Olim to compete for TA home

Eight immigrants in their twenties to battle it out in new reality show.

haolim logo 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
haolim logo 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After making aliya from Atlanta, Georgia in September 2007, 23-year-old Yana Kutikova got to thinking the immigration experience would make an excellent reality show. "This is a real phenomenon that is just as interesting as any other fabricated phenomenon on television," Kutikova said. "After doing countless interviews with other olim, I realized the things we go through are very funny, are very interesting and can make for great television." Kutikova, director of research and development for the Bnei Brak-based production company, Highlight Films, pitched the concept and developed "Haolim: A new reality show about the Zionist Dream in the 21st century." The program is now in its pre-production stages. "This is a reality show about a real thing that is going on now in this country: young people coming here, trying to make a life for themselves, trying to participate in the Zionist dream that maybe their parents didn't get to participate in, but they want to be a part of," Kutikova said. The cameras will follow a group of eight immigrants in their twenties, four men and four women. During the course of the season, the group will face different challenges that Highlight Films has yet to finalize. The participants will travel through Israel, but their base will likely be Tel Aviv or another urban setting, Kutikova said. At the end of the season, one of the eight will be crowned the Ultimate Oleh and get a "Golden Ticket" into Israeli society: an apartment facing Tel Aviv's waterfront, a new car, lucrative job, and more, she said. Highlight Productions has not chosen the olim yet, and will soon be holding auditions around the world. Applicants must be Jewish, 20-29 years old and speak English. "The olim must choose to make aliya themselves. These are people who believe in this country and its ideals, but also want to do something crazy and be on a reality show," Kutikova said. "Obviously, we're going to pick the ones we feel are most open to being on television, that can express themselves easily to the audience, and those who have personality," she added. According to Kutikova, Highlight Films is currently in talks with both network and cable Israeli broadcasting companies as well as Internet portals. "We would like the Jewish Diaspora, particularly the young Jewish Diaspora, to be able to witness what Israel is like, and what it's like to be an Israeli," she said. "Obviously it's a reality show, so it's entertaining, but it can also bring a lot of insight to what it's really like here." The Internet portal will include episodes, blogs and extra content, as well as interactive content such as voting. Kutikova called the interest from potential sponsors, broadcasters and participants "overwhelming." Noam Shalev, managing director of Highlight Films, said he is not aware of any other reality show dealing with aliya. When Kutikova pitched the idea, the Highlight Films team tried to get into the mind of immigrants. "We sat down and discussed what someone who leaves his country and moves to Israel goes through," Shalev said. "As an Israeli, I tried to understand what Yana went through, what other immigrants we interviewed went through. We tried to find out what the successes and breaking points are." They found the immigration and absorption experience "is not at all simple, and though a lot of olim talk about bureaucratic difficulties, there are interesting psychological elements too," he said. The ideal participant is "someone who really wants to make aliya - someone who truly, regardless of where he was born or lives now, decided to spend the rest of his life in Israel," Shalev said. Aside from television and Internet content, the company is also planning on producing minute-long episodes for viewers to watch on their cell phones. "This show will be completely cross-platform. The idea is that the content interests native Israeli viewers, Americans and recent immigrants," Shalev said. He believes the target audience abroad will be Jews who are either familiar, interested or considering aliya.