Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
If there was one term I could remove from the Hebrew language it would be cheloni certainly as it used a counterpoint to dati. Dati means religious (although it is only used for halachically observant jews) and cheloni (with its root from the word sand (chol) or in traditional language the opposite of holy (the havdala prayer notes the ending of the kadosh shabbat and the chol of the workweek). The term masorati (traditional) seldom used although it virtually never refers to the Conservative movement in Israel which uses that title. “Reformit” is used for anything resembling American Conservative or Reform almost always used as a term of derision by the observant or as some kind of American version of Judaism which few Israelis that havent spent time in the states.
Survey after survey most recently the Third Guttman study finds a high level of religious belief and observance among Israeli Jews…far higher than Americans.. With only 9% of the population defining themselves as “secular anti religious"16% saying they don’t observe Jewish tradition and 80% believing in God ....obviously using a dichotomy of religious/secular (dati cheloni) is ridiculous.
Increasingly this is reflected in public observance, study and culture. One example is Beit Tefilla. I met this group when I sat in on a program presented as part of officer training at the Hartman institute on “streams of judaism”. Ironically the presentation was “the secular stream”. The presenter, Rani Jager one of the founders, now a friend I check in with during all my Israel visits described his group Beit Tefilla. He called it non orthodox (not dati..again unfortuantely) and stated that the American reform and conservative dont fit the Israeli context in which tradition plays such a part in ways as major as the jewish calendar as the civil calendar and as minor as a talmudic expression encouraging riders to leave a seat for the physically disabled.
Of course if you are in Tel Aviv on a Friday in the summer I encourage you to attend….even the Orthodox… it begins well before candle lighting time.
I have attended serveral observances by tefillot including a moving “havdalla marking the tradition from yom hazikaron (Israeli memorial day) to Yom Haatzmaut independence day…the ceremony is replicated throughout Israel.
The highlight of their year is the summer kabbalat service at the nemal (port) of Tel Aviv. The tefillot (services) are now sponsored by the Tel Aviv Yafo Municipality and the beach is filled with banners promoting it. The crowd has reached close to 1000 this summer. Throughout the year Beit Tefilla cant keep up with the requests to run kabbalat shabbat services for the army.
Here’s a view of the tefillot with many elements familiar to non orthodox American Jews. The crowd has grown far larger since this 2009 video.
The congregation has one partner in the US, Kehillat Bnai Jeshrun in NY which is unaffilliated with any movement. Wouldnt it be great if other kehillot even those officially associated with an American Jewish movement put aside their concerns with labels and partnered with this group ?
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7.29.12 at 7:22 pm | If there was one term I would ban from the hebrew. . .
7.25.12 at 12:18 pm | Israeli Television A Window Into Israeli. . .
7.19.12 at 8:53 pm | Israeli Pop Music...Another Window Into Israeli. . .
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7.12.12 at 4:30 am | Culture: a Different Way to Connect to Israel
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5.25.12 at 5:10 am | Yes there is Shabbat in Tel Aviv you do have to. . . (2)
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July 25, 2012 | 12:18 pm
Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
Although Israeli television has become a major source for material for US television, it loses all of its function as a window into Israeli society when it gets adapted to the US. Not so of course for the actual Israeli programs several of which can be found with English subtitles on DVD or on the web…and usually in the annual Israel Film Festival that tours several major cities each year.
Israelis are big on reality shows, they have their versions of top chef (including one version for kids), “American” idol and The Voice…also including one for kids, as well as Survivor and Big Brother. They are hugely popular. I have only caught the music shows and they can be interesting. Last year’s American idol (Kochav Nolad) winners were a young man of mizrachi descent and a young woman, a daughter of Ethiopian immigrants from Sderot. The family was rushed after Shabbat to prepare for the huge outdoor final. The father exclaimed that now he truly felt like an Israeli. Of course the entire town of Sderot was on the streets celebrating. Is she extremely talented ? yes. Was the fix on ? I’ll let you decide. Here’s the link to the current (10th !) season.
Another big hit is eretz nehederet a topical satire show…think Saturday Night Live with much sharper humor. Here’s their take on Birthright as you can see they can be pretty tough on their subjects.(the definition of birthright/taglit as propaganda trip” is not mine or one I agree with btw)
Here are three excellent shows that can be found in English. on the web and often on DVD
Mesooderim (roughly the set ones) think Entourage but with fellows who have hit it big with a “high tech” “exit” (selling out to a larger company or going public) and going from rags to riches. The crew includes a flashy big spender (the marketing guy “Mr. Outside), a hippie type, a shy serious type and of course the geeky socially awkward member of the crew. The series gets particularly funny with bang on satire when the flashiest member of the crew decides to enter politics complete with an image consultant (just keep repeating “you will do things differently” without any details) and cameos by actual politicians.
Here’s the full first episode in Hebrew. Even if you can’t follow all the Hebrew watching the first few minutes will give you a great idea of the show.
For those comfortable with the hebrew all the episodes can be found here.
Serugim (from kippa seruga=knit kippa) this one is already very popular in the states—at least among some circles. It tells the story of young dati (think US modern orthodox) singles in Jerusalem and their trials and tribulations seeking love in the big city while balancing religious observance and their new lifestyle. The characters include the guy that cant settled down, to the couple that does, to the successful career woman who intimidates her matches and the woman who gradually becomes dat lash (dati le sheavar)/chozair b sheeyla (returning to questioning…the opposite of chozair be teshuva/baalar teshuva). Here’s a clip. The series is extremely popular and has gone through 3 seasons all available on DVD and many can be found on you tube.
Here’s a short clip with english subtitles, much more available some with English on you tube. All three seasons are available on DVD. The show was hugely popular and gave much of Israel insights into a part of society they actually knew little about.
Avoda Aravit : the title itself is ironic, the term is used by Israelis to describe shoddy work regardless of who produced it. The series is a real breakthrough the story of Amjad and his family successful Israeli/Palestinian yuppies living in West Jerusalem among middle class Israeli neighbors and their dilemmas of fitting in while juggling their relationship to the family back in Amjad’s birthplace village. The other major characters are their friends, a couple: a successful Israeli/Palestinian and an Israeli Jewish photojournalist. The Arab characters speak Arabic, the Jews Hebrew. The satire is brilliant and hilarious. The show is also hugely successful it just completed its third season with an amazing…not so funny final episode. It is written by Sayeed Kashua—a serious novelist—and regular columnist for Haaretz with a satire column.
Here’s a short clip with english.
All of the episodes in hebrew are available here And here is a site with some more clips with english
July 19, 2012 | 8:53 pm
Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
This week I got a chance to catch a concert by Israeli pop superstar Moshe Peretz at a great small venue call Tzafta in Jerusalem. This was particularly a treat since Peretz usually plays to sold out crowds in Israels Nokia Center in Tel Aviv (Israels staples center/msg/universal ampitheatre) or Caesaerea (Israeli’s Hollywood Bowl/Greek Theatre….l’havidil).
Peretz is part of the wave of mizrachi (middle eastern) Israeli music that dominates the pop scene other superstars include Eyal Golan aand Sarit Hadad. This music is not well known among American Jews. At the LA Yom Haatzmaut Golan was the featured performer at the end of the day. As the day wound down one could see the Americans heading home and the Israelis arriving. In fact my friend Yossi Klein Halevi a scholar at Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute oftern lectures on modern Israeli music (although our tastes differ a bit) but told me that when he suggests this topic on his scholar in residence visits to the states at synagogues they almost always prefer he talk on politics. I hope Yossi doesn t mind linking this short clip of a presentation on this subject I attended at the Sephardic Education Center in Jerusalem, (yes that’s Rav Bouskila in the clip too) maybe it will inspire more congregations to invite Yossi to speak on this subject.
The music represents several trends in Israeli society:
The rise of Mizrachi empowerment particularly since the election of Menachem Begin. Up through the late 1980s the Israel broadcasting authority didnt even play this music. It was called musica ha casetot, most of the performers didnt have record contracts and sold their tapes often from performances at weddings outside the tel aviv central bus station.
The breaking down of cultural barriers between mizrachi and ashkenazi jews….although more elitist ashkenazi types favor more rock oriented musicians some israeli but mostly american/european.
Great comfort with Jewish tradition. Several collections of traditional songs performed by prominent artists feature performances with Moshe Peretz, Eyal Golan and others.
Comfort with their roots in the muslim countries with use of traditional middle eastern instruments and songs performed in Arabic.
Sarit Hadad performing Shema Yisrael
Here’s an amazing one: Nisren Kadri an Arab Israeli from Haifa (you can check a Haaretz article on her here)performing the same song on Eyal Golan’s :Eyal Golan is Calling You TV American Idol style TV show…she was a winner(the voice cracking is due to nerves she can cetainly hit the notes)...she is now touring Israeli with Eyal Golan
Koby Peretz (no relation to Moshe) perfroming with Ishtar Alabina an Egyptian born Israeli singer…I saw this one in a live performance the crowd obviously went nuts. This won an MTV world music award
The next one represents both the mizrachi influence and another trend among both ashkenazic and mizrachi pop stars returning to roots. Prominent among these are meir and evyatar banai and bary sacharof. This one is from Koby Oz a mainstream rock star (with the group Teapacks) who took a break from performing and then released an album called mizmorim neboochim (songs of the perplexed a pun on Maimonides guide to the perplexed). Here is an electronic duet with his grandfather who was a mohel, shochet, chazan and paytan (poet) in Koby’s hometown of Sderot. I heard him perform in concert where he dismissed the idea that a retun to jewish themes is a “trend” but rather simply traditionl. OZ teaches a daily talmud class at Alma the “secular” center for study of Jewish sources right of trendy rechov Shenkin in Tel Aviv.
Finally here is one that Yossi gave me the background of by Ehud Banai . Banai has also returned to his roots in performances and personal observance. This clip however is his decades later response to a poem beat poet Allen Ginzberg wrote after a trip to Israel in the 1960s. Yossi, in a presentation to young American Hillel staff he gave in Jerusalem called it the ultimate statement on the differences between American and Israeli Jews….and to think I had just loved the song while having no idea what exactly it was about.
July 16, 2012 | 5:10 am
Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
It wasn’t easy to get into many of the films at the Israel Film Festival that closed last night. But Friday morning I was able to catch Sharqiya which won the award for best Israeli film at the festival. As is often the case the film and its success point to all the complexity of Israel. From the official description of the film:
Kamel lives with his brother and sister-in law at the edge of the Negev desert on land that has been in their Bedouin family since the Ottoman Empire. But since they have no paperwork to prove their ownership, their claim is disputed by the Israeli government. State officials eventually hand down an order for demolition of the family’s few small shacks. These strains take the toll on the family, exacerbating existing tensions. Kamel serves as a security guard at a central bus station. Khaled resents his brother’s willingness to work for the very government that is causing their problems, despite his reliance on Kamel’s income. When the brothers try to appeal the demolition order, even the Bedouin Authority office advises them to accept compensation and abandon their land. The situation seems hopeless, until Kamel comes up with a plan
Here’s a clip that will leave you in suspense as to the outcome of the film
The film, made by an Israeli crew is largely in Arabic with Bedouin actors(or more likely non professionals) portraying the plight of the local bedouin population living just outside of Beersheba. The film was underwritten by the Israel film fund , upon accepting the award the screenwrite r stated that he hopes the film reaches a wide audiences and changes peoples’ image of the Bedouin population in the south. As someone involved with both an Israeli student group committed to fulfilling Ben Gurion’s vision of the future of the Jewish people in the Negev and a bicultural Jewish Arab school in Beersehba—-it definitely gave me much food for thought. As with everything I encounter in Israel, just get more complicated the more you examine them.
I caught another prizewinner from the fesitval last night at the Jerusalem Theatre. Hamashgichim (God’s Neighbors in English)tells the story of some tough guys turned followers of rav nachman who decide to take it upon themselves to set the neighborhood straight in terms of its religious observance. More on the film here. In my view the twist at the end is a comment on religious coercion in Israel
The trailer is here
This is just another example of how culture, in this case film can give such a great window into Israeli culture. Fortunalely several major cities have Israel film festivals but there’s no need to wait for that. Netflix/Amazon and other sources including some libraries are full of Israeli films. Here are a few of my favorite older films that give different views of Israeli life
Summer of Aviya (1988)/Under the Dunam Tree: Based on the autobiographicalnovel by Gila Almagor now the grand lady of Israeli theatre which gives great insight into the early days of the state of Israel as seen through the eyes of a child refugee from the Holocause making her new life in Israel.
Turn Left at the End of the World (2004): the world of new immigrants in a development town in the south of Israel in the 1960s as seen through the idea of two young immigrant women: one from North Africa and one from India.
James Journey to Jerusalem (2003) A young Priest sent from his African congregation on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem his trip becomes a bit different and a great insight into both the plight of foreign workers and the meaning of that great Israeli sin “being a a “fryer”.
July 12, 2012 | 4:30 am
Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
I have had on my to blog list (which is long and getting longer) writing something on the cultural connection. A few recent chavayot (experiences) have gotten me motivated to begin a series of entries on contemporary Israeli culture.
I was particularly motivated after attending an evening program connected with the seminar for American Rabbis which takes place every July. One of the presenters was Arthur Green who like his co presenter David Ellenson (Dean of HUC) was not shy about criticizing current Israeli policies and expressing a deep close connection to the country.
Green was certainly a stronger critic. But he might have surprised the group in his response to a question from the audience. When asked how the Rabbis could create a greater connection to Israel among his congregants I have no doubt that many (including me) expected an answer connected to politics. Instead his response was that the American Jews should gain greater exposure for the great cultural outpouring from Israel ranging from popular culture to the Jewish scholarship as evidenced by an academic conference on kabbala he was attending.
I couldn’t agree more. The cultural output is overwhelming. Everyday I open the “galereya” section of Haaretz to find notices for art exhibits, concerts, and academic conferences open to the public, pop concerts, etc etc.
Two examples: tonight July 12 at the Israel Museum is Contact Point an all-night event (actually until 3 am) with interactive exhibition. It seems Israelis are very into all-nighters Btw I learned that layla lavan the name of that all-nighter in tlv has a double entrendre layla lavan refers to tel aviv as the white city and an all-night training mission in the army is called a layala lavan
For something quite different there is the international festival of puppet film and theatre in Holon. The Tel Aviv suburb of Holon h itself has become a center for the arts with lts of public art a cutting edge arts museum and many arts education programs….and the year round puppet theatre.
Why is the cultural connection so important? It has the potential to give a more multifaceted connection and insight with a dynamic culture rather than what is often a limited view dominated by political issues. Even if American Jews often do not share a common language with Israelis—-or the common language they share is English—there are plenty of opportunities to gain access to Israeli cultural life even without making the trip. In future blog entries I will be writing about film, literature and music.
July 5, 2012 | 12:16 pm
Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
Sometimes its good to have a reality check on the main current events in Israel seen here rather than through the prism of the world media, the jewish media and American Jews’ perspective on Israel.
Just like the summer social protests of last year had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue or Iran so too the current crisis that may lead to the breaking up of the 5 week old coalition 94 (out of 120) governing coalition. Perhaps Time magazine was a little premature in crowning f an all powerful King Bibi. The possible breakup is over the issue of “sharing the burden ” referring to the enlisted of now exempt haredi yeshiva students into military or national service.
Those interested in the details can turn to the english language websites of haaretz and yediot acharanot…or the hebrew ones, You can also watch a full broadcast of the evening news as well as an English news report from Israel’s channel 1 (israel broadcasting authority_..
Amongf those pushing hardest for reform include the group congregated in” ohel ha freirim” at kikar rabin in Tel Aviv that’s roughly translated as “tent of the chumps” . There’s probably nothing Israelis want to avoid than being a “frier”.
One motto to avoid being a freyer is ” never pay retail”...which likely explains why to an Israeli ( in Israel of in LA ) every price is negotiable.
I thought I would just mention the issue here.
Two interesting pictures here.
The first an ad for a demonstration saturday night with the major headline “we are tired of being friers” the rest of the text is highly political so I’ll leave the translation to others.
The second a wry commentary on Bibi and Mofaz the caption is Bibi telling Mofaz “I’ll call you a cab”.
July 4, 2012 | 6:54 pm
Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
Layla Lavan had a different wrinkle this year as groups associated with the social protest movement—-which was so large…but not so successful last summer—staging counter events. Some artists and art galleries also declined to participate in reaction to the police treatment of protesters the previous saturday night.
But (literally) the show did go on. With stages with musicians and other performers…and large crowds up and downschild Boulevard. The place was filled with high schoolers making an all nighter of it wandering the streets of Tel Aviv .Apparently all congregated at Gordon Beach to hang and watch the sunrise. (yea just like in NY or LA),
I made by way up to Tsuk Beach in northern Tel Aviv—a beautiful not commercialized beach north of the nemal parallel to Ramat Aviv. It’s a great spot a totally different feel than the main Tel Aviv beaches and a place I have never visited. Amazing this kind of beach could be so close to the cacophony of the beach along the tayelet. Btw believe it or not there are now staff of the city of Tel Aviv who move those playing matkot (that paddle game which is pretty treacherous for the passerby) to a designated area on the beach…and even more amazing the Israelis comply.
But I digress
I got to the outdoor concert at Tsuk Beach a bit late ( 2 am ) to miss the opening act the great Bary Sacharof a top Israeli pop performer who—like many others—has put out an album with traditional themes.The areas was crowded with people of all ages. There was a concession selling beer all night and not a single incident of unruly behavior (yea just like the states)
The final act pop veteran Dany Sanderson who got his start in Israeli pop music with the group Kaveret (Poogy). The concert closed at sunrise with Sanderson singing one of his most popular Poogy songs and baby boomers and their kids singing and dancing along thrusting their hands in the air screaming Yo Ya. As a fellow baby boomer I remember Poogy songs being favorites many years ago at Young Judaea’s Camp Tel Yehuda..
I grabbed one of the hourly rental bikes in Tel Aviv which you can pick up and drop off at various sites around the city (14 shekel for the day) and rode back on a beautiful part of the bike trail until iI got to the Nemal (port) and grabbed a cup of my coffee at the Aroma along with some very tired high schoolers. I then jumped on one of the sheruts which serve as a bus alternative to crash at my friend’s (an ex UCLA shaliach) in the bohemian/industrial Florentin district to crash a bit before heading back to Jerusalem. My fellow passengers on the sherut were a group of high school girls who apparently had come in (unaccompanied) to Tel Aviv for the night from Afula (!) (the cultural equivalent of travelling from Kansas to Manhattan)..yea just like in the states.
here’s the video of the same song by the children of the baby boomers
Yes it was a chavaya.
July 4, 2012 | 6:21 pm
Posted by LW Ben Yechezkiel
The Jerusalem Film Festival begins tonight (July 5) with a gala premiere in Brechat Hasultan, situated just outside the walls of the Old City.
The mee v mee (who’s who) of the Israeli enterntainment industry and many involved in the film industrty from around the world will be in attendance.
But who won’t be there ? Director Woody Allen
Maybe the Woody Allen project suggested by my friend JJ editor Rob Eshman should have started months ago: Mr. Allen” we make your film the premiere of our festival If you have the decency to show up.”