'Eretz Nehederet' finds black comedy in the coronavirus outbreak
Everything in between the opening and closing poked fun at all the usual targets — politics, celebrities and Fauda — but kept coming back to the virus.
By HANNAH BROWN
The Purim edition of Eretz Nehederet (Wonderful Country), Israel’s premiere television comedy program, unleashed its gallows humor on the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday night and proved that laughter can be the best medicine.“Even if we can’t leave it, we still have a wonderful country,” said host Eyal Kitzis at the show’s ended.He opened by saying that the prime minister and the Health Ministry had announced that all Israelis returning from abroad would go into quarantine – and, referencing the song, “Waiting for Messiah,” by Shalom Hanoch, added, “The country is falling apart, the stock market crashed, people are jumping off the roof – and the Messiah jumped, and announced that he was quarantined.”Everything in between the opening and closing poked fun at all the usual targets – politics, celebrities and Fauda – but kept coming back to the virus.Various officials of the Health Ministry that news viewers have come to know well during the past few weeks were lampooned, including ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, who interrupted at intervals to announce more Israelis had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and detailed their itineraries, even saying that one patient had met another and that they had married.It was a rare week when politics provided only part of the laughs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, came in wearing biohazard suits and garlands of flowers, carrying hand sanitizer and dancing to “My Sharona,” changed to “My Corona.”They were joined by the head of the Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz, wearing a blue bathrobe because he said he was unable to decide on a Purim costume and was weighing several options suggested to him on Facebook. Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, also showed up bearing flowers.But the virus was front and center. There were bits with a couple hoarding food and supplies, and various celebrities in quarantine. Singer Lior Narkis, who was released from isolation, exulted, “I found out I’m not sick, now I can do what I want. I can travel to Italy, I can eat a bat!”Other quarantined celebrities made appearances, including Gilad Shalit – the former soldier who was captured by Hamas and held for five years, who compared his current isolation to his former captivity – and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. He said he was in a bunker all the time anyway and now no longer needed to destroy Israel since the stock market crashed and the airport was closed.Celebrity couple singer Eyal Golan and his fiancee, model Daniel Greenberg, joined the fun as their wedding planned for Thursday hung in the balance, since they would have to cut more than a thousand guests from their list to comply with the new Health Ministry guidelines to limit gatherings to just 100 people. There were many jokes at their expense, including one by their wedding planner, who said, “Do you really think anyone would miss Eyal Golan’s wedding? It’s a once-in-three-years event!”Fauda, which broadcasts the final episode of its third season on Thursday night, also came in for some ribbing, as Doron and the gang tracked their latest target: a high-tech worker just back from Italy who showed up at a mall in Herzliya.And, in a time when Israelis, who normally travel so much, are staying home, Moshe Kahlon, the finance minister who announced in January he would be retiring from politics, had a suggestion for dealing with the crisis: Turn the airport into a gym.
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