Grapevine: It ain’t over till...

Women with curves, royal wedding and a used-to-be-dead language...

Netta Barzilai rehearses for the Eurovision competition in Lisbon, Portugal (photo credit: ANDRES PUTTING)
Netta Barzilai rehearses for the Eurovision competition in Lisbon, Portugal
(photo credit: ANDRES PUTTING)
Life is seldom easy for girls who are born with a large physique. They are often the wallflowers at school dances; they embark on endless diets that don’t seem to do much good, and may even endanger their health; and they brood about the svelte young women who are always surrounded by a bevy of male admirers.
Israeli singing sensation Netta Barzilai , who is representing Israel at Eurovision in Portugal this week, used to be in that category, until she came to the realization that if she couldn’t do much to reduce her figure, she should make the most of what she had and utilize her talent so that she could be comfortable in the philosophy of “the more there is of me, the more there is to love.” And there’s no doubt that Israel loves her.
Forecasts for her chances to do well at Eurovision are not just wishful thinking but sincere assessments by top pro- fessionals in Israel’s entertainment industry. She has also been hailed internationally as a great talent, and it’s not for nothing that she was included in the entertainment lineup for the opening of Independence Day festivities.
The only real obstacle is one that Israelis in certain quarters have been repeating for years – that Eurovision is tainted by politics. This has been strenuously denied by the European Broadcasting Union, under whose auspices Eurovision is conducted. Nonetheless, when Israeli contestants, regardless of how good they are, almost consistently fail to be among the top five in the final allocation of points, the question of political influence in the decision-making process comes up again and again.
On the other hand, since its initial Eurovision appearance in 1973, Israel has scored three victories, first with Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta in 1978,with the song “A-Ba-Ni-Bi,” followed only a year later by Gali Atari with Milk and Honey and the song “Hallelujah,” and Dana International with Diva in 1998.
After a 10-year hiatus, and given the fact that Israel is celebrating its 70th anniversary, along with the undeniable talent of Barzilai, and also perhaps because of the common threat that Iran poses to the world, it may be Israel’s turn again to receive a sufficient aggregate of high marks to be propelled into the No. 1 position.
Before flying to Portugal, Barzilai spent a pampered weekend at the Tel Aviv Hilton. In honor of her song “Toy,” Carlos Bennnaroch, the hotel’s chief concierge, quickly organized dolls and a bouquet of Barzilai’s favorite flowers on his counter and wished her the best of luck when she sings “Toy” in Lisbon.
SOME OF the invitees to the Royal Wedding Watch Party that is being hosted by British Ambassador David Quarrey and his spouse, Aldo Henriquez , will regretfully be unable to attend, because the wed- ding is a daytime affair on Saturday, May 19, which makes it a no-no for religiously observant Jews.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are exchanging vows at St. George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Harry was christened. The ceremony, for which 600 invitations have been dispatched, is set to begin at 12 noon. The guest list does not include political figures, and invitees to the after-party at Frogmore House, Windsor, will include only the close friends of the newlyweds. Prior to that, the queen, who is the bridegroom’s grandmother, will host an afternoon reception for 600 guests. The marriage ceremony will be conducted by the dean of Windsor, David Conner , and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby .
The party hosted in Israel by the British ambassador is also on the cusp of Shavuot, and guests have been asked to wear white in respect to both the wedding and the festival, and there are indications that the fare will include a swirling white meringue cake.
HEBREW IS no longer an esoteric language, and there are increasing numbers of people outside of Israel – both Jews and non-Jews – who are quite fluent in the language, even to the extent of reading Hebrew literature.
It’s not certain whether American book artist and poet Rick Black read Yehuda Amichai, Israel’s poet laureate, as he was known in his lifetime, in the original or in translation, but whichever it was, it influenced him sufficiently to dedicate 10 years of his life to paying homage to the man he describes as “one of the greatest Hebrew-language poets.” The upshot – The Amichai Windows – is a work of love and dedication, a bilingual artist book of Amichai’s poems that Black says “sheds light on love, war, and being Jewish today in Israel and abroad.”
Recently, the Yale University Library and the Library of Congress bought the first two of 18 copies of this limited edition. Amichai, the most widely known Hebrew-language poet since King David, was nominated for the Nobel Prize and won numerous awards in Israel and abroad for his poems.
“The Amichai Windows is a towering achievement in American arts and letters,” wrote Yermiyahu Ahron Taub in a review for the newsletter of the Association of Jewish Libraries, whose membership comprises Judaic collection librarians around the world. Black is currently in Israel and, on Sunday evening, May 6, will present a program highlighting The Amichai Windows at Jerusalem’s famed café and bookstore Tmol Shilshom. The presentation will be made in conjunction with Prof. Ariel Hirschfeld , the head of the Hebrew literature department of the Hebrew University, and Hana Amichai , the poet’s widow.
“I wanted to make a book that would matter, that would move people deeply and reflect what it means to be a Jew today,” said Black, 60, a former New York Times reporter in Jerusalem who has run his own poetry press for the past 12 years.
ON MONDAY, May 7, Aryeh Green , who was the founding director of Media Central, and who after stepping down trekked across Israel to find and reinvent himself, will launch his book My Israel Trail , which to a large extent includes lessons that he learned along the way. Green will be interviewed by his daughter Moriyah Green . Here again the venue will be Tmol Shilshom, one of Green’s favorite hangouts and a place where each year he celebrates his birthday with an all-day sit-in at which relatives and friends come to join him, usually ordering just a drink, for which he picks up the tab.
IN CASE any clarification is needed, comedienne Keren Mor is not portraying Sara Netanyahu in Kan 11’s new black comedy series The Psychologist . Mor and her husband, Menashe Noy , who also appears in the series, were obviously the most important people present at a premiere of the show that was screened at High End in Tel Aviv last week. The show premieres on Kan 11 Digital on May 7, and on television sometime in July. The series is based on the successful online production Web Therapy .
Mor portrays Tuti Lieblich, who is married to a successful lawyer with political ambitions, who is played by Tal Friedman . To all intents and purposes the marriage looks pretty solid from the outside looking in, but in actual fact, it’s crumbling. There is very little mutual interest or activity. Each spouse is preoccupied with his or her thing, In Tuti’s case it is a start-up for online psychological counseling – not the standard hour on the couch, but three minutes on screen. It should be noted that Tuti has no qualifications to be a psychologist.
Mor’s real-life sister Yael Sharoni is in fact a psychologist, and nothing would have stopped her from attending the premiere. Also present were Miri Mesika, Dovele Glickman , Gal Toren , Ortal Ben-Shoshan, Yuval Segev and many other well-known personalities.
IT’S NOT often that any of the various exponents of Yiddish song who come to Israel hail from the Netherlands. Usually, they are Polish, Russian or American. Among the exceptions to the rule is Lucette van den Berg , who will perform at Leyvik House in Tel Aviv at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9. Trained as a pianist and classical singer, her preference is for Yiddish folk songs, but she does not restrict herself to Yiddish, and has a varied repertoire which can instantly be adapted to the tastes of the audience.
Not all of what she sings on Wednesday will be familiar. In fact, most of the texts and the music were written by Bayle Schaechter-Gottesman, who though well known in American Yiddish circles is not nearly as well known as Mordechai Gebirtig. Born in Vienna, she grew up in Romania, went back to Vienna after the war, and in 1950, together with her husband, migrated to the United States and settled in New York, where she worked as a poet, songwriter, editor, graphic artist, educator, folklorist and writer of children’s literature. In recognition of her contribution to New York’s grassroots culture, she was inducted into the Museum of the City of New York’s “City Lore Hall of Fame” in 1999.
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