Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* In 2006, an Israeli couple changed the rules of Jewish marriage in Israel, when the orthodox court had to acknowledge their homosexual marriage. Now, they may change the rules once again. The two fell in love several years ago, but due to the Israeli law, which claims only orthodox court can legalize marriage, they were unable to tie the knot legally in Israel. Therefore, the couple got married in Canada. With their return to Israel, they turned to the Supreme Court, and at the end of a very long process, the state acknowledge their marriage, and every other gay marriage from that day on, as legal. Since the orthodox court do not recognize gay marriage, most couples still get married abroad, but with their return to Israel, the state legalizes their marriage. A couple of days ago, this couple created yet another "first": they want to get a divorce. Since they broke up, and one of them chose to remarry, they need to legally end their six years of marriage. In Canada, the law states only citizens can get divorced. So they had no other choice but to approach the only legal authority in Israel in charge of marriages and divorces- the orthodox court. The only problem is that it does not recognize gay marriage, which is against their belief. Now, the rabbis there are trying to figure out how to give the couple a divorce, and go according to law, while not betraying their faith.
* Dozens of Pro-Palestinian activists caused a riot during a performance of a performance of the Israeli dance group, Bat-Sheva in Edinburgh. The respected dancers were invited to this prestigious international dancing festival, where they performed in front of an audience of 1500. Prior to the performance, 300 protestors stood outside the performance hall, shouted "Free Palestine" and caused a commotion. However the riot did not end there. Some managed to enter the hall, and interrupted the performance until the police escorted them outside. Somehow, some managed to go back inside, and interrupted the performance yet again. The dancers had to stop their performance several times, until at some point, the audience rose on their feet and clapped in respect to the Israeli dancers, not letting politics get in the way of culture.
* Ronit Levitan in came in third at the European Chess championship for kids and teenagers. Ronit, only eight years old, beat 53 young girls from 28 different countries, until winning the Bronze medal. But even at eight, she is still very aware of the respect she brought to her country, and proud of her achievements.
* The Paralympic games started only a week ago, but the Israeli team is just getting started. After a rather rough disappointment in the Olympic Games last month (zero medals, for the first time since 1988,) the Israeli team won three medals so far in this grand international competition for athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities: Inbal Pezaro won two Bronze medals for swimming (Women's 50m Freestyle, and Women's 200m Freestyle), and Itzhak Mamistvalov won Bronze medal (Men's 200m Freestyle.) So far, Israel is located at the 13th place in the world when counting Paralympic medals, with a total of 336 medals.
* Not only US and Britain: soon, Israeli women would be able to also enjoy "50 Shade of Grey". The erotic novel, which sold more copies than Harry Potter (a worthy achievement indeed), was translated to Hebrew, and will soon be taken from every bookstore shelf in Israel. The reviews are glorifying, and pre-orders have already been made.
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August 29, 2012 | 11:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Stand With Us is an international, non- profit organization, founded in 2001. The organization is dedicated to informing the population of the world about Israel, and to help fight the hate and anti-Semitism by simply acknowledging. By creating various projects and helping those who wish to stand for Israel, the organization manages to also correct common prejudices about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The members of Stand With Us, coming from the U.S, Israel, UK and France, use print materials, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, and campaigns, both face to face and online, to follow their mission.
The Stand With Us Fellowship is a program of the Israeli branch of the movement. The fellowship trains students from all universities to become young diplomats and become spokespersons of Israel worldwide. Nowadays, the Fellowship completes their final preparations for the 2012 year-end projects, ranging from conferences on start-ups, social entrepreneurship, and women’s changing roles to explorations of Israel’s myriad cuisines and archeology. All of those projects will being students specializing in those various areas to explore more of their specialties here in Israel. The most attractive project of the Fellowship for the summer, is “Once in a Lifetime”, which continues to run for the third summer. This project brings influential bloggers worldwide to tour and to write about Israel. This year, however, the project got a twist, and instead of bloggers, ten influential Instagram users will land here on September 2dn for eight whole days of Israel.
Ten influential Instagram users will land here in just a couple of days: Carli Kiene (@inkedfingers), Joey Mena (@nerdx), Sam Horine (@samhorine), Bex Finch (@bexfinch), Eelco Roos (@croyable), VuTheara Kham (@vutheara), Angeliki Jackson (@astrodub), Steph Goralnick (@sgoralnick), Dave Temple (@kewiki), Jorg Nicht (@JN). They all have a total number of over 3 million followers put together, and they were picked after a long process of online researches made by the Fellowship members. Only two of them are Jewish, and most of them have never been to Israel before. During the eight days of stay, they will see every bit of Israel, from north to south, and take Instagram pictures for you to see.
Stand With Us Fellowship
August 27, 2012 | 12:00 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
*25 Israeli athletes left several days ago for London, to compete in the 2012 Paralypmic Games. The athletes, all carrying a physical disability, will compete in nine sports: athletics, equestrian, road cycling, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, and wheelchair tennis. Israeli sports experts claim that this time, the chance for us to hear the Israeli anthem is bigger than during the Olympic Games earlier this month. Good luck!
*For the past three weeks, 29 talented Jewish singers from across the world, got to take a part in the Hallelujah- a worldwide singing contest. Recently, thousands of Jewish singers from all around the globe, submitted videos of themselves performing. The top 20 selected by judges were invited to Israel and competed for the chance of becoming the next big thing. In this special contest, the young singers worked on their Hebrew, received vocal training, travelled the country, lived amongst Israelis the performed on national television. On August 18th, the finals took place, in which Evan Malach from Canada came in first place. Courtney Simmons, from the US came in second, and Polina Zizak from Russia came in third.
*In the 16th century, Rabbi Meir Benbenishti created the “Seder Nashim” siddur. It was meant especially for women, and was written in Ladino as most of them did not know Hebrew at the time. Now, almost 500 years later, the first feminist siddur had been issued in Hebrew, in an edition published by the Ben-Zvi Institute. At that time, women were usually prevented from praying because men were concerned that they would neglect taking care of their children, for the prayers were too long. Because of that, perhaps, they had little access to learning how to read and write in Hebrew. Thus, Rabbi Benbanishti wrote this special prayer book. Besides being in Ladino, this siddur carries a very feminist nature: Along with the regular Halachot regarding women, this siddur also features Halachot showing women how to conduct a Jewish lifestyle by themselves, especially when it is not present in their life.
*Austrian authorities are investigating what is claimed to be an anti-Semitic cartoon, posted on the Facebook page of a political leader. The cartoon is showing a fat, bald banker with a large nose and what the critics claim to be Star of David pattern on his cufflinks. Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the Freedom Party, and the owner of this Facebook page, denies the allegations and said the shape is not a Star of David and that there is no anti-Sematic idea behind this cartoon.
*Kevin Youkilis, Chicago White Sox third baseman, was approached by members of the Israeli national baseball team’s staff to play for the Israeli team at the World Baseball Classics in March 2013. The Jewish all-star agreed, and said he would represent Israel if the team qualifies for the tournament this September, and as long as he is healthy. Currently, the Israeli national baseball team is ranked 57th in the world.
Evan Malach, the winner of the 2012 Hallelujah contest
August 24, 2012 | 4:31 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
After dancing in my cousin’s Bat-Mitzvah until my feet began to sore, I decided that oriental and Middle Eastern music must be given its well-deserved respect. It’s not really my cup of tea, but oriental music has the ability to make everybody get up and dance without caring. It is an essential component in every wedding and Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel, and there’s a perfectly good reason for it. No matter where you are from and what is your musical taste, when oriental music plays in an event- you will dance. There’s simply nothing like it for a boost of happiness.
There are many talented (and less talented) oriental and Middle Eastern singers in Israel, and it would be unfair to include them all in one post. So for this weekend, here is Moshe Perez.
Ein Kamoch (There’s no one like you)
August 22, 2012 | 2:25 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Israel’s image worldwide may be not so great, but Television’s image is much worse. When we think of television we think of low culture, something that fits all people, even the less intelligent ones. In our minds, television appears to be the lowest common ground of mankind, unlike books, for instance, which we see as high culture, as it symbolizes intelligence and education. When we have spare time, we will always find watching television as the “lazy” alternative to relax our minds. Just sit back and stare, no thinking is required. This perception became more intense and more realistic when I started University. In “Mass Media” class, we examined media content throughout the prism of critical theories, such as Feminism, Frankfurt, Economical-Political theory, and more. We saw how television “drugs” us, as we stare at the screen all day, living throughout the television without actually living. We also learned how media content preserves the Hegemonic way of life instead of criticizing it. I see myself as a critical person, so I was enthused and eager to learn more. That until during one of the classes, Gal, the TA, showed us a scene from Mad Men.
While Gal used that scene to demonstrate the effect media has on people by showing us Don Draper’s work, I couldn’t help but thinking: this is not garbage. Mad Men is, to me, a fine piece of art. It is the highest level of quality possible, and way more educating and intelligent than any book I’ve ever read. That was my turning point, that moment when I realized television is not what it used to be. It has entered a new age, the golden age of art-making. Television is no longer just a platform for commercial content and low-level entertainment. It is also where your mind is stimulated and your intelligence is constantly being challenged.
In the past couple of years, television has proven to be both the lowest level of culture as much as it is the highest level. Television series are no longer low-budget sci-fi/sitcoms. They are high-definition, high-quality dramas and sharp, sophisticated comedies. Television series are not only for illiterate, lazy couch-potatoes, but also for intelligent, well-educated people as well. Watching Black Mirror made me completely speechless. I was blown away by the way the creators managed to capture our reality, our culture, and shove it in our face, and hitting us right in the guts. Every episode made me think, first to myself, and then with my friends. Modern Family does the exact same thing, only while making me laugh while getting a reality check. An episode of Revenge leaves me speechless, every time, as my jaw is being pulled down by the brilliance of the script. Smash makes my heart pound. Once upon a time takes my childhood and makes me examine it in a different way. All of those shows are art to me. They stimulate all of my senses, and most importantly- make me think, revise the world I live in. Some show me worlds and cultures different from my own, helping me get out of my bubble. Others teach me some history, but not in a bookish way. I can always read about the 60’s, but only by watching Mad Men will I know how Kennedy’s assassination affected the American individuals. I can read about the Middle Ages, but only by watching The Borgias will I feel the atmosphere in the streets of Rome.
Whether they have visual qualities or a remarkably interesting script, I believe television series are a brand new form of quality art. It is the kind we usually see in museums, only this time, we don’t have to spend millions of dollars to have a masterpiece hanging in our living room. All we have to do is pick up the remote.
August 20, 2012 | 12:10 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This is the truly inspiring story of a family putting every single bit of selfishness aside to help Israel: Chami and Oksana Zemach, from the small town, Kadesh-Barnea, Israel, decided that Israel’s lack of proper PR skills will not get in the way of helping the world understand the real Israel. A year ago, the couple, along with their three daughters Gali, Tamar and Michal, went on a seven-month trip through Europe and the U.S and told the locals the stories they never get to hear on the media. They met up with more than 300 groups, and through their personal stories, told the untold story of Israel. It cost them about 600,000NIS, spent from their own pocket, to reach many people and touch many hearts. There was no secret motive, only the wish to make a difference. Now, they started a project called “The Israeli Family”, in which they wish to continue their trip around the world, and send more families abroad to tell their own stories of Israel.
“We live in a small place in the southern Israel, so we got to meet many tourist groups who came here to see something different than central Israel,” says Chami in an interview to the Jewish Journal. “We moved here from the center ten years ago, and in this time, we found ourselves telling our story to the tourists, in a way that turned to attract their attention. We got the feeling that the people arriving here, listening to what we have to say, go through a personal, positive experience”.
So what got you to pack and tell your story abroad?
“About three years ago, a French group of tourists came to visit. Before they left, the head of the group turned to me and said that she believes we must make sure this story gets to more people worldwide. We didn’t forget what she said, and later that night we were watching television and witnessed yet another false coverage in the world news, another media attack on Israel. We wondered how come no one manages to pass on the Israel beyond the Palestinian conflict, and asked what every Israeli asks at that point: How come no one does anything? At that point, we decided to do something.”
“For two years we planned our trip, which was meant to go around the world. We made connections worldwide and published ourselves in different places, calling people to come and meet with us. The purpose was to talk only to people who want to talk to us, and not force ourselves. We left a year ago, on August 1st, and began our journey. We were six weeks in Europe and six weeks in the States. In this time, we enjoyed great popularity and got massive media coverage in the States, in Europe and in Israel. We were hosted by NBC news and other channels, and were interviewed on the radio and in print media. We had 300 meetings in that time, in which we tried and managed to show Israel from a normative point of view. We tried to avoid talking about politics, and the main purpose was to say that when we wake up in the morning, we don’t just worry about the possibility that Iran would cast a nuclear bomb or something. Our say was that there is normal life in Israel every day. My wife, who’s a Chef, taught cooking classes, in which she told her own Israeli story, as a person who made Aliyah. My daughters sing and play the guitar, and they met with teenagers to talk about music and culture. I gave lectures and presentations, but the most important thing to us was to allow as many questions as possible to be asked. People don’t see Israel as a regular tourism destination. Most tourists who come to Israel are Jews or religious people. This is a wall that is hard to break due to the media focus and exaggeration on the negative sides of Israel. However, we were surprised to see many pre-judgments shatter.”
Have you encountered difficult questions? Ones you didn’t know how to answer?
“People worldwide are very interested in Israel for many reasons. For natural reasons to get a headline, the media chooses to focus on the Palestinian conflict when addressing Israel, and so, those who don’t dig any deeper, only get this coverage as information about Israel. Most people don’t know the daily life here, and so we wanted to being them the most normative, average Israeli family and tell them about our normative life. We don’t spend our days thinking about the conflict for the same reason the citizens of Chicago don’t spend their days thinking about the many murder cases there. We assumed that if we come with interesting content and present it in an appealing way, people would want to hear more. We let people ask as many questions as they want, and most of them asked about our day to day lives, and not about the conflict.”
“In the several times we were asked about the conflict, we knew it’s not our job to explain Israel’s foreign affairs. What we did to was to show the complexity. Those questions came from a place of no knowing many things, which is natural when you live someplace else. We tried to show that the purpose was to learn and understand, and not to judge.”
“Our last stop was L.A, and then we had to return home, because we ran out of money. The plan was to travel around the world, and we figured out we would be able to raise more money in the process, to help us finish the journey. But after seven months, we had to cut the trip short. It wasn’t a disaster or anything, but it does feel like a miss. Now we are trying to create the sequel and go to the other side of the world as planned.”
So what’s next for you?
“We’ve built an organization called ‘Israeli family’ whose purpose is to expand this activity and make it continuous. We will track down volunteering families, train them and send them on their journey. So far we have a great cooperation with the Jewish Agency, but our expectations of finding donors and sponsors in our trip were turned down. When I tried to realize why we didn’t have success in that area, I’ve come to the conclusion that our confidence and passion maybe made people believe we don’t really need the financial support. On the other hand, we couldn’t change the way we did things, because we didn’t want to compromise our mission. We want to continue our mission and expand the Israeli Family project, so that we can influence more people in presenting them the real Israel, and so we are now looking for people who wish to help us with funds or sponsorship. This is the only way we can continue to speak on behalf of Israel.”
The Israeli Family website: http://il-family.com/en/
If you seek to donate to the Israeli Family project, or become a sponsor in any way, you can either contact Chami here: email@example.com
Donates can be made to this account:
Name of account: practico
Swift name of bank: POALILIT
August 17, 2012 | 3:15 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
As you all probably know, when you reach the age of 18 in Israel, you automatically (with exceptions) serve in the IDF for two years at least. There are many types of jobs you can do, and many ways to serve. It all depends of your personality and abilities. Most people either serve in combat, secretarial jobs, commanding, or intelligence, but there are various other ways to give back to your country. One of the types of service, which is very hard to get in to, is the singing groups. Yes, the IDF soldiers need some entertainment while sometimes being away from home for a long time. While simply being one of the many ways to serve in the IDF, during the 60’s and the 70’s, the IDF singing groups and bands were trendsetters when it came to music. These were times of war, and the soldiers, as well as the civilians, needed their spirits to rise. At that time, the IDF singing groups took over the music charts, and could easily be compared to nowadays Adele or Maroon 5.
Their fame may have faded with time, but their songs from back then are still being heard on the radio, not only during Independence Day. I love this music, and enjoy listening to it. From time to time, after Shabbat dinner, my father takes out the guitar, and we all sing the best of the IDF.
A tribute medley from 2004
August 16, 2012 | 11:29 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Today, I would like to tell you the story of a true friendship, which turned out to be impossible because of a rivalry. I know you’ve already heard of Romeo and Juliet, but I promise you this one is more modern and because of that, more disappointing. This story has officially worn out my optimism when it comes to the Israeli- Iranian relationship.
Remember the “Israelis/Iranians- we love you” campaign? The one that was so successful it turned over some decision makers’ heads? Turns out it is nothing but a wish of the heart. Ella Klein from Israel and Horra Amin from Iran met in Thailand about two months ago. They clicked right away, and knew they won’t let politics ruin their blooming friendship; at least not while being abroad. In one of the warm summer days, the two friends decided to post a shared photo of them on Facebook. Soon, their picture, hugging each other with one hand and creating a shape of a heart with the other, was spread throughout the web, being a living proof of an alleged taboo friendship. This photo revived the old “we love you” campaign, and brought this calm breeze upon us.
But just like in all the classic dramatic plays, the minute everybody’s happy, everything falls apart. When Amin returned to Iran several days later, she reluctantly asked Klein to remove the picture. Klein obeyed and also asked all of her friends who shared it, to remove it as well. Behind this somewhat small act of a picture being removed from Facebook, there’s the shadow of hate. Turns out there were no hugs of joy for Amin when she returned home. The day she got back, she started receiving threats for her life, from people who seek no peace. All she did was make friends with an Israeli, and for that, she ought to be punished. Not so far away from there, Klein was interviewed for the papers, and was welcomed with hands wide open and a big hug. While she was away, she became, even if for a short while, a symbol of peace. Her photo and her new friendship were living proof that there’s room for hope, and that if the people will ever have a say in this, they would end these shenanigans.
At this point, it is very important for me to state that this does not mean that the haters are from Iran only, because we do not lack haters here, too. This is merely an example of how blind hate, which comes mainly from the decision makers of both sides, can sometimes overshadow the true nature of the Israeli-Iranian relationship- friendship. As the “we love you” campaign and many stories such as this showed us all- Israelis and Iranian do not seek war. It is just something our leaders got themselves into, and we are ought to live by.
When I think of this story, I think of what it symbolizes. This is a lot more than a story of a friendship against all odds. This is a story of a friendship destined to be forgotten with time, as this photo will slowly fade away, leaving yellow marks where there were once smiles of two happy women, just enjoying the beach and the sun, not worrying about things not needed to be worried about. Unfortunately, hate won yet another time, and with the removal of this photo, peace was forced to take a step back. However, I have a feeling these small rays of light will not stop glowing from time to time. And although I became slightly less optimistic about this whole peace thing, I want to believe it will be possible someday. Hopefully, before it’s too late.