Sabras in JLiving

January 2, 2012 - 9:28 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Art, Business, design, Entertainment, General, Israeliness, Life, News, Pop Culture 

As a writer/journalist type around here — writing about the fun stuff, granted, very little politics and diplomacy crossing my computer — I tend to be mostly familiar with many of my stories. That is, I know a little bit about many different subjects and issues, having written about them at one time or another. That can be good, in the sense that I’m familiar with the interview subjects, and the trajectory of the story, whether it’s about import prices in Israel or Tel Aviv fashion shows.

When I write for a publication that’s new to me, or new in general, it helps turn up the volume on my subject matter. I have to be the ultimate arbiter on the subject at hand, making sure my new readers and editors will understand the piece, and be able to read between the lines, particularly if it’s about something Israeli that may not be known to this particular audience. I’m thinking about this because I just read through the premiere issue of JLiving, a new Jewish living magazine out of Los Angeles, which just launched.

I wrote about the top six Israeli resorts for the issue, as well as a piece about a creative entrepreneurial partnership, StudioVE, out of Tel Aviv. Neither piece broke any new news; I’m sure most of you reading either one of them will think, “Yeah, I’ve read about this before.” And perhaps you have, particularly from the resorts piece.

But because I was writing about it for a new magazine, one with readers who don’t necessarily regularly read about Israel, it made me look at people and places a little differently, with an eye as to how these places and people look and sound to those who don’t know them well, or have never come across them before.

So have a look, although it is a little annoying to read through the magazine widget. But it’s flashy and fun, and very California. And hey, it’s good to have some Sabra stuff in there.

Online group buying comes to Israel

November 15, 2010 - 9:47 AM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: A New Reality, Business, Food, General, Israeliness, Life 

It was only a matter of time until someone in the English-speaking population in Jerusalem came up with it – an online group buying site.

While hundreds exist in the US like Groupon, offering substantial bargains on everything from dental checkups to restaurant menus, the concept hadn’t yet arrived in Israel until David Shadpour, a native of Los Angeles and a recent immigrant here, launched the deals site GroopBuy.

According to a story in In Jerusalem, Shadpour turned his frustration at being unable to bargain and haggle in local stores do to language restrictions in to a business idea.

Groopbuy promotes a daily offer that Shadpour calls “outrageous deals” from a variety of business and services, all set at more than 60 percent off the regular price. A minimum number of people must purchase the deal through the site before the offer closes. If this minimum is not reached, buyers receive an e-mail informing them that their credit card has not been charged. However, if enough people do sign up, as soon as the deal ends the credit card transaction goes through and customers receive a printable coupon via e-mail.

“The success is in the volume,” says Shadpour. “It only works if enough people buy the deals.”

Presently, Groopbuy is operational only in Jerusalem, but there are plans to roll out in Tel Aviv and Ra’anana, before eventually taking the model nationwide.

Already there are more than 100 deals set to appear on the site, and firms are contacting the company daily to get their business online, according to Shadpour.
Bargains that have been posted on the site in recent weeks include manicures and pedicures, laser hair removal, piano lessons, horseback riding, paragliding, ulpan lessons, and take away sushi.

But Shadpour said that he’s turned many companies down for not reaching the level of service and standards that Anglo consumers expect and demand.

“I’m not going to include businesses just because they offer a good deal,” he explains. “If they give bad customer service, I am not interested in featuring them on the site.”

Is there a market for an Israeli comedy in the US?

June 6, 2009 - 9:45 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General, Movies, Pop Culture, War 

lost-isThe crowd-pleasing 2008 Israeli film ‘Lost Islands’ was featured over the weekend at the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The comedy, produced by Dudi Zilber and directed by Reshef Levy, is about twin brothers in late-1970s Israel who fall in love with the same girl. And according to Zilber, that light remise might be precisely the reason why the film, the biggest box office hit locally last year, has not yet been able to procure American distribution.

All of the recent Israeli films that have resonated with American viewers have had something to do with the conflict – whether it be directly (“Waltz With Bashir,” “Beaufort”) or indirectly (“The Band’s Visit”).

“It’s a big disappointment,” Zilber told The Los Angeles Times, which ran a feature on the film. “Not even one distributor has given us an offer. No one is interested.”

According to Zilber, when it comes to foreign imports, US distributors are far more interested in serious, art-house dramas than in popular comedies. In fact, being a big comedy hit in Israel probably makes “Lost Islands” a harder sell than if it were a small, thoughtful adult drama.

“The movies that sell well overseas — and this is true if they are from France or Iran as well as from Israel — are the ones that have soft or delicate subject matter, a serious theme that would appeal to the U.S. art-house moviegoer,” says Zilber. “Non-English-speaking films are geared to a very specific audience in the U.S. — the cinephiles, the people who want serious drama. So actually, the more commercial the movie is in Israel, the less commercial it would be in America.”

However, even though nobody may want the rights to “Lost Islands”, they are interested in the story. Zilber told The Times that he’s in negotiations with several US-based film companies for the American remake rights to the film.

If remade, it would also join a trend of US adaptions of Israeli productions, ranging from HBO’s In Treatment to:

– Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, – a 2003 Shemi Zarhin comedy being remade as Diego Ascending, by actress Salma Hayek’s production company about an underappreciated 16-year-old boy charged with taking care of his eccentric family.

- Wristcutters, the 2006 film adaption by director Goran Dukic of Etgar Keret’s short story Kneller’s Happy Campers.

– Colombian Love, a 2004 comedy by Shai Kannot about modern romance, acquired by a Hollywood production company that intends to remake it in an American setting.

So, remember, just because an Israeli film doesn’t have any soldiers in it or bombs going off, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not bound for the bright lights of Hollywood.

YouTube creates another Israeli star

April 2, 2009 - 8:43 AM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Music, Pop Culture 

Oren Lavie

Oren Lavie

Sometimes, all it takes for an Israeli to become successful is… to leave Israel. Not that we’re recommending it, God forbid, but it seems to have worked for Oren Lavie.

The playwright turned singer/songwriter from Tel Aviv is enjoying a new-found noteriety in the US and around the world, appearing on The Jimmy Kimmel show, signing licensing deals with Chevrolet for his song to appear in an ad for the Chevy Malibu, and with the producers of the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

And you may just be one of the four and a half million YouTube viewers who watched the video to his song “Her Morning Elegance” from his debut album The Opposite Side of the Sea.
The inventive stop motion-style video has become somewhat of a sensation, and propelled Lavie from anonymity into a kind of cyber celebrity anonymity.

A strong booster in influential indie-based Los Angeles radio station KCRW helped Lavie’s music get heard by the suits, resulting in the licensing deals which enabled him to launch his own label to release the album and produce the video.

The video – produced with Tel Aviv-based husband-and-wife team of Yuval and Merav Nathan – animates the fantastic dream of a sleeping woman without ever leaving her bedroom, using her mattress as the canvas of the dream and her bed frame as the dolly of her journey.

Last month, Lavie performed “Her Morning Elegance” on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, accompanied by a life-size, Muppet-like puppet nuzzling him throughout the song, a move that Lavie described as an attempt to break out of any pre-conceived mold that listeners might have that he was just another humorless singer-songwriter.

Despite living now in LA and not having had an address in Israel for a number of years, Lavie still considers Tel Aviv his home, returning regularly to visit family and friends. And here, he’s also still anonymous, able to walk down the streets without being recognized. But that might be for long.

Time doesn’t pay

November 5, 2008 - 5:21 PM by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Art, Crime 

Marie Antoinette sans pocket watchIn a bizarre tale involving old time pieces, a notorious super-thief, a former queen of France and an Israeli woman living in LA, The Associated Press recently published a report on the recovery of items stolen in Israel’s most damaging heist ever in terms of value. As far as intrigue goes, the story may rival the news from July about Kafka’s lost writings possibly being horded in a cat- and mildew-filled Tel Aviv apartment.

So here’s the deal. A collection of 106 clocks was stolen from Jerusalem’s L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art back in 1983. One of the pieces in the collection, a gold and rock crystal pocket watch made by renowned watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet for French queen Marie Antoinette (pictured), was worth over $30 million alone.

And the authorities were stumped – until 2006, when the museum told investigators that they’d bought back some of the collection from an anonymous American woman. After some digging, the trail led to Los Angeles resident Nili Shamrat, the widow of one Naaman Diller, a criminal, watch-loving mastermind who stole much high-profile contraband in Israel over the years before passing away in the US four years ago. When local police went to Shamrat’s home to interview her, they saw some of the clocks from the collection around her house. A confession that Diller had told Shamrat about the heist on his deathbed soon followed, and now a media gag order has been lifted.

Investigator Oded Yaniv seems honored to have been involved, expressing admiration for Diller:

“He was a legendary robber. He was very different, very intelligent, and had a unique style,” Yaniv said. “We are all disappointed that we don’t have the chance to sit and talk to him and investigate him. We feel like we missed out on that.”

Ah, if only….

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