Thursday, November 7, 2013

Could Israel Become a Cultural Superpower?

My latest article at The Tower, on why Israel's growing media presence around the world could make it the world's next cultural superpower.


Despite its high international profile, Israel has always been a somewhat provincial county, with a domestic culture largely unknown to outsiders. The classic pieces of Israeli pop culture, such as the comedy group Ha’Gashash Ha’Hiver, Eretz Israel and Mizrahi music, and the classic bourekas movies, remain ubiquitous in Israel—most Israelis can quote lines from them at will—but almost nowhere else. Everyone in the world knows who Brad Pitt is, but no one outside of Israel knows Yehuda Levi, his rough Israeli equivalent. Indeed, when Yair Lapid suddenly emerged as Israel’s newest political star, the global media proved completely ignorant of a man who had been one of Israel’s most famous media personalities for decades.

But this may be changing, and very quickly. Over the past decade, Israeli films, actors, television shows, celebrities, and music have spread and, more importantly, been embraced around the world. This includes films like Walk on Water, Fill the Void, Ajami, Or, and the cinema of Amos Gitai, which have won international prizes and foreign distribution, often with considerable success. There are television shows like Betipul, remade almost word-for-word as HBO’s In Treatment, and Hatufim, whose American remake Homeland is a runaway success; game and reality shows have also been reproduced and remade in numerous other countries.

Actors like Noa Tishby, Ayelet Zurer, and Mili Avital have appeared in American and European films, become stars, producers, and conduits through which the Israeli film and television industry can reach into foreign markets. Zurer in particular has met with significant Hollywood success, co-starring in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, as well as blockbusters like Man of Steel.

Even more surprisingly, musicians like the heavy metal band Orphaned Land and Mizrahi singer Sarit Hadad have become popular in countries that have historically been ambivalent or violently hostile toward Israel, garnering fans from nations like Turkey and Syria.

While it is too soon to know for sure, it increasingly looks like Israel may well be on the road to becoming a cultural superpower.

Continue reading at The Tower

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Radio Interview With Me on TLV1

In English, on my article on Israel having to go it alone and the legacy of Rav Ovadia Yosef. Hosted by the excellent writer and my personal friend Alex Stein.

Listen at TLV1...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Special Discount on My First Novel

The Kindle version of my first novel, The Mighty Quinn, is temporarily available at a considerable discount. It's a dystopian satire of environmentalists, hippies, psychotic activists, and whales. Enjoy!

Click to buy at Amazon.com

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Tower #7

The latest issue of The Tower - of which I am associate editor - is now online. It contains some excellent articles by David Hazony, Armin Rosen, and myself.

Sometimes You Just Have to Go It Alone

It is, of course, very widely believed among supporters of Israel—and among some opponents, one imagines, though they are unlikely to ever admit it—that it is not only a reasonable supposition but practically a moral certainty that Israel cannot and will never get a fair hearing at the UN or from the international community in general. Indeed, Netanyahu all but said as much in his 2011 speech to the General Assembly, noting that the Lubavitcher Rebbe once referred to the international body as “a house of many lies.”

Most Israelis likely agree with this, as well. But however fervently they agree, there always remains a nagging doubt. This doubt was expressed fairly well, ironically, by one of the UN’s former leaders. In 2002, with Israel deep in the horrors of the second intifada and Ariel Sharon’s Operation Defensive Shield at last fighting back against Palestinian terrorism, international condemnation of the Jewish state reached a fever pitch. Then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan summed up the general attitude by asking, “Can Israel be right and the whole world wrong?”

Continue reading at The Tower...

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Israel and Racism

If the reaction to the death of Helen Thomas, with its studied indifference to her cackling demand that the Jews “get the hell out of Palestine,” has told us anything, it is that the embrace of racism among Israel’s critics has become so ubiquitous that it has essentially been normalized.

There is a fascinating irony in this, because critics of Israel, however ferocious they may be, almost always portray themselves as anti-racists....


Continue reading at the Jerusalem Post

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yes, all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic!

‘But surely you don’t believe,” they always ask you, “that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic?” It is a noticeably patronizing question, of course, in that it is obviously an admonition that all civilized, thinking people must answer “no” or “of course not.” It is an important question, however, because of its real answer, which is unequivocally and unquestionably “yes”...

...continue reading at the Jerusalem Post