Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
•The best of the humanity: the kind staff of Volfson Hospital in Holon, Israel, decided to provide abandoned babies a good memory for the future. The staff has decided to make a photo album for each newborn, which doesn’t have present parents to capture his first moments in the world. The photos will be taken by the hospital’s carrying staff and will be handed to wherever those lone children would be taken to.
•On Thursday, the members of the international Zionist youth movement gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of 85 years since established. The 10,000 young leaders of the movement come from 24 countries worldwide. Only 1500 of them came to celebrate, but the joy was all over the place.
•A little bit late, but still respectable, Israel mentioned the Fourth of July in various celebrations. Besides the parties and some fancy dinners, the theatre of Holon threw a festive show, with American Folk songs, the best of the best American singers and bands of all times. There were also very interesting lectures about the History of the U.S and the U.S- Israeli relationship, an American film festival, and more.
•Hungarian authorities arrested the Nazi war criminal Laszlo Csatary, after reporters of the British Sun, knocked on his door and tried to confront him about his alleged past. The reporters received new evidence which was brought by Israel’s Simon Wiesenthal Centre to the prosecutor in Budapest last week. The evidence allegedly linked Csatary to a list of crimes committed against Jews during WW II. According to the accusations, Csatary is one of the most wanted Nazis, who managed to escape from the authorities for years, changing his identity and moving from place to place until settling in Hungary. He is wanted for playing a key role in deporting about 15,700 Jews to the Auschwitz death camp.
•Israel’s ground shook several months ago, when the subject of discrimination by Ultra- Orthodox men towards women from outside of their community filled the headlines. There were several major stories during this period: one was regarding a small religious girl, who was spit on by an older man, for being “not modest enough”; the second revolved around a young secular woman, who was yelled at by Haredi Men for daring to sit in the front of a bus. The two stories were accompanied by a nation-wide scandal, which grew bigger when the issue of public women discrimination in areas of Jerusalem and Bney-Braq became a public discussion. It addressed the growing absence of women in various advertisements, even the ones who originally had women in them (the faces were covered, or removed). Earlier this week, we came closer to mitigating the issue: the State has told the High Court that from now on, the Transport Ministry will enforce the freedom of advertising on buses and would stipulate that the condition of receiving a public transportation license be non-discrimination in advertising.
•Israel can now add another cultural achievement: the celebrated Israeli director, Joseph Cedar was invited to join the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, the ones from the Academy Awards). Cedar is known for his Academy Award Nominee films: Footnote, and The Bufor, and many other excellent films.
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July 20, 2012 | 9:17 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Because we are all a part of the human nature, even us, the perfect Israelis, have the tendency of self-criticizing. One of the most common topics where we have a problem with, well, ourselves, is Israeli movies. In the past decade, our film industry flourishes, as more and more Israelis and non-Israelis enjoy Israeli films. However, for a long time now we all have the same complaint: all Israeli films deal with either one of the big Israeli conflict: religion-secularity, the Holocaust, or Jews -Palestinians. But once in ten films or so, comes a true masterpiece which contains a plain Hollywood-like plot and performances. One of those masterpieces is: The Debt, which even received a Hollywood adaptation. But before The Debt, in 2004, there was Lelechet al Ha’Maim (Walk on Water), which makes many other Israeli films look like high-school productions.
It tells the story of Eyal, an agent for the Mossad, the Israeli security service. He is a hitman who targets enemies of Israel. His wife has recently committed suicide, and the agency decides that he needs to take on a less challenging assignment: to find an aging Nazi war criminal and get him “before God does”. He is a hard shell and is very stiff and old fashioned. On his way to “seal the deal”, Eyal meets the target’s granddaughter and gay grandson, and a Palestinian young man, which gradually help him fight his inner-daemons. To complete the deep, meaningful side of the movie, there is non-stop James Bond style action and some breathtaking shots of the most beautiful places in Israel.
Lalechet al Ha’Maim is, in a way, one of a kind: it combines many of the cliché’ Israeli conflicts, but also manages to be a grand blasting action movie with a very big budget. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: it stars Lior Ashkenazi, who was, and still is, the most talented (and good looking) Israeli actor.
July 18, 2012 | 6:14 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I am not a political analyst. I can’t foresee political scandals and can’t predict politicians’ next moves. I am nothing but a common Israeli citizen who reads the paper. My modest point of view is of a head of a party, the biggest we’ve got, who instead of thinking first and then doing, does first and only then thinks. It seems like Shaul Mofaz, the chairman of Kadima party, hasn’t decided yet who he wishes to impress more: the Prime Minister, or the voters.
It was only two months ago when I wrote about Shaul Mofaz’s odd declaration to join Netanyahu’s coalition, after beating Tzipi Livni for the position of the head of Kadima. While admitting this unity government may be good for Israel in the long term, there was no doubt it made Mofaz seem like a sad person with no principles, who would do anything to get a seat in the Cabinet. Back then, it seemed like he did absolutely nothing for the party he represents, and the electors who believed in their agenda. He simply joined the coalition, no conditions, no nothing. This made Mofaz’s popularity drop abruptly. People believed in him and he merely sold out. But just when people lost their hope, he rose back up, claiming that if Netanyahu refuses to accept Kadima’s terms regarding the draft of Haredi to the IDF, Kadima would return to the opposition.
At their lowest point, they’ve reached us right where it hurts- the draft. Nowadays, it seems to be one of the top two issues that the Minister who takes them the most seriously,would become the most popular amongst us. When it comes to the Haredi recruitment to the IDF, Mofaz and Netanyahu managed to settle on most criteria and find a common ground with both demands. The one thing they couldn’t agree over was the age for the draft. Mofaz insisted on a draft at the age of 18 (like any other non-privileged Israeli), while Netanyahu who wishes to please the Haredi as well, insisted on an additional five years for them at a Yeshiva before the draft. Obviously there’s more to it than age, since drafting at the age of 23, while most of them already have families, means paying them much more. Honestly, the rest of the criteria were, in my opinion, far more drastic than this one, but it seems like Mofaz wasn’t able to miss a big wave of cheers from the mass. So he quit. After two months of mostly arguing with Netanyahu over the Haredi draft, Mofaz returned to the opposition. Well, I hope at least he got to enjoy the fancy coalition goodies (after all, it is a known fact they serve better coffee there) before returning to his position as head of the opposition.
I can’t help but being cynical right now, because hands down- this is ridiculous. Mofaz doesn’t know what he wants- more political privileges or principles. I can honestly say I appreciate him for standing up for his beliefs, and not letting Netanyahu bend him over. Nonetheless, I can’t help but remember the last time, where he probably emptied his head from his own mind. I don’t know whether to believe him or not, because he might change his mind yet again, while ignoring many of his fellow Kadima Ministers, after listening to them this time. I can’t even make a complete sentence here without encountering vertigo. So I’ll conclude this post in a great appreciation for the action itself, which seems to be putting the citizens of Israel first, as well as a hinge of suspicion for not knowing what Mofaz plans ahead.
July 17, 2012 | 10:43 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I just so happened to watch To Rome with Love the very same day I read that Woody Allen said he is not ruling out the possibility to film in Israel. I am not a big Allen fan, and accordingly, I had a bit of a difficulty to connect to the somewhat strange plot. But in spite of the fact I wasn’t sympathetic towards any of the characters or continued thinking about the plot at home, I had this urge to book a flight to Rome. This is the second time a movie attracted me to a city in such an intense level. The first time was after I watched Vicky, Christina, Barcelona- another Allen film.
What can I say? Allen’s got a magical touch. He makes the location the main character, and the absence of one human main character in his ensemble films makes the location even more emphasized. It is something you cannot miss, even if you are hooked to the plot. It is something you feel inside, this admiration for a breathtaking city where all those mysterious people live. A place that even the characters take some time off of their daily routine to admire. “Location, location, location” seems to be a phrase Allen often keeps in mind lately. It’s not a new rule in cinema, for we’ve seen it before in many Hollywood films putting yet another American city on the tourists’ maps. But Allen’s different. First of all, because he takes a financial risk as he chooses a foreign location, which combines a use of a foreign language, which can easily make his films somewhat “niche”. And secondly, because he doesn’t just make the viewers think to themselves that next time they go to Europe they might pay a visit to this certain city; he makes the viewers think of the city, and not stop until they either book a flight or tragically realize they can’t afford a vacation right now.
When I watched To Rome with Love, I saw myself there, walking among the Piazzas, smelling a fresh-from-the-oven Pizza and drinking espresso. I saw myself having a candlelight dinner under the moonlight with my loved one, and walking, hand in hand, through the enchanting European streets, listening to Italian music and breathing Italian air. When I opened my eyes, the light went on and the audience was leaving the theater. I can hardly remember the plot right now, but I know I must visit Rome and feel all of what Allen made me feel through the screen. I didn’t think about the Italian promiscuous former Prime-minister, or about Italy’s financial difficulties; all I read about in the papers meant nothing to me after watching To Rome with Love- I just wanted to be there.
It’s not a wild dream to believe Allen will film in Israel someday: lately, more and more filmmakers and television productions choose to add Israel as one of their locations. You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, the Debt, and Homeland‘s second season is just a shortlist of big productions filmed in Israel in the past couple of years. I wish Allen decides to film here, because an Allen Israeli film would give the audience what all of the other Allen films give: a genuine point of view on the place. It is very easy to rule out a vacation location because of what we read in the papers, especially when it comes to Europe. That’s why I thank the lord for Woody Allen’s filmmaking, which shows that all that we read in the papers doesn’t reflect what truly matters: the streets, the scenery, the atmosphere, the people. This is the real Rome, and this is the real Israel. I know for sure that an Allen movie featuring Israel would do justice to this magnificent place that many find it difficult to see through the headlines. This is the magic of the movies: they can take you anywhere and make it feel like you are in a parallel universe. But the best part is that it’s real. It’s all real. All we have to do is leave the theater and book a flight.
July 15, 2012 | 11:52 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
•David Siegel, the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, decided to give Israel a small piece of advice on to how attract big Hollywood productions its way. According to Siegel, there is an increasing interest from Hollywood producers to film in Israel thanks to the diverse scenery, comfortable weather, and English speaking locals. However, in order to get more productions to choose Israel as their main location, Israel needs to provide more financial benefits for the producers who choose to do so, Siegel says.
•The Israeli mind proves itself once again: an Israeli team from Ramat-Gan, Israel, won the 16th “RoboCup Junior” contest. “RoboCup” is an international contest where homemade robots compete in three categories: soccer, dance and rescue. This year, the robotic dancer, Angel, made by a group of young Israelis from Ohel-Shem Junior High, took over the dance floor and ranked first at the dancing section of the contest.
•Mechaye Hamethim (Revival of the Dead), a musical creation composed by the Israeli composer and conductor, Noam Sheriff, will play at the 2012 Salzburg Festival. Mechaye Hamethim, which tells the story of the European Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, was heard for the very first time in 1987 in Amsterdam. It combines classical European music with some oriental touch and has four parts: The first part tells the story of the European Jews; The second part is dedicated to the arrival of the Nazis; the third is the Yizkor and the Kadish; and the forth is an optimistic ending which tells of the revival of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. The creation will be the opening number performed by the Israeli Philharmonic orchestra in the Festival this summer, and will be conducted by the famous Zubin Mehta.
•Hemi and Oksana Zemach, from 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. Two years 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. It cost them about 600,000NIS, and in spite of their attempts to raise money from organizations and businessmen, they wound up paying for this entire journey, which did nothing but helping Israel. Now, they want to go for a second round, this time in Russia, China, Australia, and the area, but since they ran out of money, they are looking for the financial aid that can help them continue to do good.
July 13, 2012 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Ha Chov (The Debt), is a 2007 Israeli drama-thriller film directed by Assaf Bernstein, starring Gila Almagor, Neta Garty, Itay Tiran, Oded Teomi, Yuriy Chepurnov, and Oleg Drach.
In the center of the plot there is an Israeli Mossad team who in captured a notorious Nazi doctor who had performed human experimentation in a German extermination camp. When he escapes from them, on the way from Germany to Israel, they report him as being shot in the head and killed during his attempted escape. In the following years, the agents receives numerous accolades for their actions, with none suspecting the truth, but in the late 1990’s, the three, now 60 year old agents, find out he may be alive, and gather once again in attempt of capturing him once and for all . They decide to take the law into their hands by completing their old assignment to eliminate “the Surgeon of Birkenau”, before the big lie will come out to the open.
Three years after the movie’s release in Israel, Hollywood made its own quality version for the film, starring the amazing Helen Mirren. However, there is never anything like the original, and the amazing Israeli cast, which combines the very best of our actors and actresses, tell the most breathtaking story ever told. I watched it in the theater, and I believe that there is still a scratch mark on one of the chairs there, made by yours truly.
The heart-stopping, breath-taking trailer (in English) for the Israeli version
And for those of you who insist on watching the Hollywood version (because honestly, this is a must see Israeli creation, even if it’s not in Hebrew…)
July 10, 2012 | 6:00 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
My co-blogger, Shmuel Rosner, mentioned in one of his latest posts, that the Israeli settlements are legal. “A judiciary committee has concluded that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are in fact legal. The West Bank, the committee believes, is not occupied territory and therefore Israel has the legal right to settle it.”
On the surface, it seems like a great deal, since the matter of the legality of the settlements has been occupying Israeli and non-Israeli minds. The settlements are one of the subjects which divide Israelis since the early days of Israel, and are also a winning argument for our haters, who enjoy calling us “conquerors”. Now, so it seems, no one can claim “occupation”- we won! Unfortunately, this legal victory will cause no change in those “occupation” conversations. The simple reason is, just like Rosner claimed, that the discussion about settlements and occupation is not legal, but rather political. I read the paper every day, and it seems like a headline- worthy announcement. However, in got almost zero recognition and the reason is that no one cares. It may cause a withdrawal of several lawsuits by Arabs claiming the territories, but when it comes to what really matters, and it is the people’s agenda, the argument involving the settlements is not going anywhere.
I study Communication and Political Science, which means I get to take part in conversations/arguments/violent arguments on a daily basis, and on every subject which concerns Israel. Since 1948, the matter of the settlements has been one of the few causes for the rift between left-wing and right-wing in Israel. Settlements, the treatment for the Palestinians, and the Ultra-Orthodox’s status are the three major conflicts which concern Israeli governments for 64 years, in one way or another. The first two also help fuel the fires of Israel’s haters, as they were used for claims against Israel’s policy as a “violator of Human Rights”, “a conqueror”, and so on. While the arguments considering the settlements (both in and out of Israel) were legal-based, mentioning Israel’s “violent and illegal conquest” or “theft”, the meaning was always political.
The proof for the real intentions behind this argument is the simple fact the announcement of the legality of the settlements failed to attract anyone’s attention, and the arguments remained the same, and will continue to remain the same. Left-wingers will continue to call for clearing the settlements, and right-wingers will continue to struggle for their spread. Bottom line is, the conversation regarding settlements, like any other political topic, relies on the heart, not on the mind. It relies on beliefs and traditions, not on legal documents. The legality of the settlements will not change the minds of those who believe they should be cleared, as has never been the issue.
July 8, 2012 | 11:20 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
•The Israel native and Hollywood’s sensational star, Sacha Baron Cohen, arrived in Israel last Wednesday. The Dictator star stayed in a hotel in Tel-Aviv, along with his wife, actress Isla Fisher, and two daughters. This is not his first visit in Israel. Noam (his Hebrew name), comes here every once in a while to visit his 89 year old Grandmother. This was an unofficial visit, and the actor did his best trying to avoid the paparazzi, which managed to track him down, in spite of his very Israeli look.
•Conflict? What conflict? This Friday, a small delegation of teenage girls from the Hebrew settlement: Kfar Etzion, arrived in a Palestinian village Khirbet Zechariah. The girls, along with the head of the settlement’s council, came to thank Asharf Sadat, who saved their lives in a fire that broke in the settlement a while back. The members of the delegation handed Sadat a lovely bouquet of flowers, and expressed their deepest appreciation. During the fire, Dadat inhaled a great amount of smoke, and risked his life while fighting the flames.
•The Israeli Tirosh Shapira is the Israeli Avatar. No, this is not a Hebrew version of James Cameron’s movie, this is the real deal. Israeli and French scientists have succeeded in making a robot in France move according to the thoughts of a researcher staying in Israel. The Israeli researcher sat inside a fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging),thought of a movement to the left or to the right, and a small robot in France received these orders and moved accordingly. When Shapira thought of legs, the robot moves forward; when he thought of the left hand, the robot moved to the left; when he thought of the right hand, the robot moved to the right. This was enabled without any mediation: from the researcher’s mind straight to the robot’s “legs”.
•For the tenth year, a special flight of American-Jews will land in Israel. No less than 60 singles in the search for love will land in Ben- Gurion Airport this Thursday, in the first round of the “singles flight”. During this summer, 450 single American-Jews are expected to make Aliya while searching for their Israeli soul-mate as a part of this unique and self-proven, Jewish matchmaking service. The “singles flights” are a shared project of “Nefesh be Nefesh” organization, together with the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Thanks to this project, many American Jews shared their Aliya process with a native “special someone”. Since the project started ten years ago, 640 American singles and native Israelis got to stand under the Hupah.
•After failing to pass the Israeli Olympic criteria to join the delegation to London, high jumper Dima Kroyter, judoka Tommy Arshansky and archer Guy Matzkin appealed to the Israel Olympic Committee, requesting to include the three young athletes who have recorded very impressive achievements in their fields, in the Israeli delegation to London. The three passed the International criteria, yet failed to pass the Israeli one. The committee accepted two of the three appeals, and both Kroyter and Arshansky will try and conquer London this summer. Matzkin’s appeal was denied, in spite of a massive Facebook campaign calling the IOC to allow the talented archer to compete.