Sign humor

October 24, 2010 - 9:12 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Art, History and Culture, Israeliness, Life, News, Pop Culture 

Very briefly, another humorous YouTube video, poking fun at the peace process. The man holding the sign is chanting: “I won’t move from here until there is peace.” And so, the guy on the bike can safely chain his bike to the sign holder’s leg because, well, the guy with the sign won’t be moving anytime soon if he’s not moving from that spot until there is peace in the Middle East.

‘YES’ he can – Obama hawks for Israeli cable

January 24, 2010 - 9:44 AM by · 2 Comments
Filed under: A New Reality, Business, General, Israeliness, Politics, Pop Culture, tv 

President Barack Obama may not have pleased many Israelis with his Middle East policy during his first year of his presidency. To give him the benefit of the doubt, let’s just call it naive.

However, that doesn’t mean that we still don’t appreciate Obama’s charisma, his ability to inspire and his movie star charm and appeal. YES, one of the two cable TV providers here, apparently realizes that – which is why they recently started screening this very clever and well-made commercial for their new services they’re offering viewers.

I’m not sure we’re they got all the actors, but the ad – produced by McCann Films for McCann Erickson Israel, the local arm of international advertising giant – will surely put your week off to a good start.

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The Simpsons to bring peace to Israel

March 27, 2009 - 12:25 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, coexistence, History and Culture, Politics, Pop Culture, Travel 

The Simpsons flee AustraliaLike most existential quarrels, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a nuanced and tricky beast. Those on the outside often take a paternalistic, “Oh, those silly Middle Easterners, why can’t they just realize that coexistence is the way to go, put their weapons down and start getting along?” attitude.

In the minds of most Israelis, I’d wager, this perspective is naïve and can lead to disaster. Many have argued that Bill Clinton’s personal need to end his presidency on a positive note led to over-simplified tactics at Camp David, which in the end backfired and brought about the Second Intifada.

I’m not sure that that thesis is itself sufficiently nuanced, but diplomacy analysis aside, a similarly paternalistic outsider’s view that has informed many tongue-in-cheek pop culture Mideast peace comments. And these comments also come off to us locals as either refreshingly naïve (as in the case of the dreamy conclusion of Tom Robbins’s Skinny Legs and All) or as not necessarily adding to the discussion but amusing nonetheless (especially when they are aimed at exposing the hypocrisies and general lack of vision among our leaders, like when Bruno stopped by last summer).

And our beloved Simpsons, probably one of the greatest TV shows of all time, if not the greatest, has a dodgy track record when it comes to understanding cultural nuances from an insider’s perspective. It’s all part of being an irreverent, edgy comedy.

According to Ha’aretz, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are headed our way in the coming months:

Multiple media sources have quoted the show’s executive producer, Al Jean, as saying that America’s number one animated family will head to the Holy Land next year.

“I think we’re going to do one next year where they go to the Holy Land as we haven’t been there yet. The premise will be that the Christians, the Jews and Muslims are united in that they all get mad at Homer. It’s the only thing they can agree on,” Jean said.

Sometimes the international ethnic and otherwise-sensitive communities don’t manage to take The Simpsons with the appropriate grains of salt. Racial stereotypes as regular characters? But of course. Accusations of homophobia? You got it. And then there are the recurring episodes where the family travels internationally, ripping apart the cultural and ethnic mores of China, Italy, African banana republics, Ireland and Japan. They’re exceedingly funny, but sometimes people get offended. When the Simpsons traveled in South America in a 2002 episode, the Tourism Board of Rio de Janeiro reportedly seriously mulled a lawsuit against the Fox Network for libel. Or slander. Or something.

The episode that kicked off this recurring series is 1996′s “Bart vs. Australia,” which supposedly had Aussies in such a tangle that letter writing campaigns and public censuring ensued. But a closer reading of that episode reveals that it’s all tongue-in-cheek – its very plotline focuses on the Americans’ laughable lack of understanding of anything non-American, which is carried out throughout as the starting point of many quality jokes. The family barely escapes (pictured) with their lives.

So just because the Simpsons talk or act in a certain way, doesn’t mean that the show’s writers or producers want its audience to follow suit. But when it comes to Mideast peace, why not? Sometimes a little naïveté is what we need to break out of our most self-perpetuating, defeatist grooves.

The gloves are on for Israeli boxers

February 20, 2009 - 7:55 AM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: coexistence, History and Culture, Israeliness, Profiles, Sports, War 

Ran NakashThe Philadephia Daily News recently ran a compelling profile of international Israeli boxers Ran Nakash (pictured) and Elad Shmouel.

The main thrust of the piece is that being raised in the Middle East makes one a particularly hard brand of badass, making Israel an emerging source for fighting talent:

“Israel is becoming what Russia was 10 years ago when the Klitschkos [current heavyweight titlists Vitali and Wladimir] were starting out,” said [matchmaker Don] Elbaum, who believes Nakash will fight for some version of a world championship before too long. “In the next couple of years, I think you’ll see an exodus of incredible boxing talent coming out of Israel.”

Some of the piece’s hyped-out tone is grounded in hyperbole (calling Israel “an area where to end any day alive qualifies as a small triumph” might be a bit of a stretch), but overall, these two guys do come off as seriously dangerous. Shmouel speaks about how his experiences witnessing a suicide bomb attack in a shopping mall when he was in his teens have made him tough. Nakash maintains a successful career as a Krav Maga instructor for the IDF.

And they discuss their impressions of the recent Gaza war and assess the prospects for real regional peace. But politics and punching prowess aside, what’s life in Israel really like?

Shmouel, who recently concluded his mandatory 3-year military service obligation as a first sergeant, said many Americans can’t begin to fathom the reality of the Middle East situation from what they see on television.

“You have to experience it to understand,” Shmouel said. “You have to be there. It would change people’s perspective, that’s for sure.”


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