which documents objectively the life in Eretz Israel of that time.”

If you can’t get to Ramat Aviv in time, there are some lovely examples of his work — including celebrated persons of the time such as High Commissioner Arthur Grenfell Wauchope — on Wikimedia Commons. Enjoy.

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