Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Israel's Beauty and the Geek's semi-finals turned out to be more than your everyday reality show episode. The final four couples visited Turkey on a very special mission: to try and make things right between the two states. As most of you already know, things aren't going so great for Israel and Turkey. After maintaining a good, healthy relationship, based mostly on mutual tourism, a line of diplomatic mishaps brought the relationship between the allies to a new low-point. In fact, for the past year or so, the state has recommended Israelis avoid taking vacations there. In the popular show's semi-finals, the couples took the not-so-secure trip over there, and became Israeli ambassadors, while trying to bring the relationship status back to "friends". After performing various tasks, they did not succeed in bringing things back to the way they were, but they defiantly took some risks even the best politicians never took.
* Research made by the world's health organization ranked the Israeli youth number three in the world's happiness rate. The research, taken once every four years, tested the mental and social health amongst teenagers from 34 states. In the category testing the contentment from life, the Israeli teenagers were ranked third, while their peers from Macedonia and Armenia are the only ones happier. But while considered happy with their lives, the Israeli teenagers are also the fifth most angry in the world. Well, when it is summer ten months a year, who can blame them?
* A commercial German company, selling puzzles and posters of famous German sites and scenery, decided to add two very controversial sites to their collection, and on the way, hurt many feelings. Under the title of "Germany's most beautiful sites", along with 55 thousand places, the company added a purchasable poster or puzzle of the concentration camps Dachau and Buchenwald. The German-Jewish community expressed their surprise and rage with the new addition, which, in their words, is disrespectful towards the memory of the tens of thousands of people who were brutally murdered there during the Holocaust. Dachau was the first concentration camp built by the Nazis, and Buchenwald was the largest concentration camp built on German land. Today, the places function as memorial and educational sites.
* More achievements for the Israeli Paralympic team! The games in London ended with five more Israeli athletes stood on the podium, and joined the two bronze medal winners from last week: Inbal Pezaro (two bronze medals for swimming) and Itzhak Mamistvalov (one bronze medal for swimming).Pezaro won a third bronze medal (Wonem's 100m freestyle S5), Doron Shaziri won a silver medal for shooting (Men's 50m. rifle 3 positions SH1), Koby Lion won a silver medal for Cycling (Men's time trial H1), and Noam Gershony brought Israel's first gold medal since the games in Athens, 2004. Gershony was injured severely during the second Lebanon war, where he served as a pilot. After winning first place in Wheelchair tennis, he said in interviews he is now "at the top of the world." Gershony and his partner, Shraga Weinberg, also won bronze medal for wheelchair tennis Quad Doubles.
* Rama Burshtein made history last week at the 69th Venice Film Festival. The filmmaker became the first Israeli director with a film presented in the formal contest of one of the three most significant, important film festivals worldwide (Cannes, Venice and Berlin). As if this achievement is not big enough, Burshtein is also the first Haredi filmmaker whose film is presented outside of the community. Her film, Lemale' et Ha'Chalal (Fill the Void), was screened last Sunday and got very loud applause from the audience, which lasted about ten minutes. But it wasn't just the audience who thought this film was a state of the art creation, as critics' compliments started to appear in the papers and online. The film is nominated for the prestigious "Golden Lion" award, and tells of a Haredi family dealing with a tragedy as the daughter dies while giving birth.
* An on the same matter, Hadas Yaron, a 22 year-old waitress-actress who played the lead in Rama Burshtein's film, won the Best Actress award in the festival. Yaron returned to Israel after the movie premier in Venice, and went back to her job at a local coffee shop. On Friday, she received the life changing phone call, with the announcement on her win. On Saturday, she flew back to Italy to receive the prestigious award. Truly a Cinderella story...
Rama Burshtein and the cast of Lemale' er HaChalal at the 69th Venice Film Festival
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September 7, 2012 | 11:54 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This week I'll make an exception and recommend a song. In 2002, Ariel Horowitz, son of Israel's greatest songwriter and composer- Naomi Shemer, released a single from his second album. Horowitz was already quite famous at the time, and continued to maintain a respected musical career. But from his total of five albums, his 2002 single, Renée, is his most famous to this day, and considered one of the most iconic songs in the Israeli culture. Renée was written about Renée Zellweger, whom Horowitz had a crush on after watching Jerry Maguire. This song is so good and so smart, I decided to translate it to English, for you to enjoy, because it's not every day you find a song with lyrics as good as the melody. Rhymes and wordplay not included, so it's not a good as it sounds in Hebrew. However, this song tells of a man who decided to peruse his dream, telling Renée Zellweger he loves her, and take her with him back to Israel. With the combination of wit, innocence and insistence, the hero of the story tells us his entire plan, from deciding to leave Israel, through finding Renée and finally- giving her his big speech. The story is left open, as we have no idea what her answer is. In real life, however, I can reassure you this story remained in Horowitz's dreams.
I went to see an American movie and fell in love with the actress.
On my way back home, in the cab, I was thinking to myself:
why not pack all my belongings, thank my mother for all the years, and just go?
On the wing of the airplane, the homeland's flag shine,
My beloved doesn't yet have a clue
That I, with determination of a unavoidable faith, am closing the gap, and I got an address and a photo.
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my way.
The custom clerk in New York, with politeness packed with alienation
Wants me to tell him the purpose of my visit.
'I come from love', I say.
To ocean would ever tear us apart, Renée .
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my
A restaurant, a black dress, a confusing cleavage.
Good thing I prepared my speech in advance, in Israel
Touch me, Renée, and you'll see, I am not made of Plastic.
You'll have a real life with me:
On Thursday nights your will lay in bad, reading a book,
While the guys and I will watch Basketball.
We'll live in a small apartment in Motzkin (a small town in Israel)
And once a year, you'll make a movie with Ivgi (Moshe Ivgi, one if Israel's greatest actors).
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my way.
September 4, 2012 | 10:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Yesterday's headline made no room for mistakes: "A secret message from the US government to Iran: don't attack us if Israel attacks you." According to the paper's main story, Obama's government sent a secret message to Iran, through two European countries, asking Ahmadinejad to avoid attacking US military bases in the Middle East. The article also said that Obama stated he would not support an Israeli attack in Iran, and would not support any one-sided attack by Israel. Lately, there had been much speculation regarding a possible future attack in Iran, but this one caused quite a commotion.
In the past few months, we got used to reading almost every speculation regarding an Israeli attack on Iran. Day after day, the main articles in leading national newspapers went through the various possibilities for an attack. Sometimes, they referred to Israel's military options, sometimes to Obama's speeches about the sanctions, and sometimes to the failure that is the Obama- Netanyahu relationship. Due to the overdose of articles and new-old-not-so-breaking-news, we got rather indifferent to them, knowing the papers are drying up the Iran- attack well in the search of a non-existing sanctions. The articles mentioning the US government were the most boring of them all, because they were always the same: Obama is calling for sanctions, and asking Netanyahu to contain the attack for a little while. This is exactly why yesterday's headline was anything but boring.
This reported "secret message" meant that our one powerful ally, our solid backer, will not support us, in case of an attack in Iran. It meant that Obama doesn't really care we are under a life threat as Iran continues working on a nuclear weapon, while Ahmadinejad is telling whoever wants to hear that he wishes to kill all Israelis. It meant the one person we could trust to help us win this scary battle is not really there. It seems as if Obama doesn't trust Israel to attack Iran only in case there will be no other choice, and is willing to abandon the strong, six decades long friendship with Israel. More than the feeling of betrayal, I felt fear. This message was plain and simple, and shook us up. Of all the many speculations regarding the future attack, this one was by far the scariest. The US was the one partner we knew would help us win every battle and help us get through the roughest of times, and in one headline, the security was gone. After reading about the Obama-Netanyahu decreasing relationship recently, this story appeared as the bottom line and basically sealed the deal: the US-Israel relationship cannot be saved. We WILL lose the war against Iran.
This story was discussed on social networks and in each and every Israeli's mind. It made me restless, and for the first time, I was worried. It was only later in the evening when the US government replied to the story, when the White House spokesman Jay Carney told Reuters that this story is incorrect on every level. On the eight o'clock news, the anchor reported that US government officials blamed the false news on the Republicans, saying this is a part of their presidential campaign. I know the people behind this message probably won't read this, but I have something I want to say to them: Sorry, but this time you've gone too far. I get why the approach towards Israel will affect the support of the Jewish communities for your presidential candidate, but creating such a false story meant taking this election campaign too far. Just to make is clear: I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I am Israeli. I know we are far away, and not as many as you, but yesterday, you got many of us scared. Your little prank hurt the "little people", plain and simple. We also matter. We are not only a pawn in your campaigning game, and I can only hope both candidates fully understand this. Don't play with us, because everything you do, for better and for worse, affects us.
September 3, 2012 | 11:35 am
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.
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.