Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Today, I would like to draw your attention to the Israeli actress who made it in Hollywood. True, she is not a big movie star or an A-lister (yet!), but for almost a decade now she appears regularly on the small screen. You've probably seen her many times, but didn't notice her Israeli identity, for she looks and sounds like your everyday American girl. But she's one of us, and she's here to make it- big time!
Alona Tal was born in Herzliya, Israel, 29 years ago. She started her acting and singing career after finishing her military service at the IDF, with a children's musical video tape. Later on, she played the lead role in the Israeli film: Lihiyot Kochav (To Be a Star). Her big break, however, was in 2003, when she got one of the lead roles in the Israeli hit comedy: Hapijamot (The PJ's). After four years on the show, Tal packed her bags and moved to try and make it in the place where all dreams come true- the United States of America. She moved to New-York, where she recorded a song with Wyclef Jean. In 2003 she auditioned for the lead role of a witty, cynical teenage girl in a new series (and later- a big hit) called Veronica Mars. Eventually, it was Kristen Bell who got the part, but the producers did not give up on the talented Tal, and gave her the reoccurring role of Meg Manning. She also played the recurring role Jo Harvelle on the second, fifth, and seventh seasons of Supernatural. Tal also guest starred in Monk, Pretty Little Liars, Lie to Me, and many more. But even while being busy abroad, Tal runs on the US- Israel line, and continues acting in local productions as well.
I recommend that you keep an eye on her now. If you did not see her on your television screen yet- don't worry. Soon she will be hard to miss.
As Simone on Pretty Little Liars
As Alona on Hapijamot
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November 1, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
On Monday, a very special event took place at my campus in Tel Aviv University. CNN's anchor and correspondent, Jonathan Mann, came for a visit, in order to host a conference on the topic: "The U.S elections: why does it matter to us?" The event was covered by press worldwide, and only a bit more than a hundred people were allowed into the small hall. Ever since I heard of this conference, I knew I couldn't miss it for the world, and I feel very lucky to be one of the few who experienced it live.
The hall was decorated in red and blue, and pins saying "Democrat" or "Republican" with matching candidates' photos were handed to us as we entered. As we waited for the conference to start, two television screens presented short clips from various US electionsele news coverage. Whispers took over the silence, as many Israeli-American voters argued with their peers over who should win. As CNN's correspondent in Israel, Sara Sinder, presented Mann, the whispers stopped at once, and everybody clapped their hands with a great show of respect. After all, it's not every day we earn such an honor.
CNN and other foreign news channels are broadcast here in Israel, but they are not commonly viewed. Before Monday's event, the only idea I had about Mann was from reading his resume'. However, even while not knowing of him, there was something about him that made me feel honored to hear him speak live. Other than Mann, who hosted the conference, four respected figures from the Israeli world of politics, higher education and journalism took the parts of the panelists: Professor Yossi Shain, who other than being an educator at Tel Aviv Uni. Is also a Political science expert; Dov Weissglass, who is a practicing attorney, was responsible for the Prime Minister's contact with the White House, State Department, and other branches of the US administrations; Dr. Yossi Beilin, a statesman, a minister in the governments of Israel and a former journalist; and Dana Weiss, one of Israel's top journalists.
For an hour and a half, all four panelists had to deal with the not-so-simple mission to answer Mann's questions regarding Israel, the US and the mutual impact both countries have on one another. Mann opened the conference with the wondering of why American Jews currently living in Israel, tend to vote for a republican candidate, while American Jews living in the States tend to vote for a democrat candidate. He then mentioned the fact that during the presidential debates, so far, Israel was mentioned 30 times. The only country mentioned more times, he said, was Iran, and even that was in relation to Israel. He talked about how the US presidential candidates actually go head to head on who is a better friend and protector to Israel. Later, he asked the panel members why they believe Israelis care so much about the US elections. Weiss said that in her opinion, many Israelis want to know if Netanyahu has made the right choice by publicly supporting Romney. Beilin replied that Israelis are not just observers, and that even though we are not allowed to participate in the elections, we should. "We are going to be an impact for the results," he said. Weisglass looked at it from a different angle, and said that our dependence on the US is almost total, and that the identity of the future US president is more important to us than the identity of our own Prime Minister. Than he said that "for us, it is a vital matter who will be the next President of the United States."
Many important issues were brought to the table, along with some interesting questions from the audience. One of the topics Mann brought up was perhaps the most important one when it comes to the US- Israel relations: Will the elected President stop the Iranian threat? Weisglass said that when it comes to Iran, the sanctions are very moderate, "If the US would make all commercial interactions with Iran illegal, it would really collapse it. No under the table, over the table, under the chair." Weiss mentioned Netanyahu's saying that Obama hadn't shown true passion of stopping Iran. While addressing this statement of our Prime Minister, she said that the question that needs to be asked is weather Netanyahu is exaggerating, or Obama is really not committed to stopping Iran: "Everybody's saying all the rights words, the armies are ready to go, the sanctions are ready as well. All that's missing is the leader's passion, whoever it might be." Beilin said that the problem with Romney is the "Unknown."
When Mann asked the panelists to compare the US presidential campaigns to the Israeli election campaign, they pretty much agreed that while the Israeli campaign is not nearing the level of respect and intellectuality of the US one, our campaigns have much more action in them. Beilin said that the US campaign is way too long, and pulls away the attention of the current President from performing his role as President. He also criticized the role of the spouses in the campaign: "why would I, as a potential voter, care what the candidate's spouse has to say about him? Why would anyone vote for someone because of his wife?" Weiss addressed the US presidential debates, which are not held here. She said that it is amazing to see how the two candidates, one who is President and one who is an aspiring one, are standing in front of one another, and show absolute respect to one another. She added that as she watches the debates she couldn't believe how they both have the understanding and acceptance of the fact they both get the same amount of attention: "they patiently wait for the other to finish what he has to say, and do not interrupt each other. They both take the time to meet with the voters, and not only give interviews when it is most convenient for them. They actually care about the voters there, in the US." Weisglass then mentioned just how big the difference is: "the Americans can say a debate was full of action, while it is not even nearing our interactions between the candidates. Here they interrupt each other almost all the time, and it sometimes seem like they are about to go at it and fight each other."
Before the conference came to an end, one of the audience members asked how the panelists think the Israeli- Palestinian issue can be solved. Everyone laughed a little bit, saying this answer will take all day, but then shortly replied that the only way to achieve peace is for both sides to not only want peace, or say they do, but to act on it as well.
This was a very fruitful evening for all audience members, and I am sure also for Mann and the Panelists. I have learned many new things thanks to some fresh insights I had yet to hear. But the most important message from the conference, to me at least, is that Israel is as important to the US as the US is important to Israel (And this one goes to all Israel's haters out there, who believe Israel is nothing but a blood sucking leech for the US). You can watch a short clip from the conference here.
October 30, 2012 | 10:44 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* After about two years of preparation, the largest exercise ever between Israeli and American forces started last Sunday. The exercise, called AC12 (“Austere Challenge 12”), is a shared exercise combining the IDF and U.S forces stationed in Europe.It is due to last three weeks, during which cutting edge technology is tested for the first time. The participants will also examine and review new Israeli developments. The exercise is part of a long-term agreement between EUCOM (the United States European Command) and the IDF that calls for cooperative exercises on an annual basis.
* Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, celebrated its 100th anniversary in Jerusalem. Nearly 2000 people from all over the world arrivedin Israel in order to pay respect to the organization, and celebrate many years of activity. At a special dinner, the organization raised nearly 18 million dollars from supporters and members. 10 million was donated by Irene Pollin, which will launch a new heart disease prevention program at Hadassah. Other significant donations were also made that night. Million dollar gifts were announced, among them two sponsorships of Chagall Windows in the Abell Synagogue at Hadassah Ein Kerem. So far, the windows named for Jacob’s sons Judah and Levy, have been sponsored. Additionally, two $300,000 gifts were announced from two sides of the Atlantic: One from Chicago and one from Paris.
* This Sunday, Israel mentioned the 17th annual Memorial Day for the murder of Prime Minister, Izhak Rabin. Rabin was shot by a Jewish, Israeli assassin who disagreed with his political agenda and ways of action. Ever since that day, November 4th, 1995, we mention this day nation-wide, while emphasizing the ideas of Democracy and respect. Rabin himself was a major figure in Israeli history. He was the commander in chief of the IDF, Minister of Defense, and twice Prime Minister. While being Prime Minister, he signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994. In the same year, he won a Nobel peace prize.
An Israeli pride: The World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media (WAALM) has decided to give its annual award in the pop music category to Iranian-born Israeli singer Rita for her new album, "My Joys," in which she sings in Persian. The album has been a great success since its release, and became one of the most heard albums in Iran. Since it is not allowed to listen to Israeli singers in Iran, the album was sold on the black market and was listened to quietly.
* Mikhail Baryshnikov, a legendary ballet dancer and an actor best known for his roles asNikolai 'Kolya' Rodchenko in White Nihgts, and Aleksandr Petrovsky in Sex and the City, presented Israelis with his photography skills. The actor/dancer/photographer, held a press conference Tuesday at Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater in Tel-Aviv, where he launched his exhibit of photographs of dancers, titled "Dance My Way," which opens there on Wednesday. The photos presented in the exhibit were taken in the past ten years. Baryshnikov's signed dance photos will be sold to the highest bidder as the exhibition closes Saturday, and proceeds will help support young Israeli dancers.
* A new project, founded by an Israeli, invites anyone with an internet connection to take a virtual tour of Jerusalem. This project founded by Tamir Orbaum, works in a similar way to Google Street, and took two years to conclude. In an interview for Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Tamir said the idea for the project came as a result of Google Earth's imbalanced representation of Jerusalem's holy site, setting the primary focus on the Christian sites and churches. In this tour, which launched last week, you can virtually visit the various Jewish sites in Jerusalem, including the Mount of Olives, the Hebrew University and Yamin Moshe neighborhood.
October 29, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Yesterday, we mention the 17th annual Memorial Day for the murder of the Israeli Prime Minister, Izhak Rabin. Rabin was murdered by an Israeli, Jewish assassin, during an assembly for peace on November 4th, 1995. Moments after the end of the assembly, right after joining the massive crowd in a song calling for peace, Rabin was shot three times by Yigal Amir. Amir was one of many Israelis who did not see eye to eye with Rabin. Rabin took a very left-wing approach, and was willing to give a lot for peace with our neighbors. In 1994, he signed a peace treaty with Jordan, and won a Nobel Peace prize. A year before, he signed a peace treaty with the Palestinian organization- Ashaf. During that time, peace seemed closer than ever. The people were full of hope and put their trust in Rabin. However, at the same time there were also many people who believed his way is wrong, and accused him of bringing Israel to oblivion. The incitement against him included a comparison of Rabin to the Nazis and arranged photos of him wearing an Arabic Kaffyiah. Yigal Amir was one of those who found Rabin's ways wrong, and his solution for the disagreements he had with the Prime Minister was putting an end to his life. Everybody wept that day. People were devastated. I was only five years old, but I still have in my mind the image of my mother watching television and suddenly starting to cry. Yigal Amir was imprisoned for life, and it seemed like the slight chance for peace was buried with Rabin's body. But while some people disagreed with this statement, we all knew one thing for sure- on that day, Democracy had died.
Every year since, we mention the day of Rabin's murder nationwide. Ceremonies are held at schools, IDF bases, and in almost every city. Every year, people went on the stage and talked about Rabin and his legacy, and speeches were made about democracy, respect, and solidarity. However, in the past couple of years, a disturbing thought made its way to my mind, and it is refusing to let go- this day has lost its true meaning. At first, this day was named "The Memorial Day for the Murder of Izhak Rabin." But as the years passed, and children who did not know the man filled the schools, it slowly changed to "The Memorial Day for Izhak Rabin." I noticed the name change as I was going through my calendar. My eyes read the sentence, while my brain suddenly noticed the change. Ceremonies gradually dropped the discussion about the actual event, and dedicated more and more time to talking about Rabin, the person, the politician and the family man. Every year, children listen to speeches glorifying Rabin, calling him a "warrior of peace" and a "true hero." I see several problems with that: First of all, not everyone agreed with Rabin then. He might have brought us closer to peace, but many people still do not see him as a "hero" or as a glorified person and found his way to bring the peace- wrong. Those people are then left speechless when their child comes home from school telling them about Rabin.
Second, those kids do not care about the person as much as the children of the 1990's. They did not know him, and usually get bored while their teachers are going on and on about Rabin's many achievements. I've been to this year's ceremony in an Elementary school, and I can sadly but surely say- it was boring. It hadn't changed since I was in high school. Those kids would hear the same texts, same songs, and same speeches for 12 years of the educational system. I believe that this day can be put to a much better use, while shifting the attention back to something relevant to all people, young and old - the murder of a person, based on political disagreements.
This brings me to my third and final point: A Jew killed a Jew. An Israeli killed an Israeli. A person killed another person, just because he thought he was wrong. This is what the new generation, who did not know Rabin, must carry with them from this day. The political opinions in Israel are more varied than satellite channels, and are spread on a very large scale, from right to left. We would never be able to agree on that, but this is one of the things that make our little country so colorful and special. The one thing we can agree on is: Thou Shalt Not Murder. Each and every person has the right to express his opinion in public, and the only way to quiet him or her is only by speaking louder.
Not everyone agreed with Rabin, but everyone cried that day. We must remember and commemorate that day as the Memorial Day of the Murder of our Prime Minister, and not let the true message get lost on the way.
October 26, 2012 | 11:45 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This weekend, I invite you to join the music of the Israeli newcommer, Tal Ramon. Tal is a 22 years old pianist and singer. He preforms live, mainly in small clubs. He performs with his original songs, both in Hebrew and in English, and combines them with new arrangements of existing songs. With each performance, and each You Tube watch, Tal gradually gathers a crowed of followers thanks to his truly remarkable talent.
Since he is yet to release an album, you can enjoy his soft voice and addictive sound with some of his live performances:
Inside Your Mind:
A Place of Your Own:
Trumpet: Noam Bar
Photo taken by Daniel vogman
Video: Adir Haruvi
October 24, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Gilad Shalit is one of the most sensitive topics in the Israeli discussion. It is the one thing we all agree on, but also one of the many things we have a disagreement on. The only problem is, it is very hard to disagree on such a delicate issue.
The moment he was taken, there wasn't a single soul who didn't want him back home. Everyone agreed that a person who serves his country and is taken away should be brought back home. This is just how things work in Israel- you commit to the country when joining the IDF, and the country commits to you. The split in the opinions of the public began when the matter of the "price" was brought to the discussion table. All of a sudden, the conversation shifted from "Gilad should be brought back home" to "Gilad should be brought back home, but at what cost?" Everyone wanted him back home, but some thought there is a limit to how many prisoners with blood on their hands should be released to continue their "job" in return of one Israeli soldier. Amongst those people were families of Israelis who were murdered by those prisoners. This disagreement became harder and harder as the massive campaign for Gilad's release did not let us forget he is not "one soldier," but a person with a name, "the son of us all." Soon, it was almost impossible to disagree with a release at any cost. I, for instance, felt very uncomfortable saying, or even thinking, there is a price for him that could be too high. When I recruited, the disagreement was even harder. People felt bad thinking negative thoughts regarding his release, and those who weren't afraid to speak suffered from rough criticism by the public.
When he made his first step on Israeli soil, everything changed. The disagreement was no longer heard, and everyone came to an agreement once again: it is good to have our son back home. Everyone shed a tear that day, and since then, Gilad Shalit was untouchable. Not a single bad word, no criticism, just massive support and one big hug. The newspapers captured his every move, and followed his process of returning to a regular life. Soon, he became a celebrity. He shook hands, took pictures with "fans", and was invited to be an honorary guest in many events. Later on, he even started writing sports interpretations for one of the national papers. In one of his columns, he wrote a few sentences of his captivity, describing how sports helped him get by. But with all the joy of his homecoming, a new discussion took place: when would he talk about his captivity? Once again, the public opinion was split. Some thought we must give him space and let him do it on his own time, and some thought that if he feels comfortable enough appearing at public events and writing columns, he should take a moment and give a full interview. Once again, there was a general agreement on the "what": he is the son of us all, the public had a major part in his release, and we want to hear what he was going through while we banged on Netanyau's table. The part on which we disagreed was the timing of that interview.
When channel 10 announced there would be an interview, all eyes were on the television screen. We were all eager to hear what he has to say on what he had been through. We wanted to know everything on those five years: what was he doing, how did they treat him? What went thought his mind? Everything. I'm sure you've read the translated interview by now, so you know that as touching as it was, something was missing…It felt like the sensitivity revolving around the "Gilad Shalit" topic kicked in, and the interviewer abstained from asking many expected, yet rough questions. We wanted to know if he was tortured, if he remained at the same place or was on the move from one hiding place to another. Some of us also expected to know what he thinks of the "cost" of his release- 1027 terrorists. Once again, we were stuck, because Gilad is someone we all want to be safe, and "rough" questions might have been placing him in an uncomfortable place. However, we all were eager to hear him speak for so long, and were disappointed with the lack of complicated questions. This time, the sensitivity went a little numb. Many television critics sharpened their pencils and Facebook users roamed their keyboards. "The interview was more of a "touchy" drama than a high quality documentary," many said. But once again, the opposite voice rose: "who cares as long as he's home and well." At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but when I translated the interview, and read every word twice, I could see what the critics were saying. The interview didn't really reveal anything new, and said what we wanted to hear. It just presented us with Gilad, a year later, telling us everything and at the same time, saying nothing.
It wasn't until I read your comments and saw your Facebook "shares" of the interview where I realized what really matters. A year later, Gilad is healthy, not as skinny, smiling, making jokes, and happy. This interview was not meant to reveal any secrets or knowing the truth about his own personal nightmare. This interview was really meant to present us with Gilad Shalit, the one for whom we all united in the effort of bringing home. At this point, I realized what I was so eager to know about him was not whether or not he believes 1027 terrorists are too much, or whether or not he celebrated any holidays. What I really wanted to know, and I'm sure everyone (including the critics) will agree with me- is if the soldier who has been through the worst has recovered from his wounds, physical and mental. I wanted to know if the son of us all can smile and mean it.
Maybe some day he will be able to tell us everything. I sure hope so. Until then, we will continue to complain and support at the same time, because that's how we, Israelis, roll. There is not a single Israeli who has no sympathy for Gilad. Even the toughest person shed a tear while watching him speak last Wednesday. But here, where we all feel so close to one another, and where everyone worked together in an effort to bring Gilad back home, we wanted to know more, and were disappointed when we didn't. Sometimes it takes a person from the outside to help those inside get perspective. I thank you for doing this for me. You didn't feel like something was missing, you were just happy that he spoke. Now, so am I.
October 22, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Israeli President, Shimon Peres, welcomed the new Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors in Israel earlier this week. The Egyptian ambassador, Atef Salem, is the first ambassador sent by the new Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi. At his welcoming meeting with Peres, Salem announced he bears with him a message of peace, and shares great respect for Israel. The Jordanian ambassador, Walid Obeidat, was sent by Jordan after over two years of no Jordanian representation in Israel. President Peres welcomed the new ambassadors to Israel and expressed his hope for peace in the Middle East.
* The end to the not-so-great Israeli service-awareness reputation? The prestigious Vatel International Business School of Hospitality Management opened an Israeli branch last weekend. The school, originated in France, opened its Israeli branch in Tel-Aviv, and has already started operating a couple of classes. Studies in Vatel take three years, and include theoretical studies as well as training at hotels in Israel. In the course of studying, the students will learn how to perform all hotel jobs: from waitressing through reception to management roles. The alumni are expected to rank high in management jobs in Israeli hotels. The Vatel school is known for the tools it provides to a better service awareness, hospitality and management in hotels worldwide.
* Not only Israelis. New research reveals Americans also fell in love with Tel-Aviv, the non-formal Israeli capital, and one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world. BAV Consulting recently published its quarterly survey, presenting what people feel about various brands. According to the survey, filled out by 13,000 Americans, the brand Tel-Aviv is more attractive then Audi, or Prada, and as attractive as Twitter, Apple and You Tube. The company also checked the statuses of different countries in the public eye, and Israel was ranked 6th of 33 countries participating in the survey. Always good news.
* A first of its kind atlas of the human brain, created by a team of researchers worldwide, was unveiled last week. This atlas, detailing and mapping the microstructure of the living brain, is considered a large contribution to future research of the brain. The researchers who are behind this grand project come from 12 universities worldwide and were led by Prof. Yanic Assaf, chair of the neurobiology department at Tel Aviv University's Sagol School of Neurobiology. Within the framework of the research, the team assembled a comprehensive collection of maps characterizing the components of the living brain. Before the completion of this project (named: CONNECT), brain maps were graphed by dissecting the organ of a cadaver and subjecting it to microscopic analysis. Using an MRI to track the flow of water in the brain, a bio-physical model was constructed. The objective was to examine the movement of water molecules, as presented in 3-D images, to have a better understanding of the structure of the brain.
* If you happened to watch Homeland's season opening a couple of weeks ago, you couldn't miss Carrie and Saul walking down the streets of Beirut, Lebanon. But this "Beirut" is not what you think it is. Yes, my friends, the new star of the Emmy award winning series is no other than beautiful Yafo. The news about Homeland filming in Israel is kind of old, and the fans of the show probably already know of this little "secret". But if you take a closer look, you could see some hints revealing the true nature of city. In a few shots, Israeli traffic signs appear in the background. Hebrew letters also appear on stores and on walls, which is something I doubt you'll see in the real Beirut...It wasn't he appearing of Hebrew letters, however, that caused a commotion around the season opening. What really bothered officials in Lebanon was the presentation of Beirut as a city roaming with terrorists. Lebanon's minister of tourism, Fady Abboud, announced he is considering taking legal action and sue the Emmy award winning series.
October 20, 2012 | 11:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
The award winning 2008 film, Hakol Mathil BaYam (It all Begins at Sea), tells the story of the Goldsteins, an Israeli Family coping with various life experiences friendship, love, sex and death. These experiences all involve a longing for expanding their family, along with the realization that they are destined to remain a threesome: Father, Mother and Son.
Their bitter-sweet story is told in three parts: The first episode takes place at the seaside. The second unfolds in the Ashkelon National Park, among the ancient statues, trees, and tall stone fortifications. The third takes us into the Goldsteins new home, where they moved to prepare for the birth of their baby girl, the new upcoming addition to the family. While getting to know this special family, the viewer encounters some unique characters that surround them and take various parts in their lives. Another character in this movie is fate, which plays tricks with the Goldsteins, making them unsure of whether they are blessed or cursed.
This dramatic comedy is not of a distinct Israeli nature. It could have taken place anywhere else in the world. But still, there is something very Israeli about those characters, and about the scenery that surrounds them. I admit: I first watched it because my brother plays a part there, but later on I watched it three more times. This movie touched me in many ways, and not because it is Israeli, but because it's real.