a different side of Israel

Category: Culture (page 7 of 22)

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

Meet The Candidates: Ron Huldai

Raviv Druker and Offer Shelach interviewed Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv, who’s running now for a third tenure in office. The interview took place more than half a year ago, but is no less relevant today.

Before the actual interview, Raviv Druker mentions that Huldai is very shy of the media — an assertion Huldai later admits, while adding that he’s been burnt by the media in the past.

The image that Druker and Shelach construct during this interview is that of a person who says little but does much. A person with a very pedantic and didactic personality, who believes in what he’s doing. After all, he’s been a military officer for many years, as a well as a high school principal.

They ask him: Do you like the job? And he cannot say he does, although he feels satisfaction when things are being done.

They take him for a walk outside, and count how many positive comments he receives from people on the street compared to negative comments. They also take him to the Yarkon promenade, where the Ussishkin Arena once stood — until the city council approved its demolition despite loud objections by sports fans.

I find it amusing that both Dov Khenin and Ron Huldai, the two major contenders in this race, are — hmm, for lack of better words — full blown geeks. Druker himself says that perhaps a turbulent city such as Tel Aviv needs someone sober to do the gray work behind the scenes.

Last day of fringe festival — hurry up!

Small Bama 2008

The Faculty of the Arts in Tel Aviv University is holding an annual fringe festival at the beginning of the academic year. It’s been running this week since Sunday, and today (Thursday) is the last day of the festival, titled Small Bama (Small Stage).

The festival is mainly about short student plays, but you can also catch there some video art and poetry readings as well.

It’s happening every night this week, in the Mexico building inside Tel Aviv University, between 6pm to 11pm. The program is repeating itself each night — so it’s possible to experience the entire festival in one evening. As I’ve said, today’s the last evening of the festival, so you’ve still got a chance to enjoy it.

I was there yesterday, and truly enjoyed myself.

First I went to watch the play “Bird Man”, and I have to say I’m very ambivalent about it. The concept is interesting, and there were some very good moments, but overall the acting was bad and the plot too bizarre. Now I know bizarre is what they meant, but it wasn’t good bizarre.

Then I experienced the powerful “She” and the lovely “Three Different Silences” one after the other. They were both magnificent. Reut Berda displays a very powerful performance in “She”, while “Three Different Silences” is a wonderful allegory on the Banality of Evil.

For dessert, I strolled around the building to find the “Stage Fear” performers. Now, these monologues are not for the faint-hearted! In each corner of the building another actress is awaiting you behind a black curtain. One by one, each ticket holder is entering the black curtain alone, for a private and intimate performance which takes between 3 to 5 minutes. Who’s more anxious, the actress or the spectator?! — it’s hard to tell. One thing’s for sure, if you go to the festival, “Stage Fear” is an absolute must. Personally, I found the “Song” scene to be the most powerful.

Next year I would like to see men participating as well in the next “Stage Fear” — this would take the concept of stage fear and embarrassment to whole new levels.

God and I – The Movie

Channel 8 is one of the best channels available on the Israeli cable network HOT. The channel airs mostly documentaries, science shows, history and culture-related films, and the like.

Now, Flix is an Israeli social network revolving around videos — sort of like the Israeli version of YouTube.

This morning I learned that Flix and Channel 8 are joining forces in order to create the first Israeli communal documentary. The subject: My relationship with God.

How is it done? Very simple. Flix users are invited to upload video clips in which they talk about God, and about “What God means for me”. It doesn’t have to be a short speech. You can sing, dance, or film anything that is related to the subject. And if you don’t have a webcam, then you email Flix and their crew might even come to film you at home.

Obviously not all submissions will make it to the final cut. This depends on the director and the editors. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful chance to share with the world your view on God.

The result will air on Channel 8, and will also be sent to film festivals around the world. And although this isn’t an original idea, I have to say it is very intriguing, and I’d love to watch the movie when it is ready.

In-D-Negev is starting tomorrow

For the second time ever, the alternative music festival “Indie Negev” (or In-the-Negev) is going to rock the weekend away.

It’s happening this weekend (October 24-25) in Mitzpe Gvulot, which is a camping site just outside the Gvulot kibbutz. Tickets are no longer available for purchase via the phone or the web, but if you arrive there relatively early on Friday, you can buy an admission ticket for only 80 Shekels, which will give you access to all the performances throughout the entire weekend. That’s one heck of a deal.

The lineup includes many newcomers, as well as big alternative names such as the Giraffes, Geva Alon, Asaf Avidan, and Ruth Dolores Weiss. All these names just mentioned are due to perform one after the other on Friday night, which is apparently the creme de la creme of the festival.

To arrive via public transportation, take bus no. 379 from Tel-Aviv central station, or bus no. 35 from Be’er-Sheva central station. There is also a dedicated forum which allow guests to coordinate carpooling.

Israeli Bloggers Gather in November

Many Israeli bloggers use the WordPress platform (as does this blog). Across the world, WordPress bloggers gather together in conferences known as WordCamp, in order to socialize and to exchange knowledge about blogging and WordPress customization.

The first Israeli WordCamp was hosted in Tel Aviv last year, and the second Israeli WordCamp is due to take place November 16 in the Z.O.A House (yes, again in Tel-Aviv).

Hurry up and register (for free!) because limited seats are available.

Israeli WordCamp 2008

Real Sarah Palin

In case you missed it last night, here’s the REAL Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, and her encounter with “Palin-wannabe” Tina Fey:

Succot Festivals – Quick Guide

Succot has always been a festive holiday, but this year it is truly the holiday of festivals. Here’s a very partial list:

Yotvata — a Kibbutz near Eilat, and home of the best chocolate milk in Israel — is hosting a festival of flying balloons in the desert.

Shanti lovers have 3 different festivals to choose from this year: Sagol (“purple”) in the coastal plane, Zorba the Buddha in the south, and Bereshit (“genesis”) in the north.

Are you looking for music? In-di-Negev is a whole weekend of alternative music, happening for the second time this year in the Negev desert. The Guitar Festival is the place to go if you enjoy jamming near the campfire. And if you want to enjoy quality performances by big-name mainstream artists, the Tamar Festival (“palm festival”) is offering just that.

Still want more? Well-established sci-fi festival Icon is drawing geeks from across the universe, who arrive to congregate at the Cinemateque in Tel Aviv.

And what about the kids? The Virtuoso Festival in Jerusalem (happening today and tomorrow) offers a mishmash of circus performances for only 20 Shekels.

With so much to do, and such great weather, please, please, don’t stay at home! :)

Festivals of Past Years

Since this year’s Acco Festival has been postponed (ie. canceled), I want to present you with two examples of short acts that had been featured in the festival in previous years. I chose two videos that contain no words, one by an Arab ensemble, and one by a Jewish ensemble. Enjoy!

For and Against the Cancellation of Acco Festival

As you may have heard, during Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) violent clashes between Jews and Arabs erupted in the northern city of Acco. An Arab driver drove through a Jewish neighborhood during the holiday, offending the local population and igniting riots and backlashes. The driver claims he was driving his family back home, only passing through the Jewish part of town. Other eyewitnesses claim he drove wildly, risking all the children who had been playing out on the road, while listening to loud music in his car.

Whichever version hits closer to the truth doesn’t matter now. He was being highly provocative in his actions, and the anger in well understood. Nevertheless, it’s saddening how the actions of one individual can sweep whole populations into conflict.

As a result of these riots, the mayor of Acco, Mr. Shimon Lankri, decided on Friday to cancel the upcoming “Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater“, which takes place during Succot each year. This annual festival has proven itself to attract a large amount of visitors, and is considered to be one of Israel’s best fringe theater festivals.

I was looking forward to visiting the Acco Festival myself this year, and am very disappointed that it was canceled in the last moment. Many artists and politicians alike have been urging the mayor of Acco in the past few days to call off the cancellation, and use the festival as a way to calm down the tensions.

Port of Acco
Image via Wikipedia

Is canceling this year’s festival the right thing to do? Well, personally, I can understand the mayor’s agenda. He says he cannot guarantee the visitors’ well-being while the racial tensions are running high, and I can certainly agree with this argument. Moreover, even though he did not express it explicitly, I believe that the cancellation is a sort of punishment for both sides. The festival is one of the city’s most successful cash-cows, and postponing it has an immediate effect on many of the residents. It’s as if Mr. Lankri warns his residents, “If you can’t get along, you’ll only be hurting your own livelihood. So next time think twice before you turn this town into a war zone!” And frankly, he’s got a point. Sometimes people need incentives to play nicely together, and this sort of move also puts the pressure on community leaders to be mature and responsible, instead of hot-tempered and provoking.

On the other hand, perhaps resuming everyday life as fast as possible is the best remedy in order to put behind this “incident”. Perhaps the mere act of announcing cancellation has been enough of a warning, and now it’s time to announce the festival is back on track. After all, it’s well known that tourism equals peace.

Tarantino to direct Jewish Vendetta

Berlin is abuzz with news about Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming film “Inglorious Bastards“, which is set to begin production in Germany next week.

The cast includes heavyweight names such as Brad Pitt (“Fight Club”), Mike Myers (“Austin Powers”) and B.J Novak (NBC’s “The Office”).

Tarantino is well known for his graphic and bloody movies, such as Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. And his new film will be no different: The fictional plot revolves around a squad of Jewish-American soldiers during World War II that hunt down, torture, and execute Nazi soldiers in occupied France.

What do you think? Should Tarantino transform the Holocaust into pure entertainment?

Aviv Geffen targets the UK

Aviv Geffen will be playing a special gig in London’s Roundhouse on 10th October 2008 (This Friday).

He is also scheduled to release a full studio album in the UK in the spring of 2009.

And to top it all, in preparation of a future UK tour, his marketing agency has announced the F-Gen Competition, which aims to find and reward young British talents who wish to enhance this upcoming tour in the fields of Video Art, Fashion Design, and Artwork Design.

Shana Tova and Gmar Chatima Tova

It’s dimming earlier these days; wind is getting stronger. Yes, it’s autumn again, and the air conditioner is no longer a man’s best friend.

In short, a new year is upon us, and I want to wish you all a Shana Tova (Happy new year) and Gmar Chatima Tova (May you be inscribed in the book of life)!

What have we seen this past year?
  • A raging march of corruption allegations sprouting from within government corridors. Yes, former Minister of Finance stole millions of Shekels from Holocaust survivors. Yes, yet another Prime Minister is knotted up to his head with police investigations. Yes, Minister of Justice (a dear friend of these aforementioned politicians) is crusading in an attempt to crush the legislative authority’s independance.
  • Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, American Mutual – big names that have become empty vessels. The beginning of the end of the Capitalistic age? It’s too soon to tell. However, one thing has become clear, as newsman Yaron London said yesterday: “People start to realize that Economy is not a distinct science; Economy is the very heart of politics.”
  • Three children, in three separate families, were murdered by their parents this past summer in our tiny piece of land. In a country that doesn’t seem to give a damn about its social infrastructure, this — sadly — doesn’t come as a surprise.
  • Shahar Tzuberi made us all proud this September when he won the only Israeli medal at the Beijing Summer Olympics. With his modest look and his unrelenting motivation, he proves yet again that Water Sports are gathering momentum in Israel… Splash!

Gmar Chatima Tova

And what may lay down the road?
  • Tzipi Livni may become Israel’s second female Prime Minister, just in time to (presumably) greet America’s first black president.
  • The tumbling economy is raising Anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States, reminiscent of 1929.
  • Municipal elections in November are raising much public attention, with both Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv displaying an intriguing line of candidates. Will Dov Khenin live up to his hype? Will Arieh Deri somehow storm his way back into the center of the political stage, after spending several years in the confiding comfort of a jail cell? Will the Ussishkin Arena ever get rebuilt?
  • Abu Mazen is ending his four years in office this coming January, opening the door for a Hamas-controlled West Bank.
Bottom Line

We have much to lose and much to gain. Emotions are running high, and I think that’s a good thing — We are finally stepping out of our long-embedded apathy. The world is changing before our eyes, and in this Internet-entwined culture of ours, the man in the street has never been so influential before.

Take care and enjoy this holiday season!


Keshet’s “Eretz Nehederet” (“Wonderful Land”) has been the most highly rated TV satire in Israel in the past several years. This month, a new show, airing in the same Friday night slot, aims to be the new “Eretz Nehederet”.

The new show is titled “Shavuah Sof”. It can be translated to English as “EndWeek” — a play on the word weekend, which also means “wonderful week”.

Here’s an excerpt from the first episode, where you can see Uri Gotliv hacking into PM Olmert’s computer, guessing his password (“money123″), browsing his documents, reading his emails, and looking at his contact list (listen to the names).


Paul McCartney in Israel next week

Paul McCartney — the one and only — will arrive for the first time in Israel next week, for a single and massive performance in Park Ha’Yarkon. It is set to happen September 25, and if you don’t have a ticket yet, you should better hurry.

It is well known that McCartney and the rest of the Beatles were denied permission to perform in Israel back in 1965, when Levi Eshkol was Prime Minister. They were considered to be bad influence of the younger generation, decades before Amy Winehouse and Nine Inch Nails came to our attention.

It has taken 43 years to bring him here, and frankly, I doubt many people are still interested in him and his music. I believe that most of the ticket buyers do it more for the sake of being part of something historic, and less because they’re truly passionate about his music.

Either way, it should be one heck of a show!

Turning Demolition into Art

This morning the building standing in Moshe Hess street No. 8 is set to be demolished. It is an old apartment building in the center of Tel Aviv, and several of its residents have been living there for 20-30 years.

Yesterday, for one evening only, the residents along with a group of artists turned the soon-to-be-demolished building into a unique art exhibition. The empty apartments were filled with video-art displays, strange wall paintings and a roof party “to top it all” (so to speak).

Although exploring the building had proved to be great fun, the heat and humidity of Tel Aviv was simply unbearable, and the lack of air conditioning in most parts of this old building didn’t help.

I find this to be a wonderful gimmick. Having the exhibition present for only one evening, it drew a large number of visitors, who turned the small street into a lively city gathering.

Here are some photos from last night’s event,
courtesy of urban photographer Amital Ben-Zvi:

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