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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”.

Americanization

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

Coping with the Americobession

AmericobsessionIt seems that American pop-culture and the English language have together saturated what could have been a thriving Israeli culture of sophisticated art, film, literature, and music. Just flip through the channels: Top Model, Top Israeli Model, American Idol, Israeli Idol, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Survivor, Israeli Millionaire, Martha Stewart, Oprah, Dr. Phil. You’ll find television commercials for Israeli products that are entirely in English; you’ll even find plasticized American traditions such as the classic lemonade stand scenario reenacted for commercial purposes in the same nostalgic fashion that’s been done before—white picket fence and all.

Then turn that tuning dial: Britney, Ricky Martin, Rihanna, Jessica Simpson.

And then transliterate from Hebrew the words on any one of those street billboards: HOT, Orange, Super Pharm, New Pharm, Mega, Super Sell, BIG, SMILE.

And lest we forget the vulgar expressions that come out of endless attempts to capture American pop-culture through misinformed translations on clothing: the tagline “Pussy King” on the face of a so-called Burger King T-shirt (usually worn by an Israeli guy showing off the two months he spent driving an ice-cream truck in New Jersey); or a perfectly classy looking woman sporting the slogan “Kiss It” across the back pockets of her 1,000NIS ($250) pair of jeans.

Any efforts—if they ever existed—to halt American globalization in Israel have capsized, making way for newer and more counterfeit ways to promote all of the products, sights, and sounds that are already themselves carbon copies of what was once considered quality in American culture. A double-fallacy, and an especially unfortunate scenario for those of us Americans who have seen it all before.

As to why this has happened, it seems like an old topic already—American political support of Israel leads to financial support, which logically leads to a dribbling in of McFlurries, Coca Cola, Pink and Ashley Simpson. But in my three years here I have noticed a frightening upsurge in what I’ll call the “Americobsession” that draws me to conclude that so much of the flashy crap I was hoping to escape from when I left America, is now on the prowl to suck me right back in. I once figuratively spat at the windows of WalMart and gave my dollars to Nader. And now I seek news updates from the FOX network and question Obama’s willingness to use military force. Is it true? Have I become more American since I’ve moved to Israel? Or have I simply become more Israeli by surrendering to American influence?

The four posts that follow will include a few different investigations into the rampant and largely incurable Israeli obsession with all things American. We’ll lightly skim the pages of Freud and talk to some Israelis and Americans on the street in order to find out what exactly it is about all of that junk from the States that makes young Israelis trade in their Arik Einstein for Hootie and the Blowfish, their ‘Operation Grandma’ for ‘Team America’, and their individual tastes for a load of very expensive dribble. Americans have already fallen for it. Must Israelis now shovel the shekels for a cargo full of bad leftovers?

Written by guest writer Alana Sobelman

Mofaz refuses debating

The Kadima primary is just a few weeks away, and there are currently 4 candidates. Avi Dichter, one of the candidates, suggested having a televised debate, where the candidates can voice their opinions on the urging matters of the Israeli society. However, Minister of Transportation, Shaul Mofaz refuses to participate in such a debate, making the suggestion virtually pointless. Mr. Dichter is very unpleased with Mofaz’ refusal, and he may even push to have a 3-way debate instead.

As I’ve previously mentioned here on the blog, political debates do only good, no matter the political context.

Mega Twister

While the hurricane season is running rampage at the Atlantic Ocean, a different sort of hurricane is set to hit the Tel Aviv coastline this Friday.

A dedicated group of people (dedicated to having fun, that is) is planning to host a public game of Twister on Bug’ra’shov beach tomorrow evening. They promise to bring a huge Twister board, and over 1,500 people have been invited.

Stop by if you dare.

Reddit offers initial Hebrew UI

Reddit now offers preliminary Hebrew support in its User Interface.

Press for enlargement:

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:

Biggest Slumber Party

August is the month of festivals. Cellcom Volume is taking place right now on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There’s a festival of Street Performers in Bat-Yam, another music festival in Holon, and so on and so forth.

Tonight comes the kids’ turn. The Tel Aviv municipality is holding a huge slumber party for kids in Park Ha’Yarkon this evening (Thursday, August 28). There will be lots of performances, a pyjama contest, a yawning contest, and several playgrounds.

Should be fun, and a good way to unwind before the school year returns next week.

Tel Aviv Slumber Party

End of Summer

* (en) Israel LocationWe’re quickly approaching the end of August. And even though we had some nice weather at the end of last week, it’s steaming hot in Israel at the moment. Nevertheless, the sky darkens a bit earlier.

Next week the school year begins, and hundreds of thousands of children will get off the streets and into the classrooms. One girl who might not ordinarily resume school is Rose from Netanya, who’s been missing for 3 months, and only two days ago came to the public’s attention. Today we learn that her step father is suspected of murdering her, and this story has a shocking similarity to the murder of Hodia Kedem 6 years ago by her father, as a twisted way of taking revenge at his ex-wife. We still don’t know if that’s the also the case this time, and the whole of Israel is hoping that Rose will eventually be found safe and sound.

On the environmental front, Israel is drier than it has been for many decades, and there is a real threat of entering a state of water shortage. Another consequence of the heat is the excess use of air conditioners and the resulting spread of allergies.

September 1st is a day dreaded by many, anticipated by many. But we still have a whole week to go.

Two years without Yaakov


Illustration

Two years ago, on the eve of August 24, 2006, Ya’akov Ratz’abi went missing in Tel Aviv. Yaakov was a hostel resident under the supervision of Akim, the National Association for the Habilitation of the Mentally Handicapped in Israel.

On that Thursday evening, two years ago, Yaakov, his fellow hostel residents, and several guides, visited the Tel Aviv seaside promenade, having a fun night-out. As the guides were gathering everyone on the beach to go back to the hostel, they had noticed Yaakov was missing.

From that moment on, a fervent search for Yaakov swept the streets of Tel Aviv and all neighboring cities. Thousands of people, including the Scouts, had helped Akim and the police look for Yaakov anywhere possible. The search went on for months, and the story was also featured several times in the news. However, to this day, no one knows where Yaakov is and what had happened to this delicate soul since he abruptly disappeared two years ago.


If you happen to see a tall man in his 60’s, with gray hair, who speaks clumsily, and has a large square scar on the back of his neck, please report to the police.

Go here for some more details.

Bye-Bye Olympics

Michael PhelpsWell, the 2008 Summer Olympics come to a close today. It’s been a unique journey.

First of all, the day the games began, Russia and Georgia had spiraled fast into a state of war, shocking the entire world.

Next, we had the bad weather in Beijing, and the murder of an American tourist by a Chinese citizen. The violence didn’t stop there, as we’ve seen yesterday the Cuban taekwondo contender kicking a judge in the head!

As for the winners, it’s been the time of their lives for Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, breaking several astounding records and demonstrating the ingenuity of the human spirit and body. On the Israeli front, Shahar Tzuberi made us all proud with his bronze medal in windsurfing, and rhythmic gymnast Irina Risenzon raised our hopes by making it to the final round.

Nevertheless, the big winners are no doubt the Chinese. They have gained many gold medals, but no less importantly, they’re enjoying the warm embrace of the West despite their failure to improve their human rights record or their environmental attitude. Yesterday they even had the audacity to block the iTunes service within the whole of China, because several guest Olympic athletes downloaded Tibetan protest music via Apple’s internet store. And they do it even before the closing ceremony!

The next summer show will take place in London 4 years from now, but I’m sure plenty water will flow under the bridge by then.

The Power of Green People

I’m always amazed at the power of Little Green Footballs. How come a blog that has almost no original content in its posts (as of August 2008), and is closed to new registration, gets hundreds and thousands of comments so quickly on each new post?

Little Green Football Post

Do I find it extremely peculiar? Absolutely.

Am I envious? You betcha!

Little Green Football Touchdown

Johnson, what is your secret?

The Race Heats Up

Congratulations to Shahar Tzubery who just won the first Israeli bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics! The race was fantastic.

As for the race to the mayor’s office at Tel-Aviv, today we saw the entrance of a new player to the game: Lawyer Ron Levintal, formerly from Shinui, formed the “Tel-Avivim” party and he’s set on beating the other Ron – Ron Huldai.

As you may remember, Levintal is the man who caused Shinui to disintegrate after he had won Yosef “Tommy” Lapid and managed to gain the party’s No. 1 position.

How is this going to play out? We shall see more in the coming months.

We have some great sales in Israel

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Security or Society?

Let \'em eat cake
Let ‘em eat cake.

First things first… as you’ve probably noticed, we’ve changed our theme at One Jerusalem. What do you think?

Now for a far more serious topic… The Ministry of Finance proposed two distinctively different budget plans for 2009. The first aims to cut fat from the Ministry of Defense, while the second aims to save money by cutting social and welfare expenses. “Now”, says the Minister of Finance, “choose between the two.”

When leveling security vs. society, the former always wins. It’s a nasty trick. The Ministry of Finance is crafting a worldview where you have to have hundreds of families starving and being denied medical care because we need a strong military. But this whole concept is ridiculous. Why can’t we have a strong society and a strong military?! Why is it all-or-nothing? We could cut a bit here, a bit there, it doesn’t have to be a clear choice between two fatal alternatives.

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