Famous folks in the land

That's Mary Lynn in the center, gray sweater and oxfords

Heard a rumor the other day that Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known for her portrayal as Chloe on “24″, was just here. I first heard about it from a couple I know who claimed to ‘see’ her at Nalaga’at, the deaf-blind acting ensemble in Jaffa where one can also first dine in the dark, mimicking the experience of a blind person. Tongue in cheek, I asked how they knew they’d seen her if it was dark? But it turns out they had seen her in the lobby, and Midnight Biking Through Jerusalem recently hosted Rajskub, as well as Greg Grunberg (Felicity), Austin Nichols (One Tree Hill), Shuan Sipos (Melrose Place) and Justin Chatwin (Shameless).

Bike-riding in the Arab shuk

They’re all here with America’s Voices in Israel, and while they’re covering a fairly standard itinerary, they’ve hit some great spots, including Bayit Bagalil, rugelach in the shuk, and good eats all over the place. And they’ve all been tweeting, although Rajskub’s are the most interesting, including her comments on “epic falafel” in Sderot, washing her sins away in Tzfat, a great Shabbat dinner and, unfortunately incorrectly, drinking coffee at “Starbucks in Jerusalem.” But, of course, there is no Starbucks in Israel, as it couldn’t make it here.

And in front of Bayit Bagalil

Nevertheless, wishing them a great rest of trip and more sightings for the rest of us.

Claire Danes tells America about Tel Aviv

Sometimes the best ‘hasbara’ about Israel can be totally spontaneous and come from the most unexpected sources.

YouTube Preview Image

Actress Claire Danes appeared on the Conan O’Brien show this week to plug the pilot for her psychological thriller Showtime series, “Homeland”, which is based on the Israeli series Hatufim.

When Conan said that he had heard that some of the film was shot in Israel, Danes went off on a monologue about how great Tel Aviv is, and described it as ‘the most intense party town’ she had ever been in.

A YouTube clip – free. Dane’s comments – priceless.

‘Religious-friendly’ circus raises Israeli municipality’s ire

It’s a given that Israeli society consists of factions – religious, Tel Avivi, mizrahim, people who wear sandals with socks. But one place we can always put our sectarianism aside is at the circus. Or so we thought.

Now it appears that the divisions within Israeli society between the observant and the secular are even filtering down to that grand institution of family entertainment. The circus has already undergone one revolution in the years since I was kid – you won’t find animals as the star attractions anymore, thanks to the efforts of the animal rights activists around the world.

But in an effort to appeal to the religious audience in Israel, the Medrano Circus from Italy has also been doing away with another endangered species – women. Half of the 24 scheduled shows over Hannukah in the city of Givat Shmuel were to feature only male performers, per an arrangement with the promoter who wanted to appeal to the religious community.

However, according to a report in Haaretz, when the Givat Shmuel Municipality heard about the decision, they refused to grant the circus the necessary permits required for the performances.

The first “religious-friendly” circus performances took place last year in Lod, under the title “Circus with a Skullcap,” and according to impresario Doron Etzioni, they were a huge success. Therefore, when he brought in Medrano this year, he and the circus agreed that a few performances would similarly be in this format. This time, however, he decided the venue would be Givat Shmuel, the last city in which Medrano was due to appear on its Israel tour.

Etzioni said it never entered his head that performances aimed at the religious public would spark opposition, and especially not in a city with many religious residents. But that is what happened when the first advertisements for the show appeared two weeks ago.

Should a promoter be allowed to cater to a particular audience, and should a municipality be allowed to act as lord master over that decision? Only the lady in the flying trapeze knows for sure – but she wasn’t invited to the show.

Duggars in the land

November 29, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Blogging, Business, Entertainment, General, health, Israeliness, Life, Religion, Travel, tv 

Duggars on ElAl

I can’t believe I missed this when it was happening, but it appears that the Duggars, that conservative Baptist family of 19 (!) children (all stars of “19 Kids and Counting”), — soon to be 20, cuz Mom Michelle is pregnant again — recently visited Israel while on a grand world tour, tv crew included.

Duggars heading into the Kinneret

They clearly had very little press while they were here, because it wasn’t mentioned on the news or in the papers at the time. Then again, families with many children traveling around is not that uncommon around here, although 19, soon to be 20, is worth mentioning, even in this land of large families. Highlights included a boat ride on the Kinneret, baptizing in the Jordan River, eating falafel and pita, a camel ride, floating in the Dead Sea, buying pickles in Jerusalem’s Old City (not clear about this one, did they mean Machane Yehuda?), and other famed Christian sites, including the Garden Tomb.

Outside Yad Sarah

What did bring the Duggars to local attention was their visit to emergency clinic Terem and then aid organization Yad Sarah, when Josie, the baby, was heavily congested and required a doctor’s visit as well as extra oxygen to help her through the illness. As reported on Ynet, their guide brought them straight to Yad Sarah for the equipment, and then Mama Duggar, one of the older daughters and Josie, the youngest, ended up staying in Israel for another week while the rest of the family headed home.

Here’s a clip of their stop in London; the Israel part of the trip isn’t online yet, as it just aired on Sunday.

Nostalgia Sunday – Snacks n’ shtetls

Israel’s latest in laugh-out-loud commercials was broadcast about a week ago and immediately went viral.

The TV spot, for baked goods manufacturer Bagel & Bagel’s latest offering, Bagel Dak Dak, (meaning: thin, thin pretzels) is a best described as a 21st century re-imagining of the modern State of Israel’s 19th century roots. It could also be described as the native Israeli sabra’s idea of life in the Pale of Settlement, with an approximation of Yiddish and every Israeli immigrant stereotype thrown in for good measure.

Watch first; a translation follows below. And keep in mind: in Israel, the words beigeleh (singular) and beigelach (plural) refer to pretzels.

Title: Bagel & Bagel bakery, Poland 1880
Son: Father! Mother! I have an idea! Thin, thin beigelach… with flavors!!!
All: [Shocked] What?
Father: Flavored beigelach?
Son: Yes, yes. With peppers… with cheddar cheese… with spices!
Father: Pepper? That’s for Moroccans!
Mother: Flavor… in food?! We’re Polish!
Father: Sweetie, on the day that little Ben Gurion over there is Prime Minister in the Land of Israel… then we will make beigelach with flavors. [Aside] What a golem.
Voice Over: Nation of Israel! The time has come for flavored thin, thin beigelach! New from Bagel & Bagel. Thin, thin pretzels in a variety of flavors.

The ad is rife with historical inaccuracies: flat pretzels (also known as pretzel crisps or pretzel chips) were patented in the US in 2004, Ben Gurion was born in 1886, he grew up under Russian rule, his father was a lawyer and there is plenty of photographic evidence to prove he was not a bald-headed child. But despite these, or perhaps because of them, the commercial has become a wild success.

According to survey company Geocartogaphy’s weekly listing of Best Loved and Most Memorable commercial advertisements of the week, as published by Globes, “Bagel & Bagel’s commercial for thin flavored pretzels, produced by Baumann-Ber-Rivnay, heads the list of the week’s most memorable commercials. The memorable nature of the commercial was 50% higher than the semi-annual average. The company invested $794 million the commercial.”

To my mind, the flat pretzel is genius, eliminating all unnecessary parts of the pretzel, leaving only crunch, and salt. There are several such products on the local market: Meir Bagel’s Shtuchaleh (which captured 26% of the entire flat pretzel market within one month of launching), Osem’s Shtuchim crispy smashed beigeleh, and the new flavored Dakim Dakim by Bagel & Bagel, which is owned by Unilever.

In honor of the launch, Bagel & Bagel issued some interesting stats about the Israeli snack food market: pretzels are mostly consumed by adult consumers (25-55) in Israel. Older consumers tend to consume pretzels as a snack on a regular basis. Of these, about 90% combine personal pretzel consumption with pretzels served to guests. Adults with families tend to buy pretzels at a higher rate (84%), as compared with singles / couples without children (76%). (TNS Monitor, December 2010).

The company further pointed out that, to date, innovations in the pretzel category had to do with shape only and that studies indicated the main obstacle to pretzel consumption was that their taste could be perceived as boring. Hence, the introduction of a flavor component which was not invented by an excitable young man running down the muddy shtetl streets, but chosen by taste tests and focus groups.

The snack food wars are on! We’re looking forward to the next installment.

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