'Avi Does the Holy Land:' Borat meets Broad City meets Tel Aviv

Aviva Zimmerman's satirical webseries is back for a second season.

By
May 10, 2018 15:47
3 minute read.

Season 2 Trailer: Avi wins the PR War for Israel! (Avi Does The Holy Land / YouTube)

Season 2 Trailer: Avi wins the PR War for Israel! (Avi Does The Holy Land / YouTube)

Avi and Aviva Zimmerman both have blue eyes, dark brown hair and a Canadian passport.

But while they may inhabit the same body, that's about where the similarities end between Zimmerman and the satirical character she plays in her web series "Avi Does the Holy Land."

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The series, which just returned with its second season, stars Avi - a Canadian Jew who once went on Birthright and fancies herself a stalwart defender of the Jewish State, railing against what she terms "bellyaching leftist sh*theads." 

"It's like if I'm Sacha Baron Cohen then Avi is my Borat," Zimmerman told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview. She said that Baron Cohen and the TV show Broad City, as well as comedians Sarah Silverman and Stephen Colbert have been her biggest inspirations.

The first season featured Avi's take on various different issues in Israel, such as African refugees, the gay pride parade as well as interviews with figures including US journalist Peter Beinart. Now, two years later and after a successful Indiegogo fund-raising campaign, Avi and Aviva are back with a new slate of episodes - including a day spent in the Knesset talking to everyone from Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg to Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich.

"Avi struck a chord with people, both good and bad," Zimmerman said of the reactions to the first season. "We have a whole army of fans and also hate watchers."

She said she and he co-creators, a group of mostly immigrants, created the project to poke fun but also share a message.

"I think there's a movement happening with young North American Jews who are starting to question the narratives that they grew up with," Zimmerman said. "And we created Avi to poke fun at that [narrative]... I want young Jews to talk about Israel and to discuss."

Zimmerman has lived in Israel for seven years, and works in the film industry like most of her co-collaborators on "Avi Does the Holy Land." The team, hailing from Canada, the US, the Europe, all devote time to the show as a side hobby and art project.

In a recent episode, Avi sets up shop at the Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv to pitch mall-goers her newest idea: An IDF mascot of a lion named Lilo.

"Israel, right now, is fighting a fierce PR war in the world," she tells passersby, suggesting putting Lilo in "certain specific locations, like on college campuses, when people are boycotting, when people are being negative." Or, Avi suggests, having Lilo on hand "when kids are being arrested, have, like, a lion there, so that it's, like, fun," she says. "Because how can you say that it's a bad thing, right? When there's a lion there. He could do the arresting, and so, it's like a friendlier face, right?"

When Avi attended the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade for an earlier episode, she noted that, "I thought pinkwashing was when you put a red sock in your white laundry, but apparently it's when Israel 'promotes gay rights to cover up the whole Palestinian thing.'"

Of course, Zimmerman said, both in person and online, not everyone will get the joke.

"Is that real, is that not real - if you read the comments you see people who don't know about the joke, from the left and right of the political scene," she said. "Then what's really been funny is people writing comments because they don't think it's a joke, and then other people replying to them and linking to what the definition of satire is."

That also applies to the Knesset members she interviewed for an upcoming episode - including Smotrich and Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev. The party's leader, Naftali Bennett, kicked her out of a session he was leading, said Zimmerman: "We just kind of walked in and he asked as to leave."

"Some of the Knesset members knew that it was a joke and figured it out," she added, "and some didn't and thought I just fit the bill of a very eager Canadian Jew."


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