(photo credit: Oren Golan)
When two sabras settle a dispute in court, things often get prickly – but the
Tel Aviv District Court is facing a thornier case than usual as children’s TV
star “Kishkashta,” the singing cactus, embarks on a legal battle with Shpitzik,
the Israel Olympic Committee’s prickly pear mascot.
Television (IET), which owns the rights to Kishkashta, has filed an urgent
request with the Tel Aviv District Court asking that the IOC be prevented from
using Shpitzik. The court is expected to rule on the matter within the next two
At the heart of the spiny issue is whether Shpitzik, the 2-meter
high cactus mascot of the IOC, looks too much like his spiny, thick-skinned
35-year-old felt puppet relative, Kishkashta, the star of IET’s children’s
broadcasts on Channel 23.
Both Kishkashta and Shpitzik are “tzabar,” a
prickly pear cacti, a genus noted for its tenacity, resilience and tendency to
grow back if cut down, and thus the origin of the nickname “sabra,” meaning a
Jew born in Israel.
Kishkashta made his first TV appearances in the
1970s, as part of the children’s show Ma Pit’om!
(“What on Earth!”), and became
known for his deep, somewhat lugubrious voice and signature song “They call me
In December, the IOC chose Shpitzik, a jaunty cactus clad in
Israel’s official Olympic strip, as the mascot that will accompany the Israeli
delegation to the London 2012 Olympic Games later this year. IET said it felt
Shpitzik bore too close a resemblance to Kishkashta, and held a series of
meetings with the IOC to offer the use of the Kishkashta image.
IOC refused, Educational Television filed a request to the court, the TV company
“Kishkashta is the intellectual property of Educational Television,
and as such enjoys copyright and trademark protection,” the request
IOC spokesman Bruria Bigman said in response that the committee
regretted the lawsuit.
“We regret that Educational Television has decided
to declare a dispute against Shpitzik, the chosen, original and popular mascot
of the Olympic delegation,” Bigman said. “We are acting according to legal
advice, and while this issue is being discussed in court we will not to express
our opinion in the media.”