Posted by Rob Eshman
The New York Times reported on a viral You Tube video of Libyan Strangeman Mohammar Qaddafi’s speech in Green square set to trance music and accompanied by a go-go dancer.
The video has garnered over a half-million hits on YouTube, and hundreds of comments. Check it out below. Meanwhile, here are the five remarkable, literally phenomenal things about it:
1. “Zenga Zenga was conceived, composed, mixed and edited by Tel Aviv resident Noy Alloshe, a 31 year old Jewish Israeli.
Mr. Alooshe spent a few hours at the computer, using Auto-Tune pitch corrector technology to set the speech to the music of “Hey Baby,” a 2010 electro hip-hop song by American rapper Pitbull, featuring another artist, T-Pain. He titled it “Zenga-Zenga,” echoing Col. Qaddafi’s repetition of the word zanqa, Arabic for alleyway.
2. The video went viral among Libya’s youth, seemingly before it became well-known that an Israeli made it. Like most in the Arab world, Libyans have been unremittingly fed one-sided anti-Israel propaganda for 40 years. Now, through the internet, they are being exposed to Israeli culture, Israeli points of view, Israeli people—all of which may rock their world view.
3. The video shows that the vast majority of Jews and Israelis support the uprisings in the Arab world. Not that there aren’t fears of eventual Islamic takeovers, of chaos, of broken peace treaties—but on a person-to-person level, exemplified by Noy Allooshe, it should be clear that Jews and Israeli stand hand in hand with those in Tahrir Square and Green Square, and anywhere people throw off the yoke of oppression.
4. The power of the Internet to democratize the Middle East and break down borders is astonishing. Years ago it took months of phone calls, third-party intervention, and letters to get Israelis and their Arab neighbors together. Now with YouTube, Facebook and a quickly improving Google Translate, the walls are coming down. (Yes, kneejerk Lefties, insert Separation Wall diatribe here). Now the next generation can connect instantly through the Net. I suspect once Arab youth get a load of Noy’s other videos from his band Hovevei Zion, he might just become the first post-Tahrir crossover hit.
5. The New York Times wrote hundreds of words about this phenomenon, investigated it to a fare thee well, but failed to answer the most pressing question of all: Who’s the dancer?
Here’s “Zenga Zenga:”
And here’s a bonus, Noy’s soon-to-be-viral and very sexy “Tell Me”
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February 25, 2011 | 10:40 am
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas who became an informant for the Israeli government, will testify on Monday, Feb. 28, before Congress, according to the Web site emetonline.com. Yousef grew up in the West Bank, but when he became disenchanted with the violent philosophy of Hamas, he began to work instead for the Israeli government. The Jewish Journal first caught up with Yousef last June he was in the U.S. but risking being deported because his situation wasn’t yet clear to Homeland Security.
We also spoke to former Shin Bet operative Gonen Ben-Yitzhak, who broke protocol of anonymity to testify on Yousef’s behalf to save him from being sent away from the U.S.
Now Yousef, the author of “Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices” (Salt River, 2010), is being brought to Washington by Emet, the Endowment for Middle East Truth to talk about ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
February 24, 2011 | 6:18 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
There is a lot to admire in New Yorker Editor David Remnick’s portrait of Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper and its editor Amos Schocken.
But the first kudos have to go to the New Yorker’s art director, who illustrated the long profile with a near double-truck photo of Schocken standing in his office in front of a huge canvas by the Israeli Arab painter Durar Bacri. Schocken’s stance nearly mirrors that of Bacri in the painting. This is about the Jew who identifies with the Arab. This is about the shared scapegoat between them. This is about the very real Tel Aviv office giving on to the imagined Palestine countryside. You almost—almost—don’t need to read another word to understand where the piece will eventually take you.
But do read.
Remnick explores not just the complicated character of Schocken, but all the characters- the spot-on Hebrew word would be tipuseem—who make up the distinct, countercultural, sober-minded and darkly idealistic editorial team of Haaretz. New Yorker profiles seek to explain the macro by digging into the micro. What you come to understand by reading about a small circulation daily written in a language spoken by a relative handful of the world’s people is how Israeli society itself is shifting, the tissue that connects Israelis one to another dissolving, and the country fragmenting into ever more incorrigible tribes.
There are a lot of ways to tell this story. Last week I had breakfast here in LA with Dan Ben-David, who can tell it with a Power Point in a way that will leave you just as depressed and convinced. Ben-David is the head of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. He was born near Tel Aviv, and educated at the University of Chicago. One set of his charts shows that Israel by 2045 will have a primary school population that is 89 percent Haredi and Arab. Meantime, its secular population is disappearing, with the most educated taking jobs elsewhere at four times the rate of professionals in other countries. The high-tech boom Israel has enjoyed is the product of a well-funded educational system that has fallen apart. It will take strenuous and immediate government action to revitalize it, Ben-David told me, and there is no indication that the current Israeli administration is committed to doing so.
So when Remnick writes (and bv the way, when does the editor of the New Yorker find the time to do so?) that Haaretz may become “an exile in its own land,” he is echoing not just one unusual man’s professional path, but the fate of a nation. That’s what makes the piece so powerful. That, and the goat picture.
Two [oops, no Three] small quibbles:
1. Remnick neglected to report on Haaretz’s English-language web site’s influence in the Diaspora. The last time I checked, it was second only to The Jerusalem Post in the amount of traffic, but I’d argue it has a more influential audience. (Outside of Israel, jewishjournal.com is #1 in traffic—just saying). He did mention the viciousness of the Talkback comments on the site, but when you dig into the actual comments, they seem to be from the same hardcore Jews and Christian Zionists who patrol the Web, defending every perceived slight against Israel.
2. Haaretz was not the only Jewish paper to have reporters inside Cairo from the beginning of the Tahrir Square Uprising. We had one on the scene, and another Egyptian outside the country in constant cell phone contact with the protesters. Click here to read one.
3. Remnick forgot to mention one of Haaretz’s other standouts: Natasha Mozgovaya, the paper’s very astute U.S. correspondent.
February 24, 2011 | 1:50 pm
Posted by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
Just in case anyone was still under the illusion that kosher equals healthy, the OU recently burst that (Blow Pop) bubble with its announcement that Tootsie Roll Industries has added Junior Mints, Blow Pops, Tootsie Roll Pops, Caramel Apple Pops, Charms, Sugar Daddy and Sugar Babies to its list of OU certified kosher products.
In the fall of 2009 Tootsie Roll announced that Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Fruit Rolls, Frooties and DOTS had garnered kosher certification. Much of the candy at the checkout line is kosher, including most Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Jelly Belly and Ferrara Pan products, in addition to kosher pareve versions of popular candies by Jewish brands such as Blooms and Paskesz.
Consumers who adhere strictly to kosher laws require that each ingredient be kosher and each stage of production be monitored by a certified mashgiach, kashrut supervisor.
The Orthodox Union, the largest kashrut supervisor in the world, certifies more than 500,000 products in 90 countries.
“We are very pleased that Tootsie Roll Industries went the extra mile in having these additional candies certified. It was gratifying for OU to again guide Tootsie Roll through the certification process and bring these famous candies to the growing kosher market place,” said Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, OU Kosher’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing.
Other OU certified candy includes Charleston Chew, Cella’s chocolate covered cherries, Andes, Razzles, Fluffy Stuff, Dubble Bubble, and Nik-L-Nip.
February 24, 2011 | 1:22 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Mel Gibson’s 2006 arrest by a Jewish sheriff’s deputy on drunk driving charges is back in the news, on top of domestic violence allegations against the 54-year-old actor.
The deputy, James Mee, filed a law suit last year against his employer, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, claiming that he had been repeatedly passed over for promotion and endured harassment for reporting Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant during the arrest.
Sheriff Lee Baca’s office asked that the suit be dismissed, but on Tuesday (2/22) a judge refused to do so and the trial is now set for September.
More than four years ago, when Gibson was stopped in Malibu on suspicion of driving under the influence, he asked Mee “Are you a Jew?” and then spouted that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”
Mee included these remarks in his initial report, to illustrate how drunk the actor was, but said his superiors told him to put the Gibson slurs in a separate report, locked away from public scrutiny.
The deputy, who still works for the sheriff’s office, agreed to the separate report, but a Hollywood celebrity web site quickly made its content public.
Mee was suspected of leaking the report, “because he is Jewish,” said his attorney, Yael Trock.
A sheriff’s spokesman denied Mee’s allegations of retaliation and ethnic discrimination.
In the meanwhile, tabloids are having a field day with a case involving Gibson and his voluptuous Russian ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, mother of their year-old daughter Lucia.
District attorney’s prosecutors are now weighing whether to charge Gibson with domestic violence or Grigorieva with extortion, or both.
February 23, 2011 | 4:33 pm
Posted Annie Lainer Marquit, Marty Longbine, Kathy Kobayashi (Members, IKAR and LA Voice) and Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann (IKAR Rabbinic Fellow)
This is a response to a blog post “Good Radio, Bad Facts - Misrepresenting Reality” by David Lehrer on The Wide Angle.
As Jewish leaders who have worked alongside residents in East and South LA while they work to increase their access to regular food and groceries, we are compelled to respond to Mr. Lehrer’s blog post.
The reality is this: families living in East LA and South LA have a disproportionately lower access to grocery stores and stores with quality products than do families in other parts of LA. For example, while there are 12.4 stores per 100,000 residents in 90024, 25, 35, 64, and 67, there are only 2.5 stores per 100,000 residents in 90003, 01, 18, 37, and 62.
You may now ask, is it purchasing power they lack? No indeed. In a survey of over 300 residents of the community in and around Sta. Teresita Church in Ramona Gardens, local leaders learned that families spend over $1 million per year at Superior Grocers.
Mr. Lehrer is correct that Ms. Perez did not have to go to Santa Monica to see good groceries. However, IKAR is a member of LA Voice together with Sta. Teresita Catholic Church. Recently, two mothers from these two communities switched places for a grocery trip for a day, in an attempt to help each other learn about their different lives. What their experiment revealed is that high-quality, nutritious food that is readily available to some Angelenos is not nearly so available to others. When IKAR leaders did a comparison of apples to apples, they learned that from one person’s door in Los Feliz or West LA, a walk to Gelson’s would net you a cheaper bill for high quality food while a comparable walk from Ramona Gardens to Niko’s market nets a higher bill and barely edible food.
Mr. Lehrer suggests that Ms. Perez ride the bus to the Smart and Final Extra 2.5 miles away. Although Smart and Final does some things very well, it is NOT a full-service supermarket. For example, there is no butcher, fish counter, or deli, like we would find in any Ralph’s or Gelson’s on the Westside. And, assuming Mr. Lehrer has ridden the bus in LA, he would know that the bus is not there waiting whenever someone is ready to go make her trip.
Is it reasonable for an entire community to be 30 minutes from the nearest full service grocery store? How many grocery stores do Angelenos in other parts of the city pass in a 30-minute drive? Ramona Gardens is home to many seniors with difficulty walking and no car. Should they just “buy a $30 cart and walk?” Let’s not forget that it’s not a one-way trip. How many of us would like our bubbe to schlep a cart full of groceries a mile, wait for the bus on both ends, and then schlep the food to her door from the bus stop?
Is it so offensive when poor people use their purchasing power to ask a place they choose to shop to provide certain conveniences in exchange for their business and hard earned dollars? Or simply use their power to get a higher quality of life for themselves and their children? I wonder whether Mr. Lehrer would tire of working two jobs, being carless, caring for his children, living on wages that barely support the family, and then being unable to make a simple, short trip to the grocery store in a reasonable amount of time to buy reasonably priced reasonable quality food. Is it really so unreasonable?
If Los Angeles is to become the world-class city we all dream it can be, then perhaps we could start from a place of vision and compassion and ask how we can build our city and build up each other. Could we put ourselves in other people’s shoes and ask ourselves what that would be like? For the sake of our future, we pray we can.
February 22, 2011 | 12:36 pm
Posted by David Suissa
I don’t often write pieces for upcoming events. I’m better at writing about them after the fact, when I figure I’ll have more to say. But this year, I have to make an exception and give a plug for a local Jewish woman who is universally loved by the community. How do I know this? I’ve done my research. I wrote a profile of her a couple of years ago, and it didn’t matter who I spoke to—the “Ashkefardicultrarefoconservadox” kaleidoscope of Los Angeles Jewry has a special place in its heart for this woman.
Her name is Rhoda Weisman.
She has devoted most of her life to helping the Jewish community, with a special emphasis on training future Jewish leaders. She could only have done that by being a great leader herself, and now, we have a chance to recognize her for all her contributions to our community.
On Thursday night, at the very cool El Rey Theatre in mid-Wilshire, Rhoda will receive the Jewish Unity Award from unity mavens and self-styled “catalysts for a Jewish renaissance” organizations JConnect and Jewlicious.
She’ll probably be surrounded by a mob of admirers, so in case I miss you Rhoda: Thank you for all you do.
Oh, and there’s an open bar.
February 22, 2011 | 6:35 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Last week, I took a break from all the news and cares of this life to spend a couple of hours thinking about the next one.
My role was to serve as moderator in a discussion titled “Is There an Afterlife?” featuring two rabbis, David Wolpe and Bradley Shavit Artson, and two atheists, Sam Harris, author of “The End of Faith,” and Christopher Hitchens, author of “God Is Not Great.”
The event, called for 7:30 p.m. at the Wadsworth Theatre, was sold out, all 1,200 seats. Already at 3 p.m., a line had formed at the ticket office and around the theater.
Hitchens was the big draw. In June 2010, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. These days he looks a bit more thin and drawn than he once did, his once unruly hair all gone. Here was a 63-year-old man who has devoted much of his later career, and gained most of his popular fame, arguing against God and religious belief in all its manifestation. Now that the question of the afterlife might seem more urgent and less hypothetical, what did he have to say?
This was my second opportunity — privilege — to share a stage with Hitchens. The first time was in November 2008, when the same event organizer, American Jewish University, pitted Hitchens against Wolpe to debate “Is Religion Good?”
That disputation ended without a K.O. Hitchens, heavily self-medicated on Johnnie Walker, insisted on arguing against an extreme version of religion that Wolpe neither represented nor defended. Taken to extremes, of course religion is bad for you — but you could say the same about most anything, even scotch.
To my mind, the afterlife is an even more challenging topic. Not one of the speakers held to a traditional belief in it. So my job as moderator was to get them to be as precise as possible in their degrees of disbelief.
Wolpe, himself a cancer survivor, said that while it is hard to comprehend the afterlife as “something we can imagine and understand … not entirely material,” he spoke of placing dirt on his late father’s casket, knowing down to his core that his father’s spirit was already elsewhere.
Artson said he conceives of the afterlife as part of “oneness of which we are an expression.” Without being specific, he said he believes we continue to exist in some form beyond the grave.
“For many of us, hope in an afterlife grounds us and gives us direction,” he said. “And the notion that my grandmother and I are not eternally separate is a source of great and abiding comfort to me.”
“Do you believe you’ll see her?” I pressed.
“We are packets of energy, and I don’t think those packets of energy are limited,” Artson said.
In his book “The End of Faith,” Harris, who holds a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA, has written of the possibility that consciousness can be separate from the brain. That sounded to me like what Artson and Wolpe were saying.
“Science is not in principle committed to the idea that there is no afterlife,” Harris elaborated on stage. “Or that the mind is endemic to the brain. Science is completely open to whatever, in fact, is true, and if it’s true that consciousness is being run like software on the brain by virtue of ectoplasm, or something else we don’t understand, that would be part of our growing scientific understanding, if, in fact, it could be discovered, and there are several ways it, in fact, could be discovered. The problem is there are very good ways to think its not true.”
Hitchens stuck to what for him is the most obvious truth.
“The reality is, we don’t know, so we don’ t know,” he said.
He argued that the belief in an afterlife is a clear function of wish fulfillment, and has also been twisted over the centuries by religious despots to control and condemn others. He threw in an English Calvinist ditty to prove that point then pivoted to quote Hamlet at length — from memory — to show how death amounts to “annihilation.”
And he dismissed the idea, which Wolpe defended, that the thousands of reports of near-death experiences point to a spiritual realm beyond this one.
“I would say that was almost wrong by definition, because it’s a near-death experience. It means he didn’t die,” Hitchens said to raucous applause. “If someone is reported dead on Tuesday, and you see them on Friday, the obvious conclusion is that the initial report is mistaken.”
As the debate wound down, Harris seemed to converge with the rabbis in his understanding that there is no proof of an afterlife, but good reason for believing in it.
“There needs to be an afterlife,” Harris said, “or at least a profession of belief in the afterlife, to give us something to say at the most difficult moments in life to others who are losing someone or who have lost someone, to give us something to say that the atheist doesn’t have.”
Hitchens resisted to the end. “When I speak of annihilation,” he said, “I mean just that: The screen goes blank.”
To conclude, I decided to ask a question for which there would be an answer. I asked Hitchens how he’s feeling.
“The short answer is it’s a bit too early to say,” he said. “But who can’t say that? No one’s ever a breath away from the end. And we’re born into a losing struggle, and we all knew that, or we should have from the beginning. It’s just that I have to think about it a bit more.”
Video files of the conversation, will be posted shortly. Below are selected quotes:
David Wolpe on Religion and Fact:
“All religions see human beings as having a sacred destiny. And these are truth claims, but they are outside the realm of science. Science can’t decide whether there is in fact a sacred desitiny to your life. It doesn’t ask those kind of questions or give those kind of answers. Religion does. The day that you say that all of religion is all for nothing because it says in Genesis the world was created in seven days and we know that’s not true, then you throw out the very serious and comprehensive shared questions of human life and meaning that really really matter to the way people live, and that you ought not to do.”
Christopher Hitchens on Past Lives:
“People always seem to think in their past lives they were a princess or a charioteer. It’s always as real to them as the rest of their pathetic lives are. [near death experiences] is subjective and it’s wish fulfilling and it doesn’t count.
“I’m surprised we haven’t got to wish fulfillment yet. Freud in The Future of an Illusion says that the connection between our desires and our beliefs in the case of the afterlife is so obvious, it’s mankind’s oldest and most common dread. Maybe we could duck the fate that appears to be in store for us. It’s unlike any belief that Sam and I can offer you. We cannot promise you things of this kind as religion always has to people. It doesn ‘t make us morally superior. And we’re not particularly happy with what we propose, which is overwhelmingly likely that annihilation and extinction await us. It’s just that the weight of evidence seems that way.”
“[Diniesh deSouza argues,] ‘I can see why people would want heaven, but why would they want hell?’ In other words why would a wish fulfiller invent the inferno? Well, I think that’s pretty obvious: It’s for other people to go to. There a very old rhyme among English Calvinists: We are the pure and chosen few/ And all the rest be damned/There’s room enough in hell for you/We don’t want heaven crammed.”
“When we talk about wish fulfillment, we’re talking about the very unpleasant primate speciies to which we belong and the self interested fantasies it will continue to generate.”
Brad Artson on the Afterlife:
“For many of us hope in an afterlife grounds us and gives us direction. And the notion that my grandmother and I are not eternally separate is a source of great and abiding comfort to me.’
Sam Harris on the Afterlife and Science:
“Science is not in principal committed to the idea that there is no afterlife, or that the mind is endemic to the brain. Science is completey open to whatever in fact is true; and if it’s true that consciousness is being run like software on the brain by virtue of ectoplasm or something else we don’t understand, that would be part of our growing scientific understanding if in fact it could be discovered, and there are several ways it in fact could be discovered. The problem is there are very good ways to think it’s not true.”
Wolpe v. Hitchens on Near Death Experiences
“Eight million people have reported NDE since 1992 according to Gallup Poll. Many report no longer having a fear of death. Do I say that this is proof there’s an afterlife? My answer is. no…but. u Is there something you learn from experience that is not reducible to intellection? Someone who has had a near death experience is saying to us, I actually learned something from the experience that you can’t reduce to this is some kind of trick that we don’t understand. I’m not willing to dismiss it with a few laughs and say that all the million sof people who’ve had this experience and say that it gave them important information about life are wrong and foolish.”
Christopher Hitchens: “How does the 8 million stand up against the people who say they’ve been inseminated by UFOs?”
David Wolpe: “I suspect there’s overlap. .. Does that mean the experience isn’t real to them?”
Christopher Hitchens: “It means their experience is real to them, all I ask is that thyey keep it to themselves.”
Christopher Hitchens on What Illness Has Taught Him:
” It fractionally increases my contempt for the false consolation element of religion and my dislike for the dictatorial part of it. It’s considered perfectly normal in this society to approach dying unbelievers who you don’t know and ask now have you changed your mind. That’s considered almost a polite question. ….They’ve tried it on me when I’ve been very ill in my hospital bed and don’t have quite the vinegar I’d like to have had. What if Sam and I were to form a corps of people who were to go around to religious hospitals, which is what happens in reverse, and say, ‘Did you say you were Catholic? Well look you may only have a few days left, you don’t have to live them as a serf you know. Just recognize that was all bullshit, the priests have been cheating you and I guarantee you would feel better.’ I don’t think that’s very ethical. I think that’s in the breach of taste. But if it’s in the name of God, it has a social license. Well fuck that.”
Sam Harris on the Need for an Afterlife:
“I think we can concede however that there needs to be an afterlife, or at least a profession of belief in the afterlife, to give us something to say at the most diffocult moments in life to others who are losing someone or who have lost someone, to give us something to say that the atheist doesn’t have. Which we need to say to someone who has lost their child. It is very consoling.”
Sam Harris: “Slipping into death may feel just as satisfying as slipping into sleep.”
Christopher Hitchens: “Half my sex life has been lived when I was unconscious. More than half. When I speak of annihulation I mean just that the screen goes blank.”
Christopher Hitchens on Judaism:
“Someone who has said there is no afterlife has said they’re not a Christian or a Muslim. And I have found that harder to make that sort of blanket remark of Judaism….
Ever since Sonoza it seems to me the Jewish people, having been their fault to develop monotheism in the first place, have become the fist to transcend it. It seems to be latent in the Jewish demand to ask questions.”
Christopher Hitchens on How He’s Feeling:
“The short answer is it’s a bit too early to say. But who can’t say that? No one’s ever a breath away from the end. And we’re born into a losing struggle, and we all knew that or we should from the beginning. It’s just that I have to think about it a bit more.”