London wasn’t waiting for Alberstein, Israelis were — to savage her new ad

The general consensus was that a great example of classic Israeli culture had been irretrievably sullied.

July 19, 2019 07:32
2 minute read.
Chava Alberstein

Chava Alberstein. (photo credit: FLICKR / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Has national treasure Chava Alberstein cheapened herself by appearing in an ad for the YES cable network where she sings a version of her big hit, “London,” promoting a new service?

That’s the question that’s been preoccupying many Israelis this week, even more so than seismic political shifts and assorted scandals.

In the commercial, Alberstein affectionately revisits “London,” a 1989 classic, featuring bitter lyrics by the late playwright and poet Hanoch Levin about a lonely Israeli woman moving to London, where at least “television will be television” even if her fate is “to die like a dog.”

Walking through iconic London scenes in the ad, she announces she is leaving London to return to Israel, because now with the Yes Triple Service Deal, there really will be good TV at home. Back in Israel, she dances with Stephane Legar, playing a young Yes employee, and climbs on top of a Game of Thrones-style dragon, riding off into the sky and singing the chorus.

The ad premiered this week to cries of outrage. Many were disappointed that Alberstein would lampoon a song they consider a great achievement – for money! – and tarnish her reputation as a singer, left-leaning political voice and icon.

“She is an artist,” wrote Rogel Alper in Haaretz, noting that she had seemed in the past to be above the pop culture fray where aging stars play grandmas on sitcoms or act as judges on talent shows. Nisan Shor, also writing for Haaretz, said, “For the NIS 580,000 Alberstein received for the commercial, the ambivalent, cynical and sophisticated message of the text becomes another display of Zionist-nationalist power.”

The general consensus was that a great example of classic Israeli culture had been irretrievably sullied.

But Alberstein had defenders as well as detractors. Leading journalist and filmmaker Gal Uchovsky, writing in his column on Mako, established his credentials as a lifelong Alberstein super-fan and insisted he did not find anything wrong with the ad. On the contrary, he felt it was “charming, refreshing, surprising and does a great service to Alberstein as an artist.”

He enjoyed the irreverence for what it is, writing, “It’s fun to see her smiling, enjoying herself, enjoying the dozens of dancers surrounding her. For years I have not seen her so glamorous.” He said he hoped that teenagers would see the ad and discover her music.

Most importantly, he wasn’t shocked or disgusted by the idea of her making money and poking fun at one of best-loved songs. “Alberstein does not cheapen the song. She plays with it, a bit like a wedding video,” he explained.

“It is important to occasionally betray your audience,” he recalled she once told him in an interview.

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