Foto Friday – Wonderful Country!

April 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

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.

Musty smell, fine food

April 10, 2013 by · 2 Comments
A dining room at Racha in Jerusalem

A dining room at Racha in Jerusalem

I’m not sure if the oddly wafting odor of mold, or was that mildew, emanating from the walls of Racha, a funky restaurant in the center of Jerusalem specializing in Georgian food (the country, not the U.S. state), was intended to be part of the experience.

Perhaps the smell was meant to evoke memories of the kind of small town inn one finds nestled in the foothills of the country’s Caucasus Mountain Range. More likely, it’s a remnant of the building in which Racha has settled, a mash-up of two former storerooms dating from the British Mandate period. Which is OK if the owners’ lack of scrubbing bubbles is intentional; a means of enhancing the establishment’s authenticity in contrast to casual carelessness, which would suggest a very different calculus.

No matter – the mold was entirely secondary to the food, which my wife and I ordered during a lunch visit to the restaurant this week – food which was both familiar and inventive, to at least this non-Georgian carnivore.

And carnivore you’d better be: the main courses, except for a skewered spring chicken, which my non-red meat eating partner chose, consist of beef and more beef. There are beef patties and beef stew; a couple of lamb entrees round out the cholesterol-busting menu.

The only place meat was banished: the opening salads. There the choices were eggplant, beets, and more eggplant. We started – what we choice did we have, really? – with an eggplant dish called adzhachili which was surprising both in that the promised eggplant strips were actually outnumbered by grilled onions and in the strong spice – perhaps this was the “chili” in the adzaha? We were compelled to order some crusty shutespuri, the Georgian house bread (worth the money in any case), to counter the sting.

Our second starter, beets mixed with nuts and herbs, was if anything even stronger; it would have done a fine job impersonating Yeminite schug in a falafel. If it seems like I’m complaining, you’ve read me wrong: I like my food strong and the insertion of a little heat into these dishes kept them from straying too close to the standard Israeli starter selection.

The business lunch menu is divided into options by price: NIS 79, NIS 89 and NIS 118; each includes different dishes but always with an appetizer, main course, juice, tea and Georgian cookies at the end. For an extra NIS 15, you can get one of the fried meat pastries. On recommendation of both the waiter and David Brinn, who reviewed Racha recently for The Jerusalem Post, we ordered one portion of chibureki – David described it as “fried crescents filled with spicy ground beef.” The dish is reminiscent of the pastilles you can find at Darna, a Moroccan restaurant, nearby in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound neighborhood. The combination of sugary fried dough and more red meat was my favorite part of the meal, in fact.

For main courses, my wife went with the above-mentioned spring chicken, while I chose something called shechamadi which was akin to a beef stew, with fairly fatty cholent-style beef chunks mixed with a casserole of vegetables in a sour, tomato sauce. I added my side of rice into the bowl and came away with a dish that could have come from my mother’s table but had enough ethnic twists to be something else entirely. Ditto on the chicken: shipudim are standard Israeli fare, but the spices in the Racha version were just unusual enough to keep us interested.

Which brings me back to the mold. Racha doesn’t blast your taste buds with an utterly un-Israeli dining experience, as you might have if you went out for, say, Ethiopian food. The spices were subtle but hold your attention, which was important in pushing the building’s ever-present odor aside…at least until the final tea, which our waiter said sheepishly was somehow Georgian but, if I’d demanded entry to the kitchen, would probably have found a box of ordinary Wissotsky black tea hidden in a cupboard.

Still, the combination of olfactory stimulation and a playful turn with the interior design – a medley of antique furniture, old world carpets, chandeliers and, improbably, a collection of shofars – make Racha a place to be visited during an extended trip to Jerusalem.

Nostalgia Sunday – Warsaw Ghetto Testimonies

April 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

Tonight Israel will mark Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. The central theme for this year is Defiance and Rebellion during the Holocaust: 70 Years Since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. At 10:00 on Monday morning, there will be siren and 2 minutes of silence.

My personal connection to the Warsaw Ghetto is twofold. First is my Israeli mother, who came from Polish family stock, including cousin Estherka who was one of those children that survived by hiding in the sewage tunnels and came to the pre-State Land of Israel after the war.

Second is my own work as the translator of Itamar Levin’s book Walls Around: The Plunder of Warsaw Jewry during World War II and Its Aftermath. The author’s argument is that the plunder of Jews in the Holocaust was not only a product of murder, but also a tool of murder.

What was striking about this plunder was the methodical way in which Jews were initially forced into the Ghetto, (a walled off area that did not exist prior to the Nazi occupation), and then systematically stripped of their possessions, from large items (real estate, cash holdings) to medium-sized (furniture, furs, etc.), and then — once the ghetto inhabitants had been transported to Treblinka and other extermination camps and killed — the small: clothes, shoes, glasses, teeth and hair.

Yad Vashem – The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority has prepared a new online exhibition, Voices from the Inferno. This exhibition presents video testimonies given by the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and former combatants in the uprising. This unique oral documentation sheds new light on the fate of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, with a special focus on the uprising in which 13,000 Jews were killed (some 6,000 among them were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation). Of the remaining 50,000 residents, most were captured and shipped to concentration and extermination camps.

In the new Yad Vashem video series, the speakers describe the atmosphere in the Warsaw Ghetto following the Great Deportation of the summer of 1942: continuing aktions, certainty of death, preparing bunkers for the rebellion and storing food. Below is the first video in the series and more videos can be viewed here.

The official Opening Ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day will take place on Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 20:00, in Warsaw Ghetto Square, Yad Vashem, Mount of Remembrance, Jerusalem.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on television on Channels 1, 2, 10 and 33, and channel 9 in Russian, and for the first time on JLTV in the United States, and by radio on Kol Israel and Galei Zahal. It will last about one hour and a quarter.

There will also be a national gathering at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum at Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot.

Yad Vashem calls on the public to fill in Pages of Testimony to commemorate the names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Volunteers are available to help Holocaust survivors fill out Pages of Testimony (Call: +972 2 644 3111).

At the same time, Yad Vashem is continuing the Gathering the Fragments campaign in an effort to rescue Holocaust-related documents, artifacts, photographs and art. To donate material: collect@yadvashem.org.il or call (from outside Israel) +972-2-6443888 or (in Israel) 1-800-25-7777).

The oral history department continues to film survivor testimonies. Yad Vashem personnel travel to interview and film survivors in their own homes; the testimonies are housed in the Yad Vashem Archives. To coordinate a visit: testimonies@yadvashem.org.il or call (in Israel) +972 2 644 3752/3.

Foto Friday – Robin Terry at the Red House

April 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

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

March 31, 2013 by · 2 Comments

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.


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