In another lifetime, Jamie Geller worked as a producer for HBO, on shows like
The Sopranos, The Wire and Entourage. Today – after a journey that saw her
through becoming religiously observant, marriage and kids, and just last year,
aliya – Geller has turned her talents toward showcasing Israel’s diversity and
charm in her new web series, The Joy of Israel.
“This show is not about
showing people Masada and the Kotel,” said Geller, “it’s about showing the
beauty of Israel, the nooks and crannies, the individual stories - it’s such an
incredibly beautiful patchwork of society.”
In the first episode – the
videos are posted at the beginning of the month – Geller brings her family up
North to sled down Mount Meron, visit with Israeli cowboys (complete with
horseback ride) and cook a traditional poike (“pot food”) over a bonfire with
them. The second episode shows the Gellers visiting the Bar Kochba caves just
outside Beit Shemesh, cooking traditional Kurdish cuisine at the Srigim moshav
and celebrating their first Lag Ba’omer in Israel.
dedicated to bringing the beauty of Israel to the world,” Geller told The
Jerusalem Post at a Jerusalem cafe last month. “We know what the perception of
Israel is in the media – it’s wars, it’s politics – and I just want to show a
totally different side.”
Geller has partnered with Nefesh B’Nefesh and
12Tribe Films to produce the shows, and she’s aiming to do 10 episodes in the
first season. She is already planning upcoming shows focusing on Ethiopian
cuisine, the Indian Jewish community in Israel, exploring biblical culinary
experiences at Neot Kedumim and preparing traditional Beduin dishes. The first
episode has close to 25,000 views on YouTube.
THE COOKBOOK author,
magazine editor and mom-of-five has plenty on her plate.
cookbook, Joy of Kosher, is set to come out at the end of this year. Her
magazine, The Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller is still growing, and her website,
com, boasts 300,000 hits a month, where Geller continues to
post recipes, blog posts and cooking videos on a regular basis.
around the clock because I work with people in both Israel and the States, so
there’s never an off-time,” she said. “I started now recently not bringing my
phone down when I’m with the kids, dinner, homework, bathtime etc., because
otherwise I cannot disconnect.”
The Joy of Israel show launched about six
months after the end of Geller’s last video web series, The Joy of Aliyah. That
series showcased the journey she and her family took on their way to Israel from
Monsey, New York last summer – from packing up her house to saying goodbye to
friends and family, boarding the flight, arriving in Israel, adjusting her kids
at school and adapting to her new home.
“It was so successful, I got
hundreds of comments of people bawling their eyes out and stopping me in the
street,” she said. “I get stopped everywhere I go here, in the zoo in the shuk
everywhere, people are talking about what a difference it has made about how
much they want to make aliya now, or they just made aliya and the hizuk
(“strength”) it has given them.”
She has just signed a deal with Channel
97, Hidabroot, to add Hebrew captions to all of her shows – including The Joy of
Israel, The Joy of Aliyah and all of her cooking shows – and air them on the
channel for Israeli audiences. They also currently appear in the US on JLTV, the
Jewish Life television channel.
Geller says the idea for The Joy of
Israel came before she made The Joy of Aliyah series, and even before she
announced to the world that she was moving to Israel.
“At the time there
was a very popular show, The Kimchi Chronicles,” Geller recounts, “It was a
Korean food and travel show, and it was so colorful and so vibrant – a
combination of city life and traditional Korean garb and history and then the
food! And I thought, oh my gosh, this is Israel, we could do this for
Interspersed with Geller’s trips around the country in The Joy
of Israel are her continued attempts to adjust as a new olah.
has said aliya doesn’t end when you land, that’s just the beginning,” said
Geller. Many immigrants can relate when she uses an iPhone app to help translate
her daughter’s homework (and to write her shopping list and serve as a
flashlight inside a cave), searches in the supermarket for graham crackers to
make s’mores (they don’t exist here) and struggles to understand the new Hebrew
words her kids are picking up in school.
Though Geller is now settled
into her home and kitchen, she’s still getting used to working in a smaller
space, and without some ingredients that were regulars in her repertoire. There
are a few things she likes to back from her many work-related trips to the US,
she says – like duck sauce, toasted sesame oil and plum vinegar.
third episode of Joy of Israel, which will be posted online in early July, will
showcase Tel Aviv, as Geller takes a boat tour of the harbor and learns how to
make shakshuka (something she’s never even tasted) from the famed Dr.
“People are so more than willing to share their food, their
stories, their places, it’s been so wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had such a
wonderful reception on both ends, both from people sharing and those watching.”