The Shmooze

Joan Rivers Goes All Jersey on Anti-Israel Crowd

By Gabe Friedman

Joan Rivers has come out in support of Israel in a big way.

When asked by a TMZ reporter about the violence in Gaza and Israel, Rivers compared the situation to New York and its much-maligned neighboring state.

“If New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe ‘em out,” she said, waving her hands. “If we heard that they were digging tunnels from New Jersey to New York, we would get rid of Jersey.”

Even if Rivers apparently missed the memo about the PATH trains that connect New York to New Jersey underground, she got her point across.

“You cannot throw rockets and expect people not to defend themselves,” she continued.

The reporter countered by asking her about the Palestinian civilian casualty rate.

“They started it!” she yelled repeatedly.

The interviewer then mentioned that celebrities Dwight Howard and Selena Gomez had defended Palestine on Twitter.

“Oh, Selena Gomez, that college grad,” Rivers responded. “Let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinian.’”

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Support Israel's Troops — By Getting Naked

By Anne Cohen

A new Facebook page showcases a new way for Israeli women to support the troops — by stripping down practically to their birthday suit.

“Standing With the IDF” calls on Israel women to raise morale (so to speak) by uploading sexy pictures of the their bodies, upon which uplifting messages have been scrawled. The page’s intro is pretty self-explanatory: “You keep us safe from above, and we will watch you from below!”

The page had more than 15,000 likes as of this morning.

Still, the initiative has received mixed reviews. As seen in Haaretz:

One person wrote “I must admit, I am a great fan of this page… You have found the way to give our soldiers the most uplifting present without even leaving the house. I thank you, in the name of every soldier who got a moment of peace and a reason to enter the battlefield with a smile on his face. Be he married or single, be he pious or a player, a big thank you from all soldiers, for the self- confidence and the strength of soul you teach us.”

Others were less positive. “I don’t want to bum you out, but wow - bad idea. Good execution, bad idea. Thanks, but no thanks to whoever invited me to this group,” said one. Another quipped: “Boys, what about the gay soldiers? They need to know you are behind them, too, so join the effort and send your naked photos!”

From singles trips in the desert to barely concealed support for the boys in uniform, the conflict raging in the region hasn’t seemed to put a damper on those libidos.

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What The Rockets Over Israel and Gaza Look Like From Space

By Anne Cohen

Social media is awash with pictures of what the rockets flying over Israel and Gaza look like from the ground. This tweet takes that to a whole new level.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently on board the International Space Station, shared a photo of what the conflict looks like from 260 miles above earth — it’s pretty striking.

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War, What Is It Good For? Jewish Sexy-Time

By Anne Cohen

War, what is it good for? Jewish sexy-time, apparently.

Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund- JDate Singles Trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travel to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.

The launch of Operation Protective Edge forced the organizers to tweak the original itinerary, which included tours through “the trendy neighborhood clubs of Tel Aviv, the wide expanses of the Negev, and the hi-tech center of the Gush Dan region.”

Far from putting a damper on the experience, a JNF statement reports that the alternative route “served to enrich the trip experience.” Said one participant from New York: “Because we were unable to go to some of the typical tourist sites in the center and the south, we got a chance to see another side of Israel. The main sites are important too, but this way we felt like we were really getting to know the country and its people.”

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Celebrities Tweet the Middle East — With Controversial Results

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — First, there were the celebrity tweeter and deleters.

As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to spark a proxy war on Twitter and other social media, numerous celebrities are getting themselves caught in the crossfire.

Earlier this week, both singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard alienated partisans on both sides by tweeting the #FreePalestine hashtag — and then deleting it.

Then former Justin Bieber paramour Selena Gomez decided to get all political and post a “Pray For Gaza” photo on her Instagram feed.

Fans got upset, so she posted a photo of herself meditating on the beach with the caption: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”

Now comedian Bill Maher is irking feminists (and, presumably, Hamas supporters) with the following post:

Jezebel took issue with the “crazy woman” analogy: “Making a joke about hitting a woman to make a point about a country where people are being killed is just gross.”

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Is Amar'e Stoudemire Looking For a Hebrew Tutor?

By Anne Cohen

He has part ownership of an Israeli basketball team, sports a yarmulke before games and thinks Shabbat is “awesome.” Now, it seems Amar’e Stoudemire is ready for the next step: learning Hebrew.

According to an email making the rounds, the basketball star is looking for a tutor:

Please let me know if you have any connections to a Hebrew tutor who could work with a professional athlete that is looking to improve their conversational Hebrew. The tutor would need to spend most of the next 6 weeks living in Florida with the athlete and then continue to work with the athlete back in NY after the summer. Obviously all expenses and a generous salary would be included.

A few lingering questions: If the email does in fact refer to Amar’e Stoudemire, does this mean his Israeli citizenship is coming through? Could he be planning a move to the Holy Land?

Of course, Knicks fans might prefer Stoudemire spend his summer working on his defensive skills, but that’s another story.

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Jon Stewart on What It's Like To Talk About Israel as a Jew

By Anne Cohen

Making jokes about Israel can be tricky. No one knows this better than Jon Stewart, who has been criticized for remarks he made on “The Daily Show” pointing out the asymmetrical distribution of force in Operation Protective Edge.

So in a segment on Monday night, Stewart responded using what he does best — comedy. Every time the host mentions the word “Israel,” the show’s entire roster of correspondents starts shouting at him. Over and over again.

“Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this,” Stewart said when the verbal onslaught finally subsided. “But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”

Cue the tongue-lashing — and on to a “lighter” topic: Ukraine.

Check out the whole clip below:

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The Middle East Crisis, According to Woody Allen

By Rachel X. Landes

The situation in Gaza is “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself,” Woody Allen declared in an interview about his new movie, Magic in the Moonlight.

Asked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Allen explained, “I feel that the Arabs were not very nice in the beginning… The Jews had just come out of a terrible war where they were exterminated by millions and persecuted all over Europe, and they were given this tiny, tiny piece of land in the desert.

“If the Arabs had just said, ‘Look, we know what you guys have been through, take this little piece of land and we’ll all be friends and help you,’ and the Jews came in peace, but they didn’t. They were not nice about it.”

Allen concluded that “there’ve been public relations mistakes, actual mistakes, and it’s been a terrible, terrible cycle of mismanagement and bad faith.”

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Backstreet Boys Scrap Israel Shows Over Gaza

By JTA

The Backstreet Boys canceled three sold-out concerts in Israel due to the Gaza conflict.

The American pop band posted a message Sunday on its official website announcing the cancellation of the July 29-31 concerts at the Raanana Amphitheater “to assure the safety of the audience.” New dates will be scheduled for the spring.

“This is a major disappointment for the band and fans as this was to be our first visit to Israel and we looked forward to meeting our fans,” the message said.

Canadian singer Paul Anka also canceled two concerts set for this week in Tel Aviv. The concerts will be rescheduled “once the local situation is resolved,” according to a statement issued by his representative.

Earlier, the Gaza conflict forced the cancellations of a Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv and a performance by the band America.

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Dr. Ruth's Sex Tips for Wartime

By Alona Ferber

Getty Images

(Haaretz) — If you were wondering what sexual position was most appropriate in a bomb shelter, don’t. That’s some of the advice Dr. Ruth Westheimer gave an audience in Tel Aviv Wednesday night.

The sprightly 4-foot-7, 86-year-old lost her parents in the Holocaust and was a sniper in the Haganah, prestate Israel’s underground army. But it was her sex advice over the radio that made her famous back in the ‘80s in the United States. On Wednesday, she addressed a crowd of 650 on the ninth day of Israel’s air offensive in Gaza.

The escalation between Israel and Hamas was very much in the background; Dr. Ruth applauded the audience for holding out despite the situation. Meanwhile, the event’s organizer, the Tel Aviv International Salon, reassured people that if the air-raid siren went off, they were in a safe zone.

“I want to applaud you for your resilience and taking the time to talk about subject matter that I am still talking about almost every day, even though I’m 86,” she said to laughter from the crowd, who had been woken up that morning by a siren. Then came her rundown on good sex, with a healthy dose of Jewish tradition mixed in.

“For Jews, sex has never been a sin; it’s always been a mitzvah,” she said in her famous German accent. And if you want to be “sexually literate,” as she put it, it’s better to be in a relationship. “I’m talking about relationships and commitment. Did you hear me? Commitment,” she said to laughter from the audience of mostly young professionals who have immigrated to Israel.

What else is key for a good sex life? Women must take responsibility for their sexual satisfaction, a message she noted that women in the United States had heard loud and clear. A couple’s relationship is a vital part of the puzzle. Don’t talk about past partners, “Use sechel,” she advised, using the Hebrew word for good sense. And don’t get too used to a vibrator.

Another important rule of thumb, if you’ve had an affair and don’t want a divorce, if you want someone else besides your partner, or if you sometimes don’t find your partner attractive, just don’t say it out loud. “You can have a whole soccer team in bed with you in your imagination,” she said. “Just keep your mouth shut.”

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Jon Stewart Needles Israel on 'Bomb-Better' War

By Rachel X. Landes

Our favorite Jewish late-night talk show host tackled the violence in the Middle East last night — with a few sharp-tongued yucks aimed at Israel.

In a two-minute segment on the Gaza conflict, Jon Stewart highlighted the “asymmetrical” nature of the two sides pitted against each other.

“Both sides are engaging in aerial bombardment, but one side appears to be bomb-better at it,” Stewart said with a grin.

Israel, with its Iron Dome missile defense system and smart phone technology, has the means to save and warn many more citizens than their Gaza counterparts, the funnyman noted.

“Most Hamas rockets are neutralized by Israel’s Iron Dome technology and Israeli citizens can even download an Iron Dome app,” Stewart explained. This alert system, which can be accessed by any Android or iPhone, alerts citizens of incoming missiles. So far, this app has been downloaded by about 500,000 Israelis.

Palestinians cannot be quite so sanguine about the conflict, he noted.

“How are the Gazans notified?” Stewart deadpanned. “The Israeli military warns Gaza residents of imminent bombing with a smaller, warning bombing.” He smiled. “An amuse-boom, if you will.”

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Want Slice of Hamas Rocket? Just 146 Bucks

By Rachel X. Landes

Yochay Benarie

Want to have your own slice of the war in the Middle East?

You can bid on your very own “Hamas Missile Debris” on HappySale, an Israeli based auction website. The seller, Yochay Benarie, is asking for 500 shekels, or $146.70, for the fragment.

Benarie, who lives in Tel Aviv, put up the debris for auction yesterday, and since then, the page has had more than 6,000 views, no doubt helped by a Buzzfeed article that features the Hamas Missile Debris for sale. The debris is marked, “Slightly Used,” so consider those words before placing your bid. According to Benarie, it is “99.9% safe.”

Another commenter replied, “So basically I only have 0.01% of losing a finger? Hmmm… I’ll think about it :)”

Benarie also assures potential buyers that he can sell multiple fragments of the missile, and that they come in different sizes.

At least 150 civilians have been killed in the air strikes in the past 8 days, including one Israeli man. Israel reported that more than 1000 targets have been hit.

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Dwight Howard Irks Jews With #FreePalestine Tweet

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

Basketball superstar Dwight Howard’s foray into commentary on the crisis in the Middle East only lasted about 15 minutes. However, that was more than long enough to make headlines and draw the ire of thousands of twitter users.

On Saturday, Howard tweeted #FreePalestine but deleted the tweet in about fifteen minutes according to The Wire.

Later that day, he tweeted “previous tweet was a mistake. I have never commented on international politics and never will.”

Nevertheless, the backlash was swift.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said that he should be “publicly condemned as strong as Donald Sterling was,” a reference to the Los Angeles Clippers owner who came under withering attack for disparaging remarks about black people.

Omri Casspi – a teammate of Howard’s last year on the Houston Rockets and the only Israeli player to ever be drafted and play in the NBA – responded to Howard’s tweet on Saturday.

Casspi had also been vocal on Twitter during the #bringbackourboys campaign during the search for the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers.

Howard, who believes himself to be God’s messenger in the NBA, seems to have quickly learned the consequences of political commentary.

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Dodging Gaza Rockets? There's Red Alert App

By Steven Scheer

Getty Images

(Reuters) — Israelis have found a new way to learn of imminent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in the form of a mobile phone app.

Hamas militants have fired more than 1,000 rockets from Gaza at Israeli cities in the past week. Typically, air raid sirens blare and residents have between 15 and 90 seconds to head to bomb shelters and safe rooms in their homes.

Many have also downloaded an application called Red Alert to their phones that also warns of incoming rockets.

“The initial thought was to help people in the south. We didn’t think we would need to help people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but we do,” said Ari Sprung, a co-developer of the app.

Israeli has responded to the rocket salvos - most of which have been intercepted by an Iron Dome system - with air strikes toward those launching them in Gaza.

Most of the rockets launched from Gaza since 2005 have been aimed at southern towns but Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups now have missiles that can reach deeper into Israel.

The app has been downloaded by some 500,000 Israelis on their Android and iPhones, with another 50,000 in the United States having downloaded an English version.

Once a rocket is fired, Israel’s military sounds sirens and also notifies Red Alert’s servers. Its servers crashed at the outset when rocket fire turned to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but they were quickly back up with stronger servers.

“The No 1 reason we created it was to save lives,” said the U.S.-born Sprung, who works at Jerusalem start-up Curiyo. “I hope I can un-publish it in the future.”

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Israel Scraps Neil Young Gig Over Rocket Fears

By Reuters

Getty Images

Palestinian rocket fire on Tel Aviv has forced the cancellation of veteran rock star Neil Young’s concert scheduled for Thursday.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Sunday the show was canceled by police for security reasons “in order not to put people in Gaza rocket range at unnecessary risk”.

Militants in the Gaza Strip have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel since Tuesday, when the Israeli military launched an air and naval offensive on the coastal enclave. Palestinian officials say 159 civilians have been killed.

Some of the Gaza rockets have been fired at Israel’s commercial hub, Tel Aviv, and have been either intercepted by anti-missile batteries or have landed in open areas, causing no casualties.

Some 30,000 people had bought tickets to the Canadian singer-songwriter’s show that was to be held at Tel Aviv’s main Hayarkon Park, a representative for the show’s organizers, the Shuki Weiss production company, said.

Young, who was to be accompanied by his longtime band The Crazy Horse, last performed in Israel in the 1990’s.

Artists including the Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and The Pixies, have performed in Israel in the past few months despite pressure from pro-Palestinian groups to cancel their performances over Israeli policy toward Palestinians.

The Pixies canceled a show in Israel in 2010.

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Bar Refaeli Tweets Condolences to Family of Murdered Teens

By Anne Cohen

Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli tweeted out her condolences to the families of the three Israeli teenagers, found dead yesterday.

Refaeli also posted a picture of three memorial candles to her Instagram feed with the same caption.

Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach had been missing since June 12. Their bodies were found under a pile of rocks in a field near Hebron. The funerals, set for this afternoon, will be held in their home communities, after which they will be buried side-by-side in the Modiin cemetery in central Israel.

Other famous names with ties to Israel have also taken to Twitter to wish the families well. Omri Casspi, the Israeli small forward for the Houston Rockets, spoke of “unspeakable tragedy”:

Actress Mayim Bialik also expressed her grief, declaring that she was signing off from social media as a sign of respect.

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Soroka — A Preemie Oasis in the Negev

By Masha Leon

“It took a famous baby to die pre-term — Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, son of John and Jacqueline Kennedy — to make the call to the world that babies matter,” said Dr. Agneta Golan, Director of Soroka Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to the guests at the American Friend of Soroka Medical Center Gala Benefit at the New York Palace Hotel. “I am here to speak out for my ‘Kennedys of the Negev’…. When the alarms go on, we run to shelters…. I am sure that because Israel matters to you, my babies matter to you.”

Emceed by Dan Abrams, co-anchor of ABC’s “Nightline,”—who informed he was a cancer survivor and that his mother (who was present) is “a Sabra committed to all things related to Israel, “ the speaker roster included Ido Aharoni, Israel’s consul general in New York who stated: “Whenever something happens in Israel, people in New York feel as if it happened in New York — and visa versa.” He informed: “Soroka” — Israel’s 4th largest hospital with 1,000 beds, serving one million, will eventually have to serve a population of nearly six million…provide medical service and health care to an entire region which we all agree is the future of the State of Israel.”

Karen Leon
Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal

Citing Ben Gurion — whose statue stands in Siroka Hospital’s lobby — keynote speaker and recipient of Siroka’s “Stateswoman for Health Award,” Admiral Susan Blumenthal, said: “’In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles’ and this hospital is a miracle in the Middle East.” Answering “Why did I become a doctor?”, uber blonde, blue-eyed, pink-cheeked Blumenthal — who spoke at length about global health issues — said: “In my first year in college my mother developed breast cancer…my last year of medical school it had metastasized to her spine. She lived long enough to see her daughter become a doctor…eventually assistant surgeon general and one of the few women Jewish admirals in the service.”

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'Voice' Israel Contestant Comes Out as Transgender

By Yanir Dekel

Tom Atias, whose audition was aired Saturday in the Israeli version of the reality music competition “The Voice,” has caught the media’s attention.

The 18-year-old boy from Jerusalem’s rendition of Aviv Geffen’s “Ulay” (‘Maybe’) had the three judges fighting to be his mentor. But what Tom didn’t say during the audition is that he was born a girl.

Tom’s full life story is set to be published this weekend in Yedioth Ahronot. A teaser excerpt released by the newspaper reveals that as a young child, Tom hated his female body. At 14 his friends, parents and teachers started to refer to him as a boy, at his request. When he reached the point that he had to get an ID card, he changed his name to Tom (and now refuses to reveal his birth name). Nine months ago, when he turned 16, Tom was officially allowed to start getting hormones and started the physical transition to become a man.

During Saturday’s audition, Tom didn’t expose his past as a girl. Three out of four mentors of the Israeli show offered to mentor him, including Aviv Geffen, who wrote and performed the song originally. Not seeing Tom’s face, singer Sarit Hadad said, “this voice is so unique, I never head a voice like this before.” To come full circle, Tom has finally chosen Aviv as his mentor.

“The most dramatic change [since I started taking hormones] was in my voice,” Tom told Yedioth. “It changed and become lower. A year ago, when they called me from the producers of the show, saying that someone recommended me for an audition, I was in a debate whether or not to go to the audition when my voice was about to change. I’m sure that if they air parts from the first selections, the difference will be noticed.”

Watch Tom Atias’ audition video below:

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Dana International Uses Orthodox Children in Gay Pride Video

By Yanir Dekel

Dana International, Israel’s most famous transgender pop star, has managed once again to draw International media attention. Her latest video for “Yeladim Ze Simcha” (‘Children are Joy’) is causing controversy in Israel and beyond, after parents of the religious Jewish children featured in the video claimed they didn’t know their kids were shooting a music video for the transgender superstar.

The song, which was recorded by Dana especially for Gay Pride, is a cover version for a classic Mediterranean song by Middle Eastern music group “Habreira Hativit,” and it’s no coincidence that the song was released on the same week as Gay Pride. The message of the song is “bring as many children as you’d like to the world, because children are happiness.” Of course, when the words are sung by the most famous transgender in Israel, they capture an extra meaning, almost a satire, towards marriage equality and surrogacy equality in Israel, which has been a burning social issue over the past year.

The video, which was produced by Tel Aviv Municipality, features real Hassidic kids in a bar mitzvah service of International’s supposed son, Raam International. The service goes bad as too many celebratory candies thrown at Raam wound him and draw blood.

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All Aboard the Anat Hoffman Wedding 'Love Boat'

By Anne Cohen

Are you Jewish, Israeli and worried you won’t be able to marry under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate? Anat Hoffman has a solution for you.

The Women of the Wall leader has put out a call for a cruise ship that would allow Israelis to have extraterritorial weddings.

“I am seeking a large used ship, a captain, and a few willing rabbis to launch a love boat that will travel in and out of Israeli territorial waters to perform marriage ceremonies, Hoffman said, at the end of an article written for the Israel Religious Action Center, Haaretz reports.

This out-of-the-box proposal comes in tandem with a push to relax Israeli marriage laws, which rely heavily on the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate recognizing one’s Jewishness. Since there is no civil marriage option, if they say no-Jew, it’s basically a no-go. In the same article, Hoffman gave the example of her son Ariel, who chose to get married in Cyprus so he and his wife could have a non-Orthodox Jewish wedding that would still have legal standing in Israel.

“This situation is unparalleled in any other democratic country,” Hoffman wrote. “Over 20,000 Israeli couples get married outside of Israel every year. On their flight to Cyprus, Ariel and his wife observed that the plane was filled with Israelis who were also going there for a civil marriage. The Israelis waited in line together, took photos of one-another, and sat together at a nearby Haagen-Dazs for celebratory ice cream afterwards.”

Now, sing it with me: “The Love Boaaaat…”

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