Cooking up a coalition
Does Israel’s reality TV have any connection to our political reality?
This season's 'Master Chef judges. Photo: Courtesy
An Arab, an Orthodox Jew and a German walk into a kitchen. No, it’s not the
beginning of some old joke; that’s how Tuesday night’s grand finale of Israel’s
version of Master Chef began.
The third season of Master Chef, the
Israeli version of the UK-based cooking reality show, broke ratings records on
Tuesday evening, drawing in the highest ratings for a single TV episode in
Israeli history. At its peak, some 52.3 percent of Israel’s Jewish households
(1.5 million viewers) were tuned in to the show, in which Tom Franz, a 34-
year-old attorney from Germany who converted to Judaism and now lives in Tel
Aviv, beat fellow competitors Salma Fiyumi, a 27-year-old Arab nurse and
Alzheimer’s researcher from Kafr Kassem, and Jackie Azoulay, a 29- year-old
Orthodox housewife from Elad.
Sure, it might be the cooking that drew in
all those viewers, but I doubt it. Unlike other “reality” shows like Kochav
Nolad (“A Star is Born,” Israel’s version of American Idol) or Big Brother,
where TV viewers watch and then vote for the contestants they want to keep in
the contest, on a cooking show like Master Chef it’s left up to the four judges
to taste and rate the food. The TV audience has no say.
I believe it’s
the three finalists themselves that caused the ratings to soar for the grand
There was Salma, a petit and devout Muslim who wore a tightly
wrapped hijab. She refused her family’s marriage match because she wanted to
study. She has a master’s degree in public health and works in brain
There was Jackie, the outspoken, wig-wearing young mother from
the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) town of Elad, who blow-torched all the pans before
she started cooking to make sure they were kosher. She grew up in a family of 11
And finally, the winner, Tom, a tall, curly-haired
perfectionist, who first encountered Jewish Israelis in a school exchange in his
small German town, fell in love with the religion and the country, and converted
to Judaism. Tom is observant, but doesn’t wear a kippa.
Orthodox Jews, and new immigrants/converts were all represented. With such a
cross-section of the Israel’s population represented, no wonder the ratings were
through the roof.
AND ALL this comes on the heels of our recent national
election in Israel. One wonders if Tom, Salma and Jackie started a political
party, how many votes they would get.
Israel’s Arabs, haredim and new
immigrants joining together for certain causes is not unheard-of – but not so
much in the political arena.
But, as Bob Dylan put it, “the times, they
The Likud joined forces with the predominately Russian
immigrant party Yisrael Beytenu. Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party seems to have a
little bit of everything (men, women, young, old, religious, secular, etc.).
Even Bayit Yehudi got into the act by adding Ayelet Shaked, a young secular
woman, to their traditionally exclusively nationalreligious list.
only ones who do not seem to have joined the “diversity” party are the haredi
and Arab parties. Perhaps it is understandable. The only thing that sets them
apart is that they don’t mix it up when they come to their lists.
diversity makes their lives easier.
Maybe those parties need to wake up
and take notice.
Things are heating up on the political scene and if you
want to survive, you need to adapt, you need to change.
If you want to
get the highest ratings (i.e. votes), you need to shake things up.
any of the three diverse finalists on Master Chef could tell you, “If you can’t
take the heat, get out of the kitchen”!
The writer has an MA in Creative Writing
from Bar-Ilan University.