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…


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


Mariano Edelman getting in touch with his inner Bibi…


And the cast lining up onstage.


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 – Yosef Adest’s 52 Frames

Yosef Adest is a self-described Photographer/Video Producer Entrepreneur, Oleh from the US and Tel Aviv resident. Adest also has a flair for organizing group projects.

Case in point: Fifty-Two Frames on the Second Floor, a new exhibition spearheaded by Adest that opens this coming Monday at Tel Aviv’s Cookies Cream Bar. The exhibit features photos from 52 Frames, a project he organized on Facebook, in which photographers from around the world share the best of their weekly work produced according to different themes.

The theme of Love, for example, yielded this image of kissing couple. Adest commented that he’d just met them that same day. “I had them in this ‘just about to kiss’ pose for about 5 minutes!”





That photo is of Adest’s trusty Canon camera (which he uses for for point-and-shoot photos) as photographed by his in-studio Canon 5D Mark 3. He provides online followers with instruction — for example, How to set up an ‘infinity white’ product shot in less than 10 minutes — and offers critique as well.

52 Frames has a “cousin” project, also organized by Adest, called Photography Project 12, a group of professional photographers who commit to posting one new photo each month, according to a challenging theme, for example practicing the HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo technique, in this case on Dizengoff Street…



52 Frames also organizes monthly (more or less) Photo-Walks that are open to the public in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, New York and Manchester UK.

Photographers interested in joining the 52 Frames group should contact Adest via his Facebook page or website. To follow the progress of these projects, give Yosef Adest Video & Photography a “Like”. And to learn more about how he works his magic, take a look at this “Behind the scenes” video of how the “Physics” shot came about.

How I created this anti-gravity shot in a 5 min timelapse. from Yosef Adest on Vimeo.

More examples of his work:

Yosef Adest Video – Demo Reel from Yosef Adest on Vimeo.

BTW, you may remember Adest’s name from the humorous Sh*t Anglos in Israel Say viral video that made the rounds in 2012. Just for laughs, here it is again!

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.


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


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


And the celebrations continued well into the night.


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!

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.

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