How long does it take for Israelis to form opinions about a TV show that hasn’t aired yet? The answer, in the case of “Hayehudim Ba’im” (“The Jews Are Coming”) – a new satire slated for fall air on Israel’s Channel 1 – is 19 seconds.
Last weekend, Channel 1 premiered a 19-second promo that was met with immediate outrage. The clip, styled like a song from a children’s show, featured three actors portraying murderers Baruch Goldstein (who killed 29 and wounded 125 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron, in 1994), Yigal Amir (who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995); and Yona Avrushmi (who killed one person and wounded nine, in1983). The trio, smiling and dancing, sang, “sometimes I assassinate and sometimes I butcher, but I am a right-wing murderer.”
The backlash was immediate, with comments on YouTube and Facebook denouncing Channel 1 and “The Jews Are Coming” creators Natalie Marcus and Asaf Beiser, calling them “Nazis,” and accusing them of painting all religious settlers as murderers. The response caused Channel 1, which is Israel’s public broadcasting network and is supported by taxes, to pull the promo, and — according to some reports — cut the song from the yet-unaired episode of the comedy. (To view the clip click here.)
The original “Hairspray” (1988) was a weird little movie made by cult director John Waters about rock and roll and race relations in 1960s Baltimore. Then it became a smash musical on Broadway, then a 2007 film adaptation of that Broadway hit. Now, the show is coming to Jerusalem, with a community theater production featuring 32 Anglo-Israeli and Ethiopian-Israeli singers, dancers and actors who share the stage and the spotlight.
Hairspray’s local-girl-makes-good story was groundbreaking enough because of its main character, Tracy Turnblad, a non-willowy, self-confident dynamo who won’t be discouraged just because she looks like the real girl next door. But the narrative pushes two additional buttons as well: race relations — an issue which defined Baltimore in the 1960s, as integration swept through a still-adjusting nation — and women’s empowerment, which enables self-effacing housewife Edna Turnblad to reclaim her zest for life, and to transform herself into a civil rights activist her daughter can look up to.
With empowerment, freedom, confidence and racial equality as its thematic DNA, the production hits Jerusalem for six shows between March 5 and 21.
“Hairspray is almost more relevant here than it ever was in the States, since it was written at a time when segregation and institutionalized racism were mostly things of the past in America,” Director Eli Kaplan-Wildmann explained. “Our cast is made up of people who face these issues today in their own lives, and we hope to bring an awareness of that to Jerusalem.”