Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Reality Show that Really Showed Compassion

Israelis have been glued to their television sets for years watching the rising fortunes and shattered dreams of individuals displaying their talents as they sought recognition as the country’s next singing stars and dancers. We laughed and we cried along with the contestants on dating shows, were thrilled with each of their big brother antics, and urged them along as they plotted their survivor tactics. We fantasized about our own fifteen minutes of fame and glory even as the reality shows became less and less real. None of it mattered, because this was the new wave of television.

Even so, none of these talent searches attracted me. In fact, I quickly switched channels instead of seeing the trumped up, false drama of the auditions and the nasty aspects of the selection processes. It didn’t matter to me that famous celebrities were serving either as the contestants, or as the judges. Reality shows, I thought, were fake representations of society. They just weren’t real.

All of that changed with Master Chef.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Will Nudity Save the Dead Sea?

In a covert pre-dawn operation that was nearly as well-organized as a military strike, 1,200 Israelis stripped off their clothes on the shores of the Dead Sea. American photographer Spencer Tunick aimed the lens of his camera at them and another of his artistic mass nudity installations was created.

"I hope to raise awareness about the place and help it to become recognized as one of the seven new wonders of the world," Tunick said, referring to his decision to stage the installation at the Dead Sea.

The photo shoot almost didn’t take place, as Israeli right-wing and religious politicians deemed it “artistic beastliness” and one Knesset member called it "Sodom and Gomorrah", referring to the depravities of the Biblical cities that were once situated in the area.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

When We Danced On Water, a Review

I was quite shocked when I read the title the Jerusalem Post gave to its review of Evan Fallenberg’s second novel, When We Danced on Water. “A Tale of One City and Two Residents” was the headline, and while the review referred correctly to a novel with two main characters, the one city it talked about was Tel Aviv. Not once was Berlin mentioned, which I found strange, as much of the narrative dealt with the characters’ suppressed pasts in that city.

The story starts in Tel Aviv with a chance meeting between Teo, the former founder and choreographer of the Tel Aviv Ballet now in the twilight of his life, and Vivi, a middle-aged waitress unable to fulfill her potential as an artist. The two develop an unlikely friendship that manages to span the differences in their ages, enabling them to open up and reveal how each of them was damaged in the past.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cold Turkey

When Jodie and I walked through the bazaars of Istanbul in March 2010, we were greeted warmly. Although we spoke to each other in English and even though we had flown to the city from Bulgaria, the merchants recognized us as visiting Israelis and called out to us in Hebrew, encouraging us to visit their shops. Wherever we went on our visit to the Muslim country, we felt truly welcome.

We returned to our jobs in Bulgaria and two months later heard the news that Israeli naval commandos had boarded the ships of the so-called Gaza Freedom Flotilla. During the struggle on the Mavi Marmara ship, nine Turkish activists were killed. Despite the footage that showed the ‘peaceful’ activists brutally attacking the Israeli soldiers, resulting in ten of them being wounded, one of them seriously, the international community unanimously condemned Israel’s use of force.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Israel’s Taliban Grows in Strength

Men and women must walk on separate sidewalks and sit segregated on public busses.  Stores are forbidden to sell lingerie or any red clothing item, considered to be the color of passion. A shoe store is forbidden from displaying high heeled shoes in its windows. A medical clinic is forced to remove the word ‘women’ from its sign. A pizzeria is required to have separate hours for men and women customers. Stones are thrown at women joggers and bags of soiled diapers target storeowners refusing to give in to the demands of a modesty “police” force.

These stories are not coming from the harsh regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but rather from a small city not far from Jerusalem. Beit Shemesh, once a quiet town attracting little attention, has become the front line of the battle for Israel’s Jewish identity, and in this town, the side of reason is losing.