Nostalgia Sunday – Tel Aviv Adloyada 1934

“Purim is celebrated in Eretz Israel as nowhere else. Tel Aviv is transformed into a City of Joy as residents and visitors from all part of the globe annually celebrate Purim with mass parades”.

So begins the 1934 film, Eretz Yisrael: Building Up The Jewish National Home, and so it is today. There was still no official Adloyada — the celebration that since its founding in 1912 traditionally turned Tel Aviv into a City of Joy — but there was plenty to do in 2013. This past Purim weekend featured street parties, carnivals — even Zombie Walks. And the world’s biggest Harlem Shake on record… so far.

1934 was a good year for Adloyada documentation. That year, photographers from the American Colony Photo Department took pictures of the street celebration. The images later became part of the G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection. Now part of the US Library of Congress and available online, the archive is a rich source of historical images of the Middle East.

As in every year, there was a Queen Esther. In 1934, that honor fell to a young Yemenite girl.

Matson-Archive-Adloyada-1934-Queen-Esther

The city’s residents crowded in front of a temporary stage in the city square

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Adloyada floats always featured some contemporary political satire. Perhaps the strangest that year was of Adolf Hitler riding three large Wagnereque dragons.

Matson-Archive-Adloyada-1934-Hitler-Dragons-float

And the celebrations continued well into the night.

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The movie, Eretz Yisrael: Building Up The Jewish National Home, affords a few more glimpses back in time and is available via the Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at Hebrew University. Chag Sameach and a happy Purim to all!

Oscar conundrum for Israel

February 23, 2013 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.

Foto Friday – This is Purim TLV NOW

Rachel-Neiman-Purim-2013Purim is here and spring is in the air! Granted, as on Purim every year, it will rain but right now the weather is still balmy and dry, and kids of all ages are out on the streets, wearing costumes and celebrating the moment.

And speaking of this moment, This is Now TLV is on fire! We’ve written before about this website, which streams Instagram photos marked with the hashtags #thisisnow and #tel-aviv but today’s photostream is more active than ever. Purim is clearly the holiday for taking pictures of yourself, your friends or your pets in costume, holiday food and drink, street celebrations, parties and just plain fun.

Below is a small sample of what was happening at 1:00 PM on Purim 2013 in Tel Aviv. Click on the image to see what’s happening right now! And if you’ve got a Purim photo to share with This is Now TLV, take a another minute to submit it to the Israel21c photo competition before it closes on Monday — show the world that Israel loves a good party!

This is now TLV Purim

Nostalgia Sunday – Cartoons we loved

cartoon-charactersFrom Donald Duck to Tintin to Asterix, international cartoon characters have always been part of the Israeli pop culture landscape. The power of television, however, made them ever so much more so, even back when we still had but one Israel Broadcast Authority channel, one experimental second channel and educational TV was on for just a few hours a day.

Although not Israeli-born, the cartoon Barba-aba — our local version of Europe’s Barbapapa – was much loved here for a brief time in the mid-1970s… and then, like so many other characters, forgotten.

The original Barbapapa books were written in French. First published in 1970, they were subsequently translated into over 30 languages. The syndicated cartoons, produced in the Netherlands, were short and featured the blobby pink father Barapapa, blobby mother Barbamama (Hebrew: Barba-imma), and their seven blobby children, each of whom had a different interest or attribute.

The Israeli series, dubbed into Hebrew by radio personality Itzhak Shimoni, was a hit. Not only did it inspire a song in the Children’s Song Festival, the characters were also product-licensed by local confectioner Elite to sell chocolate.

Barbapapa has never really made a major comeback — though I did spot some dolls in a Neve Tzedek boutique window a few years back — but the series does live on in the hearts of some. There’s a local party bartending service that’s taken the name Barbaraba (“bar” – get it?) and there’s even a Hebrew-language Fan Page.

Another beloved international series that made it big in Israel in the mid-80s was HaLev (The Heart), a dubbed version of a Japanese cartoon series, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother.

This Japanese anime television series was based on a part of the novel Heart (Cuore) by Edmondo De Amicis, and told the heart-rending story — no pun intended — of Marco, a young Italian boy who travels the world in search of his mother.

What can I say? The attraction escapes me but again, it was wildly popular among the after-school set, some of whom later grew up and created a T-shirt showing Marco sitting in front of Google and searching for “Mother”.

Both of these characters popularity was dwarfed — again, no pun intended* — by the big blue juggernaut known as Schtroumpf, Smurfs or in the local parlance, Dardasim. The cartoon series was broadcast here in the mid-80s and the term dardas taken into our local slang as someone of short stature.

The definition of nostalgia is “1. A sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations, and 2. The evocation of these feelings or tendencies, especially in commercialized form.” Tel Aviv T-shirt maker Noon has done booth, paying homage to the Dardasim, in their own hipster way, with a Smurfin’ shahid t-shirt.

To end on a less twisted note, here’s Tsipi Shavit singing the Barba-aba song.


*Okay, maybe a little bit.

Awaiting the world premiere of ‘Ah, Jerusalem’

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.

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