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.
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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.
July 6, 2012 | 7:40 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Shotei Ha’nevua (“The Fools of Prophecy”) was an Israeli band, who broke up in 2007, but their music still have a major part in Israel’s music scene. Their music is a fusion of Dub-Raggae with Hip-Hop and Dance music, with an addition of a Mediterranean flavor.
Shotei Ha’nevua even had a short international career when they toured the U.S in 2005. After their separation, their lead singer, Avraham Tal, went on a solo career and nowadays performs with the band’s songs as well as with original songs of his own.
What makes them one of my favorite bands is the fact I can enjoy their music when I am looking for relaxation and also when I want to party and have a good time, thanks to their variety of songs. Here are two of my favorite songs of Shotei Ha’nevua:
Kol Galgal (“The voice of a wheel”)
July 4, 2012 | 1:12 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Last year, the world entered a new phase of protests calling for social justice. It probably existed earlier, that longing for equality in the society, but last summer, the entire world felt it simultaneously. Israel, of course, took a meaningful part in the summer of protests. I am all in favor of the freedom of speech. This is one of the most significant human rights and is an essential component of Democracy. But the thing about freedom of speech is that it should be done right, and by “right” I mean with putting our minds into it. Lately, it seems like people in Israel protest just to protest. Like this is some sort of a fashion trend- everybody do it! Equal rights for the Gay community, recruitment for Haredi, lower real estate prices- they are all very important issues we currently have in Israel, but there is a point when fighting for justice turns to fighting just for a fight. When a country reaches this point- everything worth fighting for loses its value.
Last year’s protest was the biggest Israel’s ever seen. The streets were filled with tents, as people of the middle class gathered to demand social justice. This protest swirled everybody’s heads and got us all carried away. It took a governmental committee that accomplish nothing to realize this protest was unfocused and demanded too big of a change. Ever since, it seemed like the idea of protest really turned on people here. Soon, every subject concerning anyone was accompanied by a protest: subjects such as the prices of chocolate bars. Every struggle seemed to have a need for a protest for decoration. The outcome, I’m afraid, was a really bad Sukkah- too much decoration and no space to breathe.
Now it is summer again, and my Facebook wall is starting to fill with invitations for protests. People are calling me to place a tent in the streets of Tel Aviv and shout important phrases, such as “the people demand social justice.” “Going out to the streets” became a common phrase that no one knows what it means. Is there a concrete plan with an outcome the protests arrangers wish to accomplish? Because let’s face it- social justice is something we all wish to get, but none of us really knows how to get it. This takes deep thought and right usage of freedom of speech.
A couple of weeks ago I found out I was not alone with my thoughts. Protest leaders worldwide landed in Israel for a special convention, where they dealt with issues regarding social protests, and discussed the right way to throw a protest. Stav Shaffir, one of the notable figures during the protests last summer, took part in that convention, along with protest leaders from Russia, Greece, Spain and many more. Some made a difference, some are still waiting, and some saw in the Israeli protest a great inspiration. On one thing they all agreed: the outcomes of a true revolution take time. A meaningful change can be accomplished only by hard, consistent work, guided by a clear agenda. The issues which lead to all those protests were major, profound issues (at least most of them). And this kind of change is important for every democracy. Last week, some protestors started to use violence, as well as some policemen. A protestor was quoted saying: “We learned that setting tents accomplished nothing, so the police better watch out this summer.” Is this how we want to use our freedom of speech? Is violence really the way to make a difference? Some may believe it is, but not me.
This is exactly why we shouldn’t let the true solutions be replaced by a fog of signs and shouts. The struggle for social justice cannot be reached by simply stepping outside. It is an important part of the making of a change, but fighting with the government until one side starts to bleed will get us nowhere. I really hope this summer will be the true “worldwide spring.” I hope lessons from previous mistakes, along with the conclusions from the convention, will show our fierce protest leaders, as well as our governments, the right way. Governments worldwide should try and listen to the voice of the people instead of ignoring their voters, but the people should be willing to sit and talk, instead of shouting. History has proven to us all that great minds think alike, and that leaders work best together. This is our chance. Our time is now.
July 1, 2012 | 11:57 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
• A German court has ruled that circumcising male infants for religious reasons is a crime. A long debate regarding the subject has ended when a regional court in Cologne said last week that circumcision, which is common both in Judaism and in Islam, inflicts serious bodily harm on those who had not consented to it. “A child’s body is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision,” German media quoted the ruling as saying. “This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later about his own religious affiliation.”
• Anti-Semitism refuses to rest in Europe. After the killing in France, and the violence in Ukraine, Austrian authorities are investigating the desecration of 43 Jewish graves at Vienna’s main cemetery. A police statement on Friday said that tomb stones and slabs were found vandalized and damaged. The police are still investigating.
• Thousands of immigrant students may face cuts in scholarships given to them by Israel’s Student Authority. Due to financial difficulty and many cutbacks faced by the Treasury as well as the Jewish Agency, the Absorption Ministry stated that there is no choice, but to freeze Olim students’ funding of preparatory courses, Hebrew Ulpan and all academic studies. The freeze will take effect starting in July. Later this week, students from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem plan to protest outside of the Knesset building in Jerusalem.
• Now it’s official! After cancelling their concert in Israel at the last minute ten years ago, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are ready to make amends. On September 10th they will land in Israel and rock Tel Aviv for the first time. In their recent official announcement, the band members couldn’t hold their excitement from their upcoming show. They invited their Israeli fans of all ages to come to the concert. They also mentioned their first guitarist, Hilel Slovack, who was an Israeli.