a different side of Israel

Category: Culture (page 4 of 22)

Local Israeli music, art, theater, celebs and talent. Culture in Israel, Middle East and around the world as it relates to Israel.

Many blame European politics for Israel’s Eurovision finish

It could have been better – but it could have been much worse too; especially in the aftermath of the January Operation Cast Lead military confrontation with Gaza, and Pope Benedict XVI’s lackluster visit to the Holy Land. The idea behind the sound, sung jointly in Hebrew and Arabic by Yemenite Jewish singer Noa Achinoam and Israeli Arab Mira Awad, mean to emphasize that two peoples can live together in peace and that “there must be a better way” as sung by the pair together in English.

As has been the usual case, in recent Eurovision songfests, European countries appeared to be heavily against the Israeli entry, with most countries either not giving the song “There Must be Another Way” either received no votes at all or 1 token vote out of a possibility of 12 (considered by many to be even more humiliating. When it was all over, Israel received a total of 53 votes, ranking it at position number 16 among the 25 competing countries. Norway literally walked away with the victory this year receiving a whopping 389 votes for their song, Fairytale, sung by lead singer Alexander Rybak, more than any other country in Eurovision history.

Like mentioned at the beginning of this article, the finish for Noa and Mira could have been worse, in light of other disappointing past Israeli performances, including a few years back when Israel finished next to last. Of course, the song itself has a lot to do with who wins these contests, especially with the allowing of all countries to sing in any language they please, as well as hiring foreign singers to do the lead vocals (no worse, we guess, than Israeli basketball and football teams hiring foreign players). But how Rybak, who was born in Bellarus, appeared as an impish Irish fiddler, and managed to wow not only the Eurovision audience, but the voting countries as well, is something that had a touch of magic. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV,. Ischar Cohen, winner for Israel in the 1978 Eurovision with his song “Abonebi”, said simply that politics was not the problem: “there were just too many good songs – especially the Norwegian one”.

We can’t feel too disappointed, however; as Israel has won the songfest three times and many countries never have been able to put out a victory even once. Norway, trying to follow in the path of the Swedish music group Abba, last won the Eurovision in 1995 – also by singing in English.

Noa and Mira were quoted prior to their performance that their main purpose was to get their message across “even if we finish last”. Finish last they did not; but it would have been nice to have at least finished in the top 8, and preferably in the top for, like another Asian country, Azerbaijan did – also by singing in English. Israeli songwriters, as well as performers are trying to maintain Israel’s uniqueness by singing in its native language, which this year took on a special meaning, along with Mira’s Arabic. We should commend them for this.

The Idol Mania: What it takes to win

American Idol 09As the 8th season of the American Idol song star contest goes down to the final two contestants, I’m sure many people have been wondering how these contestants, Adam Lambert and Kris Allen are going to finish out when the grand finale comes off a few days from now – or maybe we’ve all reached this conclusion already. Adam, who hails from “just down the road” San Diego, seems to have to 100% backing of at three, if not all the judges, especially music industry mentor Simon Cowl. Simon didn’t make any bones about why he thinks Adam will win, and both of the “girls” Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardi are definitely in his camp.

Israel’s Kohav Nolad (A Star is Born) song contest will soon be starting it’s new season, and both young and not-so-young aspiring signers will come from all over the country to Herzelia Studios to have a go in a contest which so far has only seen one winner, Ninet Tayeb, really make a big splash in the Israeli music world, although a male winner Boaz Mauda, put in a respectable showing in the 2008 Eurovision songfest

Which brings us to the point we want to make in regards to what really is important to push a contestant over the line in the voting. Many people were shocked, including at three of the judges, when Milwaukee Wisconsin’s candidate Danny Goky was eliminated from the competition on Wednesday, after the results of one of largest audience voting on record, 88 million + came in. Even Idol host, Ryan Seacrest, seemed a bit surprised when Kris, who hails from the small Arkansas town of Conway (pop. 24,000) received more votes than Danny did – even though it had been proven time and time again that Goky was a much better singer.

The answer, friends, is very simple, at least in regards to male contestants: sex appeal. And in this respect, both Adam and Kris appear to have the edge over Danny, as well as being at least 4 years younger. In this cut-throat, competitive gig and hype trip known as the music business, in most cases a singer has to have not only a fantastic voice but the looks to go along with it as well. This is especially true for male singers, whose adoring “groupie” fans consist of millions of young girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 25 who have fantasies of being kissed (or something else) by a contestant such as Adam, who’s mischievous, sexy smile is almost reminiscent of Michael Jackson, or Kris who is just plain good looking. Danny, while “cute” to many just comes over too much as the “good boy next door” who some girl might like to have as brother or best friend – but not as a lover or boyfriend.

Susan BoyleFor female singers, that is not always the case, as was sensationalized recently when a frumpy 48 year old spinster named Susan Boyle wowed everyone in a recent Idol-like Britain has Talent competition, on which Simon Cowl also sits as judge (he was floored by her singing!)

As Idol judge and music icon Randy Jackson would say: “check it out, dude, that’s what’s coming down”; and that’s what will push Adam Lambert “over the line” when the final votes are fast and tallied.

By the way, I suppose all of you noticed the name embossed on singer Katy Perry’s costume when she cam on towards the end of Wednesday Idol show. That name says it all.

Depeche Mode Rock Group Wows Israeli Fans

Depeche Mode Israel 2009British rock group Depeche Mode, composed of lead vocalist Dave Gahan, guitarist, and song writer Martin Gore, plus keyboard genius Andrew Fletcher finally played their gig in Ramat Gan International Stadium Sunday night before more than 50,000 adoring fans. The rock group, which has racked up more than 50 hit singles and have had NO. 1 selling albums in the UK, USA, and many other countries, arrived for a concert that should have come off more than two years earlier, but was cancelled at the last minute due to political fall out in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanese War.

The Gahan, Gore and Fletcher are the three surviving members of the original group that formed in the early 1980’s and were one of the hottest music groups of their time.

Israeli fans had already arrived at the stadium hours before the gig came off to “stake out” a place close to the stage where the trio and a number of accompanying musicians would be playing. Although the majority of the fans were young, a number of older ones from the group’s prime performing years were there too, evidently wanting to recapture a number of years that had sort of “slipped away” from them.

After some preliminary events, the real show kicked off at 9 p.m. when the Depeche Mode show actually began. The group didn’t disappoint their fans as they immediately began to pound out some of their most well known hits such as In Chains, Wrong, and Walking in my Shoes. Other well known Depeche Mode songs included Peace (in which they invited their audience to sing along) Lie to Me, Personal Jesus (perhaps in honor of the Pope’s visit to Israel) and finally their classic: Waiting for the Night.

The audience really got emotionally into the number, Peace, especially the last chorus:

Peace will come to me
Just wait and see
Peace will come to me
It’s meant to be
Peace will come to me
Just wait and see
Peace will come to me
It’s inevitability!

Some young women got so worked up during the performance that they tried to imitate the “dress code” of the group, even by taking off their tops and being bare breasted.

Those who made it over to the Galina Restaurant and Bar at the Tel Aviv Port afterwards (for a Depeche Mode after-party) got a special treat when the trio showed up to participate in the festivities and to celebrate Dave Gahan’s 47th birthday – those lucky to be near enough to interact with them that is.

It’s hard to say who were impressed the most during the evening: the Depeche Mode band or the fans. But it’s certain that Dave and the gang will be back again before long: and for sure, their adoring fans will be waiting to rock the night away with them.

Fundraiser for Israeli Children by Orr Shalom

This month and next month there are two fund raising events by a non profit organization called Orr Shalom. The organization houses 1,300 of the approx. 8,000 children who find themselves without a home.

Orr Shalom was founded in 1980 with the intention of providing family structure and support to children who were removed from their home for reasons of abuse, abandonment and severe neglect.

The organization takes care of 1,300 children between the ages of 0 to 18 who were removed from their biological parents homes and are placed in one of several foster frameworks, all guided by the mission of providing a warm, supporting and loving environment for the child. Find out more about Orr Shalom and how you can help!

The two event posters are below. The first event is Machina – Unplugged and it takes place on May 19, 2009 at the Tel Aviv Harbour – Riding 3.

Machina Unplugged - Fund Raising for Kids

The second event is a month later. The play The Odd Couple by Neil Simon, with the actors; Eli Yatzpan and Yaakov Cohen. That showing will take place at Habima in Tel Aviv on June 16, 2009.

The Odd Couple - Eli Yatzpan and Yaakov Cohen

Insomnia by Michael Greilsammer

This is a song that is getting very popular and the key line in it is: Oh My Dear Wife.. Michael Greilsammer is the singer and the song is called “Lo Nirdam” (Insomnia). He is actually a Reggae violinist with a strong pull towards Irish music, he is also apparently the first of his kind in the world :) So not your typical Israeli music, but then again, what is typical these days?

It’s a really great song. I read in one of the forums that based on the song he must only be married for 6 months.
Skeptics, Skeptics everywhere…This is him and his wife, Shimrit Dror, in the video.

Fresh Paint in Israel

I was at this last FreshPaint show in Tel Aviv and it was great. 33,000 visitors came in a span of 5 days to see the latest in young Israeli art:

A huge success for Fresh Paint 2!

Over 33,000 people visited Fresh Paint 2 art fair, in just 5 days!
A large audience enjoyed the creative work of more than one hundred artists and purchased artworks. We thank all our visitors for your support!

Fresh Paint art fair ended, but Fresh Paint’s group exhibition is still on!

Interested in young Israeli art? Would like to see more from the fair’s artists?
Fresh Paint art fair is currently presenting a group show of Fresh paint’s artists, named “Mani’s Haunted House” in Beit Mani Leumi (“Mani’s House”) art space.
Curators: Yifat Gurion Ofer and Matan Daube.

Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m to 8 p.m, Friday 10 a.m to 1 p.m, through May 7, 2009.
Beit Mani Leumi, Bank Leumi Headquarters
36 Yehuda Halevi Street

Funds raised through Fresh Paint 2’s community projects

• 900 postcards were sold at The Secret Postcard project. 160,000 NIS were raised for scholarships for youth from underprivileged backgrounds, who excel in the arts, for studies in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s Education Center’s program.
• Income from the Curator’s Choice Gallery will fund the activity of the art therapy program at the nationwide children’s homes of the charity Yeladim – Fair Chance for Children.
• Thousands of Shekels were raised for the Nalaga’at Deaf-Blind Theater Company in Jaffa port, Tel Aviv. The Special Edition Project continues at the Nalaga’at center.

Purchasing Artworks

It is still possible to purchase artworks by Fresh Paint’s independent artists. If you are interested in further details regarding an artist or an artwork please contact:

Fresh Paint 3 will be held on March 2010. Details will follow.

Americobsession: An Application

Part 4

We have recently defined Freud’s terms, the id, ego, and superego for the sake of playing with a new understanding of what it is about American pop-culture that sends young Israelis flying to the mall for the latest Rihanna album or happy meal. Allow us to divide young Israel in the same fashion as the mind: the id would be the part of this group that endlessly craves all of the food, attention, and love it can get. The ego would be that part that tries to rationalize the basic desires by performing a balancing act between the id and the superego, the latter of which takes in the societal rules and regulations. I would like to argue, then, that it is the id of young Israeli culture that most thirstily craves American pop-culture, for it is the kind of goods coming out of MTV and McDonalds that are most immediately satisfying: they are the cheapest, take the shortest amount of time to achieve, and take the least amount of conscious thought. The battle between the id, ego, and superego of young Israel is clear: id-ruled young ones want it all, and ego-rationality belongs only to those who can differentiate between the movies that one can watch while talking on the phone and eating a burger, and those that take concentration and, if I may say, intellect. But who, then, informs the ego so that it may protect the id from receiving every bit it pleases? As we learned, it is the superego that learns to cope by first, living with and imitating parents, and second, by following the rules and regulations of society. The difficulty would seem in our case, then, that what society is dishing out is aimed at the id, rendering the ego helpless in the face of such juicy junk as Top Model and 90210.

McDonalds GenerationAfter all of what’s been discussed, one thing we can say for sure is this: American pop-culture, by its very nature, will always be the most accessible and masturbatory form of food and entertainment. It aims to satisfy—it goes straight for the id—and in such a young and, as I said, “culturally vulnerable” place like Israel, it seems the only thing that will stop its ultimate takeover is very early education. And what about the networks and companies that are allowing the dribbling in of this crap? They are more or less completely unstoppable – they in fact are paying for the leakage. And they now have a hold of what we crave, so much to the point that they’ve picked on what White Castle has reminded Americans endlessly: “It’s What You Crave!”

Maybe, despite the repugnance that I’ve expressed in these posts, you still may, “but is American popular culture really so awful?” No, it can be quite fascinating actually. The real concern arises out of the thought of every new generation of Israelis acting more and more like infants to later and later stages of life, until one day – if there are no other forms of cultural entertainment besides all that dribble I’ve mentioned – we may cease concerning ourselves with anything else, including how to remain the historically rich, diverse, and culturally remarkable place that we in fact really are.

In the next and final post of this series, we’ll hear from some Israelis and Americans on the subject, both here and in the States, in order to find out if my concern is such a concern for others. Perhaps what defines Israeli culture is all a matter of personal perspective, or it could be that the infusion of American into Israeli culture is somehow seen as necessary for the future; in any case, it seems a topic worth discussing.

Written by Alana Sobelman

Americobsession – Part 3

As I’ve explained in the previous post, it is my aim to examine the “psyche” of Israeli culture in very broad (and no doubt very stereotypical) terms in order to get to the bottom of the “Americobsession” that has its shiny little hands in nearly every corner of Israeli life. This cultural “psyche”, I’ve explained, contains the same elements that Freud gave to the human psyche: the id, the ego, and the superego. All three, Freud made clear, need to be in reasonable balance for relative psychic stability. The id, the most primitive feature of the psychic structure, contains our primal wants and desires. It functions in that part of the mind that is irrational and emotional. The id of course, then, is equated with the newborn infant. It is the part of the mind that does not take “no” for an answer and its entire existence is based on immediate satisfaction. The ego responds to the id by rationalizing the primal wants and desires and by predicting the long-term consequences of the id’s rudimentary needs. The ego is considered our very consciousness. And finally, there is the superego, the last part of Freud’s structure of the mind to develop, and the part that is most affected by outside stimuli. The superego becomes a holding cell for parental and later societal rules and regulations.

I have denied Freud’s notions the ability to express themselves fully and hence justly, but if we can nonetheless play around with the idea for a moment, we will most definitely be entertained by what we’ll find out about Israelis and the “Americobsession”.


Explaining the Americobsession

Part 2 out of 5

In my last post I introduced the topic of the “Americobession” that has for many years—and it seems for many more to come—taken hold of the young, and thus naturally imitative, Israeli population. Most of my native friends agreed with the sentiments expressed in the previous post and others were a bit offended that I hadn’t given enough credit to those youngsters who have taken it upon themselves to follow a different path towards whatever decent may be coming out of restaurants, t.v., or radio. Not one reader I know, however, disagreed with the notion that the goods of popular American culture, including English-language catch-phrases, have forced their way into daily Israeli life and are all too rapidly extinguishing potential talent from within Ha’aretz. As I already expressed, I am interested in finding out why modern Israel has been ransacked by American pop-culture and if there may be anything to do to limit its force. You may argue that pop-culture from the U.S. has made its way into the eyes, ears, mouths, and hands of most teenagers in most countries on the globe – and in this you would certainly be right – but there is a significant difference in the effects of such tasty candy on a country such as Japan from one such as Israel, and one that primarily relates to the very young age of Israel itself and the rapidly increasing speed of pop-globalization with which the former must contend.

As noted, I’d like to bring some of Sigmund Freud’s ideas into this piece in order to look for some explanations. I’m interested in relating what Freud has discussed with regard to the early development of the psyche, beginning with the very first stages of infancy. It was with the term “infancy” where I first made the connection to Israel, for it is a fact that it wasn’t until the late 40s, with the official signing of the very first Israeli constitution, that outside modern influences could have begun taking their hold on the youngest pup of the Middle East. The analogy then? I will apply the split of the psyche (id, ego, superego) to our little nation. Of course the psychic model applies to every country, and each somewhat differently. And within every country, the model applies to the various cultures, religions, generations, etc. But seeing as I have already stereotyped an entire culture within Israel—that of the American-candy-loving youngsters—I’ll allow myself the freedom to apply this model to the country as a whole in order to explain the actions of this specific generation. And thus, we will begin with a brief and rather layman’s-termed explanation of the id/ego/superego model, and move on from there into a deeper investigation into the “psyche” of young Israeli culture and what about it may have led to the “Americobsession”.

Written by Alana Sobelman

AIG Israel and the American bailout scandals

While the ongoing AIG bailout money scandal appears to be gathering momentum in the U.S. many people in Israel are wondering how this may be affecting the insurance consortium’s affiliate in this country, especially in light of the on-going economic recession that is now fully entrenched in Israel. AIG’s attempt to have an increasing share of the Israel insurance market has not been without problems, as the local company, which began business in Israel in the late 1990’s, appears to be investing a considerable sum of money in TV advertising to help maintain a positive image with an increasingly skeptical public.

AIG began its operations in Israel in the late 1990’s by marketing direct automobile insurance in competition with another company, I.D.I. Insurance Company Ltd, otherwise known as “Betuah Yashir” or Direct Insurance. As of June, 2007, AIG Israel had managed to acquire a 3% share of the Israeli insurance market, with annual sales revenues of $100 million and a profit of $10 million. For years, the company sustained losses in the insurance products it marketed to its Israeli customers, which later expanded to household and mortgage insurance covers, as well as life and health insurance products. While it earlier used more simplified types of media advertising, it has recently used high profile personalities from the Israeli entertainment world, including TV and theatre acting personality Avi Kushnir, and transsexual singing star Dana International, who was hired to advertise the company’s Lady AIG insurance packages.

AIG Israel, headed by Hava-Friedman Shapira, has undergone a massive TV “hasbara” or PR campaign to try to insure its existing and potential customers that everything is OK with the Israeli branch of AIG despite the problems its big brother in America is now experiencing, especially after the revelations that a good part of the money the company was given by US Treasury to keep it solvent has been paid out to its high level management in the form of bonuses. Kushnir has literally earned the title of being known as “Mr. AIG Israel” for the clever and cute commercials he has appeared in for AIG, including being dressed as a woman to promote the company’s “Lady AIG” insurance package, along with Dana International, for women drivers over age 30 who have a good driving record. He was also aired in a special PR commercial that came out soon after the near-collapse of the American AIG and the initial bailout from the US government last October. The commercial shows him walking onto center stage and saying the words: “I saw…..I heard……it’s all right now” in order to show AIG’s Israeli policy holders that they have nothing to worry about.

Kushnir has since been seen in a different commercial in which he tells the viewing public that in spite of many companies conducting massive layoffs of employees, AIG is actually hiring people to work in the company’s sales and customer service departments. It’s understandable why this may be happening; since insurance companies make a good part of their total revenues from selling policies, as well as renewing existing ones. More than likely, the company surely needs extra help to try and bring in more insurance customers, and especially to keep existing policy holders from deserting the company in favor of other insurers. With all that is going on with AIG in America, who might not be just a bit edgy when the time comes to renew an automobile or other type of personal insurance policy. And this reality is something that even Kushnir or Dana will have a hard time trying to prevent AIG policy holders from saying: “I saw…..I heard….I left!”

The Fish and The Shark

While PM Olmert, Defense Secretary Barak, and the intelligence agencies have failed to do their job and return Gilad Shalit home, the Israeli consulate in New York have managed to make an impact on the Jewish community in the States.

This is a video done a year ago. In it, you see 11 y/o Bronx kids reading the story Gilad Shalit wrote as a child (translated to English).

As the Shalit family and the whole of Israel are facing the fact that Gilad is apparently not coming home any time soon, we have to turn to Gilad’s words themselves to regain some hope — for him, and for a better Israel.

A Snuff Film on 8 O’Clock News

A young man died yesterday after hours of excruciating pain. He and his friends accidentally wandered into a mine field in the north of Israel. A mine explosion got his leg blown up, bleeding for hours on the ground. Finally, the rescue helicopter that had come to — well, rescue him — didn’t tie his stretcher properly and he fell from a great height and died instantly.

His family and friends hasn’t had time to absorb the news. Some of them were probably not even yet notified of his fate. And the man hasn’t been buried yet! But both Channel 10 News and Channel 1 chose to broadcast the video footage in which the man is seen suffering, and then dying — all of it was captured by the camera, making a true snuff film. In addition to the extremely insensitive decision to broadcast the footage, viewers were not warned in advance that they are about to watch a real man dying… A real man who died just an hour or two ago.

Is it because the dead man was an Israeli-Arab that it’s OK to turn his death into a cheap entertainment spectacle?

I am deeply ashamed of both Channel 10 and Channel 1 for their actions and decisions last night, and I expect them to make a sincere apology and to take measures that would prevent such a thing from happening again.


Apparently Channel 2 News has added the video footage to its Mako web site. I think this too is extremely inappropriate.

Kabbalah Dog

Kimba the pug is dressing up as Kabbalah Dog this Purim:

Kabbalah Dog

Happy International Women’s Day

Sunday, March 8, is the International Women’s Day.

Marina Maximillian Blumin, a young singer who caught the national spotlight during her appearance in “Kochav Nolad” (the Israeli version of “American Idol”), will perform this Saturday in the Comfort club in Tel Aviv. Entrance is free for women!

Russian ska band “Los Caparos” will accompany her, and R&B singer Ayala Eingadesht will also perform during the evening.

Here’s Marina performing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on Israel’s Channel 2:

Tonight: Kdam Eurovision

The Kdam Eurovision (or Pre-Eurovision) will take place tonight, at 21:45 Jerusalem Time (GMT + 2:00). On the agenda, 4 different songs by Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad, accompanied by musician Gil Dor. Only one of these songs will be chosen to represent Israel in the 2009 Eurovision in Moscow.

As we’d like to believe in our beloved democracy: Every vote counts. So turn on, tune in, and send off your SMS.

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

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