Not for the first time was Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev subjected to boos, whistles and catcalls this week when she attended the premiere of Evita at Habimah Theater in Tel Aviv. However, to balance the situation, there was also applause.
The boos were in response to Regev’s proposed amendment to the law whereby the state will not fund any cultural body that engages in subversive activity or burns the flag.
She repeated this on the stage of Habimah, saying that just as there is freedom of expression, there is freedom of funding.
Some people who are on the Left of the cultural divide are concerned that this may be the beginning of a witch-hunt such as that initiated in America by senator Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who spent much of his career pursuing and persecuting radical groups and individuals he believed to be subversives. He and McCarthy were particularly wary of Communist infiltration, and in this respect cracked down on Hollywood, as a result of which many actors, directors and screenwriters lost their jobs. Some of the screenwriters were able to continue working under assumed names which appeared in the lists of credits instead of their legal names.
Something similar is starting to happen now in Israel, with Im Tirtzu, a politically right-leaning organization that promotes its own brand of Zionism and is conducting a “Moles in Culture” campaign against cultural icons such as actresses Rivka Michaeli and Gila Almagor, who is a member of the B’Tselem council, playwright Yehoshua Sobol, who is a member of the Yesh Din council, best-selling authors Amos Oz and David Grossman, singers Hava Alberstein, Rona Kenan and Ahinoam Nini, photographer Alex Levac, sculptor Dani Karavan and many others who are affiliates or supporters of the above organizations or of the New Israel Fund, Breaking the Silence, J Street, etc.
At a time when social media has become such a powerful tool for incitement as well as public shaming and humiliation, one can only guess, in the light of Regev’s amendment, where all this will lead. Meanwhile, Israel Radio’s Aryeh Golan has come up with an interesting wordplay. The Hebrew for minister is sar. The feminine is sara. The possessive feminine is sarat. A word that is spelled differently but sounds almost the same is se’ara, which is the Hebrew for storm, which Golan inferred personifies Regev, who even before her appointment as a minister created many a storm in the Knesset.
VIEWERS CAN expect to see a lot of spoofing of Regev in the hilarious satirical show Eretz Nehederet, which opened its bar mitzva year season on Channel 2 on Thursday night. Regev has been comically impersonated on Eretz Nehederet in the past because she’s such a natural target. There are some people who suspect that Regev deliberately creates commotions that keep her in the public eye on the premise that it’s better to be a constant butt of criticism than not to be noticed at all.
Eretz Nehederet, which mercilessly pokes fun at Israel’s politicians, is one of the longest-running programs of its kind on television in Israel. Its parodies have become legend, and it doesn’t restrict itself to politicians alone, although the legislators and their foibles come in for the most attention. It also makes fun of past and present entertainers. The show has turned little-known actors and comedians into star performers and household names. Among the best known is Tal Friedman, who was a member of the original cast and who has parodied Ariel Sharon, Vladimir Putin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, among others. Friedman also parodies women; and nearly all his roles, regardless of the show in which he is working, are frenetic.
RACISM IS alive and well in Israel, and its targets include I24 presenter, anchor and interviewer Lucy Aharish, who is a living bridge between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities, even more so in some respects than Mira Awad or Zuheir Bahloul or several other well-integrated Arabs who have their feet planted in both worlds.
Aharish is the first Arab to regularly present news in Hebrew on an Israeli television station. Born in Dimona, she was the only Arab student at her school, and is quite familiar with Jewish tradition. She speaks Hebrew without any trace of an Arabic accent. In her younger days her politics derived from her environment, and she identified with the Right. Nowadays she identifies with the Left.
Because social media is almost but not quite without censorship, Aharish, who happens to be a popular figure with the Israeli media in general and is often invited to participate in prestigious conferences, is simultaneously the target of racist barbs on Facebook. Some of the slurs are outrageous and so rude and harsh in their wording that it’s amazing that Aharish has not suffered a nervous breakdown. But she was clever. She collected some of the worst in a box which she published on her Facebook page together with the names and faces of the senders and her own opinion of them. Her ability to stand up to them attracted a large number of admiring talkbacks. Perhaps someone should co-opt her on to a national PR committee.
ALTHOUGH IN the eye of the storm at the beginning of the week when Nini posted her resignation from EMI, the Israel Artists Association, on her Facebook page, because EMI was giving a life achievement award to singer, composer, songwriter and musician Ariel Zilber, who is known for his extreme, right-wing views, it was business as usual for Zilber during the rest of the week as he rehearsed with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra for his concert this past Thursday night at the Jerusalem Theater.
Despite his politics and the common mistaken belief that the whole entertainment industry is left-wing, Zilber has a number of concerts lined up for February, including Zapa Tel Aviv, Zapa Herzliya and Zapa Jerusalem.
IT’S DOUBTFUL that the Tosca Bar in Tel Aviv’s Ibn Gvirol Street ever served as much beer on one night as it did on Tuesday, January 26, when Australians from many parts of Israel, ignoring inclement weather conditions, converged to celebrate Australia Day.
Canberra has not yet given the green light to Australian ambassadors abroad to host Australia Day celebrations unless they happen to coincide with visits by the prime minister or the foreign minister, as has happened in the past in Israel.
Nonetheless, if any Aussie expatriate organizes an Australia Day event, the ambassador shows up, as happened this year, with a hastily organized get-together planned by graphic artist Ben de Jonge.
Ambassador Dave Sharma, who was one of the early arrivals, was much sought after for photographs and conversations, and seemed to be quite clued up on the activities of the various Australians with whom he was talking. He had a particularly serious discussion with Manny Waks, whose revelations of sexual abuse in Jewish religious educational facilities in Australia led to a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse, in which the main focus was on Jewish institutions but included others as well.
The resultant scandal and the shame in the Jewish community led to Waks and his parents being ostracized, but the shunning doesn’t apply to all of his 16 siblings.
One of his brothers, Rabbi Schneur Waks, is a very popular modern-Orthodox community leader. Manny Waks, whose revelations led to major reforms in Melbourne’s Jewish community leadership, now lives in Israel, and his parents have also moved to Israel, but also have a home in Melbourne and commute between the two.
The courage and persistence displayed by Waks in exposing the identity of his tormentor when he was a child, and in persuading others who were at his school and also sexually abused to come forward, earned him a lot of Facebook friends, many of whom he had never met personally. But quite a number were at the Australia Day gathering at Tosca and made themselves known to him.
It’s hard to tell how many people there were altogether, because people kept coming and going all night, and there were quite a few Israelis in the crowd as well. However, there were so many people that they spilled out onto the pavement.
Because numbers are few and far between on Ibn Gvirol Street, a large Australian flag was hung outside the premises as a guideline. Inside there were Australian flags on the front and back walls.
Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human rights lawyer and freelance journalist, came in a shirt in the Australian national colors of green and gold. Some people were wearing digger hats; some had Australian flags draped over their shoulders; and some, who probably never spoke Strine in the old country, decided that Australia Day was the right time to make amends for the lacuna.
Beer, which is the Australian national drink, seemed to flow like water, with glasses and bottles on every table and in the hands of those who found standing room only. Next year’s gathering promises to be even bigger and better.
WHAT IS it about February 2 that makes it such a popular date for events? Among events that are happening then are a reception by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America honoring three of its alumni; a book launch celebrating the publication of a book about Isaac Israeli; the opening of the 11th International Ilan Ramon Space Conference; and the opening of Japanese Film Month at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque with the screening of Tony Takitani.
THE JEWISH Theological Seminary of America, which is honoring Rabbi David Geffen in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his ordination from JTS and in recognition of the contributions he has made to the State of Israel, will also honor two of his classmates, professors Lee Levine and Aaron Demsky. The three will be receiving the prestigious Louis Finkelstein Award. In addition, Dr. Beverly Gribetz, another JTS alumna, will be receiving the Solomon Schechter Award for Jewish Education in recognition of her contributions to the State of Israel.
The event was originally scheduled to be held at the Schocken Institute, which is opposite the side entrance to the Prime Minister’s Residence, but there were so many reservations that it was impossible to accommodate everyone who wanted to come.
Rather than disappoint anyone, the powers-that-be at JTS decided to relocate the event to the nearby Moreshet Yisrael synagogue. Yet another proof that God moves in mysterious ways. Security has been boosted in the two streets that intersect at the PM’s residence, and a section of one of the streets that was fenced off has had the enclosed area extended. The gates to the enclosure are often locked and barred, and there’s a sign that says that only residents can pass through. This is not always the case. Sometimes residents are also denied passage if the prime minister is coming or going, and other people, regardless of the circumstances, have to depend on the whims of security personnel. These problems do not exist at Moreshet Yisrael, though there may be some difficulty in finding a parking spot.
JTS chancellor Arnold Eisen will deliver an address on “To Build and To be Built: JTS in New York and Israel.”
Gribetz will be the respondent.
ON THE same evening another synagogue, Hatzvi Yisrael, generally known as Hovevei because it is located in Jerusalem’s Hovevei Zion Street, will be the venue for the book launch by Dr. Kenneth Collins of the book he co-edited with Prof. Samuel Kottek and Dr. Helena Paavilainen, Isaac Israeli – Philosopher Physician, which was published by the Berman Medical Library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Collins happens to be the president of Hatzvi Yisrael, so finding a venue for the launch was comparatively easy.
TEL AVIV Cinematheque patrons who go to see Tony Takitani may get to meet Japan’s ambassador designate Koji Tomita, who, though he has been in Israel for a month, has yet to present his credentials.
Tony Takitani, which was awarded the Special Jury Prize and the International Federation of Film Critics Prize at the 57th Locarno International Film Festival, is based on the novel of the same title by Haruki Murakami and was directed by Jun Ichikawa in his characteristic understated style, whose Dying at a Hospital will also be screened during Japanese Film Month.
Tony Takitani’s mother died shortly after he was born, and Tony was always alone, but never really felt lonely. Later in life he found himself working as an illustrator and fell in love with Eiko, an editor who often came to his place to pick up work. Tony and Eiko got married and lived together happily, but there was one problem: Eiko was addicted to shopping for clothes.
Presumably, many Israeli husbands can identify with that problem.
SHAMING VIA social media has become one of the scourges of the present day. It bothers psychologists, educators, lawyers and lawmakers.
What can be done to prevent it or at least reduce it will be discussed at a conference at the Habriya Events Center in Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut on Monday, February 1. Among the speakers will be Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
ON FRIDAY, February 5, Rafi Etgar, the curator and founder of Museum on the Seam, which is literally on what used to be the border between Israel and Jordan, will introduce an end of week cultural event. For NIS 50 visitors can receive a guided tour of the current exhibition Unprotected Zone and enjoy coffee and cake on the roof patio of the museum.
Etgar, a native Jerusalemite and a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, founded Museum on the Seam in 1999 as the first sociopolitical contemporary art museum in Israel. He has been its artistic director and curator since it opened.
The museum initiates and maintains exhibitions that deal with issues at the heart of public discourse and in the spirit of human rights and civic duties, and out of a profound commitment to bring moral and social change through fine contemporary art from Israel and the world. Since the very beginning, exhibitions have included works by artists whose countries do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, because art, even if it expresses a political reality, should be free of political restrictions.