Israeli arms dealer goes Bollywood – uh oh

March 11, 2009 - 2:37 PM by · 11 Comments
Filed under: Blogging, Business, General, Movies 

Sometimes, just now and again, a YouTube video comes along that is so crummy, that it’s almost a masterpiece. Dubbed the worst marketing movie ever made by the blogosphere, an honor it undoubtedly deserves, this piece by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has got to be one of the most ill advised advertisements an Israeli company has ever made.

Undoubtedly, if you’re a defense company it must be hard to keep coming up with new and interesting ways to sell your products. I mean how many ways can you sell a missile?

Rafael execs decided they had to do something different, and so for last month’s Aero India 2009 show, they took their weapons, sprinkled them liberally with a seasoning of Bollywood and voila! A Bollywood-style movie featuring a man (Israel), and four dancing girls (India) in full Bollywood costumes dancing between a range of Rafael’s phallic shaped missiles.

I guess most missiles are shaped like this, but it’s not usually something you think about until you see men and women skipping suggestively between them.

The women sings: “I need to feel safe and sheltered. Security and protection. Commitment and perfection. Defense and dedication.” And the man chimes in: “I promise to defend you, fulfill your expectations. Shield you and support you. Meet my obligations.”

And the unforgettable chorus to this meaningful exchange? “Dinga dinga dee…”

Oh dear, oh dear.

The truth is Israel’s defense relationship with India is pretty darn strong these days – Israel recently became the country’s main defense supplier. And the government-owned Rafael is in a particularly good position. Just last August Rafael and Israel’s IAI signed a joint $2.5 billion deal with the Indian Ministry of Defense.

After a period of circling one another tentatively, the two countries have realized they have much in common – particularly in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack last November.

But that still leaves us with a question. Whatever possessed Rafael to make this movie? It’s a question Saurabh Joshi of the Web site StratPost asked a company representative at the Rafael stall. He was told that the video was intended to “help build familiarity between India and Israel and Rafael.”

Not everyone sees it like that. On Wired’s Danger room blog, Noah Shachtman called it “the most atrocious defense video of all time.” While on the blog DEW line, Stephen Trimble, called it a “catastrophic collision of Bollywood and the arms industry, and dared his readers to watch the video “and, if you’re able, immediately erase the awful tune from your brain.”

It’s harder than you think. Dinga dinga dee.

Fusion and ethno-preservation at the International Oud Festival

December 12, 2008 - 3:09 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: General 

Jerusalem’s annual International Oud Festival is undoubtedly one of the highlights on the country’s cultural calendar. When it comes to Israeli performance art, often, the name of the game is “East meets West” (largely thanks to our country’s location and international alignments), and the Oud Festival is perhaps the finest example of what this theme has to offer.

Over the years, the festival has presented amazing fusion experiments, with elements thrown into the mix including the cantorial music of Syria, ancient Persian folk sounds, the contemporary folk-rock of Meir Banai, the para-liturgical poetry of the Ben Ish Chai, Egyptian post-war pop songs, Orphaned Land’s acoustic metal, the Greek blues, medieval Moroccan Sabbath table hymns, Dutchmen with laptops outputting layers of white noise, the sublime rhythmic textures of Zohar Fresco and guitar heroics courtesy of Turkish-bred rock god Berry Sakharof. The shows don’t always directly include the music of the Arabian fat-bellied lute we love to call the oud, but they are always spiritually grounded in an artistic landscape embodied symbolically by the namesake instrument.

In a trajectory that is arguably parallel to the growing popularity of ethnic music and para-liturgical poetry traditions (known collectively as the canon of piyut), over the past nine years, the Oud Festival has grown from a modest few shows held in a small auditorium each fall into a major two-week event, drawing sell-out crowds from all over the country, from all ages and from all walks of life.

This year, the festival was slightly less experimental and fusion-oriented, with an emphasis placed more on covering authentic ethnic territories new to the proceedings. This trend culminated at the end of last week with a performance by Divana (pictured), an ensemble hailing from the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan.

Divana draws from the ancient traditions of the Manghaniyar and Langa tribes, who historically served as bards to the local Rajasthani Brahmin and Rajput aristocracy, purveying sublime chants on the subjects of love, war and mysticism. The contemporary ensemble is among the last remaining descendents of this tradition, and hearing them play was a major treat. The six-piece included two string players, two vocalists and two percussionists one of whom flailed his arms about wildly while rapidly flicking mini wooden planks together with his fingers (the outcome more than slightly reminiscent of the old-time spoonmen.

The Divana show served as the closing performance of the 2008 Oud Festival, an ecstatic and poignant summing up of Israel’s status in the international cultural scene. Festival Artistic Director Effie Benaya was visibly moved as spoke about the bureaucratic struggles to obtain visas for the band’s personnel just days after the terror attacks in Bombay, and he apologized to the audience for the absence of Navtej Singh Sarna, the Indian ambassador to Israel, who had planned on attending but was regrettably stuck in traffic.

Foto Friday – Chabad in India

November 28, 2008 - 3:30 PM by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Foto Friday, General, Israeliness, Life, Religion 

There isn’t that much to say. Chabad Houses are known stops for Israeli backpackers on their post-army service trips. Whether in Katmandu, Bangkok or Mumbai, these are places where travelers can drop in, get a hot meal, perhaps even celebrate Passover or Sukkot with friends from home. Whatever animosity secular Israelis may hold towards the local haredi community all but vanishes when it comes to parents wanting a safe haven for their kids as they wander the big wide world. Now that sense of security has been irrevocably shattered. Here are a few images of Chabad in India from quieter times, taken from Chabad.org.
Chabad House sign in Goa, India
A sign in English and Hebrew points the way to Goa, India’s Chabad House. (Photo: Meir Alfasi)

Mumbai Chabad House exterior
School children run outside the Chabad House in the Colaba Market area of Bombay, India. (Photo: Menachem Gansbourg)

Israeli lays tfillin in Goa
One of Goa’s many Jewish visitors prays while wearing tefillin. (Photo: Meir Alfasi)

Chabadnik helps Israeli lay tfillin before days end
A Jewish man puts on tefillin in the last minutes before sunset. (Photo: Meir Alfasi)

Israelis will doubtless continue their love affair with all things Indian, and Israel’s strategic relationship with India will undoubtedly be strengthened. Chabad-Lubavitch will continue to grow. But the greater ramifications of this traumatic event — an attack on Israel and Jews, Americans, Britons, and, by extension, Western civilization — are as yet unknown.
For those wishing to give immediate help, a fund has been established in memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg.

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