The Shmooze

8 Israeli Bands to Listen to Right Now

By Hilary Saunders

Vaadat Charigim // Photo by: Goni Riskin

Israel has never been known for producing breakthrough musical acts, but if the first few months of 2015 are anything to go by, that may soon change. With Israeli groups traveling to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest and gaining recognition at a number of European festivals, the little country the size of New Jersey may end up with a pop music reputation after all.

Here are eight bands from Israel — encompassing genres from shoe-gaze rock to electronica to country-tinged pop — that are worth checking out right now.

1) Vaadat Charigim

Having just “killed it” — as the phrase du jour has it — at South by Southwest, Vaadat Charigim is now prepping for a short U.S. tour in support of its sophomore release. “Sinking As A Stone,” due out on May 19 via California-based Burger Records, showcases the Tel Aviv trio’ shoegaze propensities. The trio’s 2013 debut, “The World Is Well Lost,” elicited comparisons to groups like Slowdive and Ride, even with all songs sung in Hebrew.

Listen to their newest single, “Ein Li Makom,” off “Sinking As A Stone “here:

Learn more here.

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Kanye West and Kim Kardashian To Visit Israel

By JTA

Getty Images

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian reportedly are planning to visit Israel next month.

The celebrity power couple booked rooms at Jerusalem’s high-end Waldorf Astoria Hotel for themselves and their entourage for April 12, the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot reported Wednesday.

The hotel declined to comment to Yediot, which reported that everyone involved in the visit has signed a multimillion-dollar confidentiality agreement. An Israeli security firm that specializes in protecting VIPs has been hired, according to the newspaper.

The couple reportedly is visiting Israel before flying to Jordan.

Reports emerged in January that Kardashian and her two sisters were planning to buy a Tel Aviv apartment worth $30 million.

Meanwhile, American actor Richard Gere reportedly will arrive in Israel next week to continue filming for the “Oppenheimer Strategies,” a project by Israeli director Joseph Cedar. The project recently wrapped up its New York filming.

Gere stars as the title figure, Jewish businessman Norman Oppenheimer, a small-time operator who befriends a young, down-and-out Israeli politician. Oppenheimer’s life is transformed when the politician rises to international prominence.

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What Bibi Really Wants To Tell You

By Jesse Lempel

Want to know what Benjamin Netanyahu really wants to say? Jesse Lempel offers an unvarnished version of the Israeli premier’s message to American Jews

To My Friends in the U.S.,

After receiving my congratulatory phone call and delightful shmooze with my close friend President Obama, I have chosen to reach out to you on the pages of my beloved Jewish Daily Forward.

Now let me cut to the real talk.

Some of my critics have cited my “outright rejection of a Palestinian state” and “racist rant against Israeli Arab voters” as evidence that I don’t deserve to represent Israel. What nonsense.

Yes, I said that there won’t be a Palestinian state under my watch and I warned Israeli voters that Arabs were being bussed to the voting booths by leftists. So what? I live in reality, and the reality of the Middle East is far different from Europe or America.

I look around and see an inherently unstable Middle East, with states disintegrating one by one and radical Islam on a rampage. So why should we believe a Palestinian state would be different?

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Sarah Palin Congratulates Bibi

By Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Sarah Palin has not one but two posts on her Facebook page congratulating Benjamin Netanyahu on his reelection. Maybe two makes up for none from President Barack Obama.

In each post Palin says Americans in the heartland “will sleep better knowing Bibi remains the voice of reason and strength in the beautiful nation of Israel.”

Bibi elicits a lot of reactions in Israel and abroad. Sleep, though, has to be a new one.

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Why Jon Stewart Is Really Mad at 'Racist' Bibi

By Anne Cohen

Jon Stewart is kind of mad at Bibi. Not so much for winning this week’s Israeli election, but rather for how he won.

“How dare you gin up racist fears of minority turnout for short-term political gain? Stewart said, referring to Benjamin Netanyahu’s fear-mongering campaign, warning that Israeli-Arabs were out voting in droves.” “That’s our thing! You know what? Now you’ve got a copyright infringement suit on your hands, pal!”

Our favorite Jewish funny man (* sob * Don’t leave us Jon!) had a word or two of advice for U.S. politicians: Want to win? Take a page out of Bibi’s election tactics book.

“You know that stuff you say in private, your core beliefs, your prejudices that you try to hide from people because you fear society would shun you?” Stewart said. “Well, it appears all you have to do is turn into that skid.”

Following a montage showing a bunch of confused people asking why President Obama hadn’t yet called to congratulate Bibi on his win, Stewart quipped: “You don’t call, you don’t write, I win an election and I have to sit by the phone?”

Watch the whole clip below:

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Hadash Mocks Bibi's 'Arab Vote' Comment With Amazing Meme

By Anne Cohen

Earlier today, Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “concern” over what impact the high turnout rates in Israel’s Arab communities could have on the election.

So the Hadash party, one member of the Joint (Arab) List responded with an amazing “Game of Thrones” meme. (For those of you who haven’t gotten around to watching this gem of a show — Get to it! — the text plays off an oft repeated quote from the show: “Winter is Coming,” and superimposes Bibi’s head on Ned Stark’s body.)

Well played.

[h/t Times of Israel]

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Buji Has a Serious 'Pretty Woman' Crush

By Lior Zaltzman

Getty Images

Isaac “Buji” Herzog could be Israel’s next prime minister. As such, he may have some very difficult decisions to weigh on in the near future. But when it come to the ideal woman, Buji doesn’t hesitate. He will happily profess his love for the one and only “Pretty Woman” — Julia Roberts.

“‘Pretty Women’ is the movie I like to watch when I’m having hard times.” he told Channel 10 on Tuesday.

This isn’t the first time he’s declared his feelings for the actress. When asked to choose between the Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli and Julia Roberts in an interview for Israeli TV, he made the unfortunately unpatriotic choice:

“I’m sorry, but for men of my generation, Julia Roberts is the ideal woman. ‘Pretty Woman’ is a classic.”

(Fast forward to minute 18:40!)

And that’s not all. In an interview for the Knesset channel, Herzog also said he enjoys watching TV with his wife: “We’re really into Sex and the City”.

Well, I know who I’m inviting for my next ice-cream and comfort TV sesh. And if you squint really really hard, doesn’t Buji start to look a tiny tiny little bit like Richard Gere?

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Jon Voight: 'President Obama Doesn't Love Israel'

By Anne Cohen

Jon Voight wants you to know that, unlike Barack Obama, he REALLY loves Israel.

In a video released to the masses on Sunday night, the actor claims that the President is an enemy of the Jewish state (in a “friends of my enemies” kind of way), and that Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents are pulling a Neville Chamberlain.

“I want to see Israel survive and not be overtaken by the madmen of this world,” Voight says. “President Obama does not love Israel. His whole agenda is to control Israel. And this way he can be friends with all of Israel’s enemies…America has not been the same since his presidency.”

“Those like Yitzhak Herzog who believe that dealmaking is the solution to what Israel faces are as wrong as Neville Chamberlain believing he made a peace deal with Hitler,” Voight adds, referring to Bibi’s main opposition. “We must learn from history where the true danger lies.”

Using appeasement to make your case. That’s original.

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PHOTOS: In Israel, Purim is the Biggest Party Ever

By Lior Zaltzman

Forget about Halloween! Purim is the real party in Israel.

Every year, thousands of children head to school dressed up in their finest costumes, their mishloach manot in hand. That goes for grown ups too (any excuse to tap into your inner child).

In cities across the country, big parades, called Adloyada, travel through town, showing off gorgeous floats, all to the sound of music and happy youngsters.

What does that all look like, you ask? Here are some festive pictures from across the Jewish state:

Politics on Purim: before the parade, an artist pastes the faces of Israeli politicians on traditional parade floats:

Getty Images


Getty Images


King Bibi!

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An Adloyada in the streets of the Israeli city of Netanya:

Getty Images


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What Did Jon Stewart Think About Bibi's Speech?

By Dave Goldiner

What did Jon Stewart think about Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress?

It’s kinda NSFW, so you better watch the video.

Apparently, the late-night funny man was not impressed with the multiple standing ovations that Bibi received from the Congress. He wasn’t amused by all the soaring rhetoric about Iran, either.

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Bibi's Speech in 'Game of Thrones' GIFs

By Lior Zaltzman

Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech was full of biblical, literary and pop culture references from Haman to Robert Frost. But when he said:

“In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.”

… we knew a meme must be born! Behold, Netanyahu’s speech summed up in Game of Thrones GIFs:

When he kept addressing Congress as: “my friends…”


When Netanyahu spoke of the story of Purim:


When Netanyahu mentioned Ayatollah Khomeini and Mughaniah:


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Legalize It With Meretz

By Lior Zaltzman

Getty Images

Is it possible that the Israeli left finally has something in common with Moshe Feiglin?

Earlier last month, Meretz put out an elections ad showing them as the lamest party ever — but today it seems like they’re finally ready to be one of the cool kids — by lighting up a joint.

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Clickhole Wins the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

By Lior Zaltzman

Someone in the Clickhole (The Onion’s Buzzfeed-like equivalent) offices woke up yesterday morning with the most glorious of ideas: What better way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than through Facebook comments?

And so, the following message was posted to social media: “Want to argue about Israel and Palestine? Have at it in the comments!”

As you know, the conflict is a subject we deal with often. And well, when people have at it on our page, they really have at it — sometimes, it ain’t so pretty. Which is maybe why fellow Jewish publication Tablet has decided to charge people to comment.

But on Clickhole, the whole experience is kind of cathartic. I’m not sure whether I should thank their expert curation or if Clickhole Facebook users are just way more more respectful (unlikely), but the whole thing makes for a real enjoyable read (with the occasional inevitable troll). My husband and I lay in bed last night with our laptop, laughing our heads off at a subject that causes so many fraught and frustrating discussions in our day-to-day life. So, thank you Clickhole, for that precious gift.

Here are some choice comments:

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Behind Scenes at Fashion Week With Yigal Azrouël

By Elyssa Goodman

Fashion Week is a hurricane that sweeps through the industry. The biggest shows happen twice annually, during the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections. Designers spend months creating their visions for the upcoming seasons, and in a single day, in mere hours, it’s all over: the beautifying, the catwalking, the flash of cameras and the crowds. Until next season, that is.

I recently had the pleasure documenting the Fall/Winter 2015 collection of Yigal Azrouël, an Israeli-born designer of French Moroccan and Jewish descent (who I also mentioned in my round up of Jewish designers presenting their collections this Fashion Week).

Take a look at what happens behind the scenes, just before models take off down the runway:

No improvisation here! All of the looks from the entire collection are photographed and assembled onto a board backstage. This way, people dressing the models know exactly how each outfit should be styled and in what order they should come out during the show.


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A Chat With the Writers/Directors of 'Gett'

By Masha Leon

I don’t recall ever feeling as angry as I was after seeing “The Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” the blistering gut-wrenching must-see film by writer/directors Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz.

Warmly ensconced at The Regency Hotel during one of New York’s recent snow-ins, the Elkabetz siblings alternated in answering my questions about the film’s heroine Viviane’s (Ronit ) attempt to divorce her husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian) following a 20-year untenable and loveless marriage. Not sure who angered me more: the rakhnomes-lacking didactic religious judges in the claustrophobic courtroom or the neighbors and relatives who, in Rashomon style, proffer their spin on the couple’s marriage that should long ago have been aborted.

“There are over 450,000 still open cases in Israel – some wait for twenty years to be adjudicated,” Shlomi told me. “It covers the full spectrum – every woman in Israel, secular or Orthodox, has to go through it if married and registered in Israel… There is a sense of God is punishing mei… Women are treated like property.” Commenting on the image of the Israeli woman as modern, a kibbutznik, soldier, bikini-clad beach lounger? Shlomi said, “When it comes to divorce there seems to be a democratic mantra – a gett is a gett.”

“The idea was mine,” volunteered Ronit. “I wanted to understand, to research…. it disturbed me. We had an idea to follow this woman’s life through different stages between herself and the state (Israel). But the woman’s place in this community is to submit…not show her hair, be modest.” Watching the film’s years-long delay after delay without a verdict, I flashed back to the film “Shawshank Redemption” in which, like Vivian, Morgan Freeman is asked year after year if he has repented yet and, irrespective of his reply, is denied parole.

I asked actor/director/writer Ronit – whom I first met in the delightful Israeli film “The Band Visit” – about her change of wardrobe when toward the film’s end– after years and years of soul numbing denials by rabbi-judges – the black-clad Viviane appears in court sporting a blood red shawl and flaunting her below-waist long loose hair. The film’s stark courtroom, Ronit told me, was actually much nicer than those it was modeled after. “She had no more energy,” said Ronit. “The red clothing revitalized her, woke her up. But she did not know that on that day she would be accused of being unfaithful. Caught between two rabbis she forgets herself…. it was not a provocation! Gett denied!”

“The reactions are different from age to age,” said Shlomi. “For young people it’s an occasion for rethinking about marriage …and a gett…. The Rabbinic court is so strong and political, but,” he told me: “Three hundred rabbis will be watching the film…the first time in Israeli history [they will] discuss the issues. It’s extraordinary.”

A winner of more than seven 2014 film festival awards – and most recently a selection at the New York Jewish Film Festival– “Gett” opens on February 13 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema and other area theatres. Go! Applaud Ronit, tsk, tsk the judges and hiss her husband.

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You Never Would Have Failed Hebrew School With This Teacher

By Avi Bass

You’ve never heard the Aleph Bet like this. A new music video released by Israeli artist Victoria Hanna flies through the sounds of the Hebrew alphabet with an energy you couldn’t imagine as your mom drove you to Hebrew school on Sunday mornings.

Hanna performs the various sounds in a rhythmic chant, dressed as a school teacher in front of a mesmerized class of girls. But then the video explodes into the alphabetic acrostic prayer of “hoshana”, traditionally recited in synagogues on Sukkot.

Victoria Hanna is the daughter of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, and has performed with Bobby McFerrin and the Israeli group Balkan Beat Box.

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Israelis Pull Super Bowl All-Nighter

By Ben Sales

Getty Images

There were wings, beers, giant TV screens, and football fans wearing New England Patriots sweatshirts and Seattle Seahawks jerseys. If not for the fact that it was 1 a.m. and former Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid stood in the center of the bar, it could have been mistaken for Anytown USA.

Most Israelis don’t mark Super Bowl Sunday — or, really, Super Bowl Early Monday Morning — in any real way. But a group of Americans in Israel (and some Israelis who became acquainted with American football during stateside stints) showed up past midnight, an hour before the kickoff, putting off sleep and trying to forget about work the next day to watch the big game.

Elie Pieprz, who in 2012 founded a nonprofit to urge American-Israelis to vote in U.S. elections, came to see the game with his 11-year-old daughter, Eliana, in what has become an annual tradition for them. Father and daughter, pulling for Seattle, both wore Washington Redskins jerseys.

“We feel strongly about our connection to America,” Pieprz said. “We didn’t make aliyah to leave America. We’re bringing the best part of America to Israel.”

This Super Bowl party in central Tel Aviv was sponsored by Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, the centrist faction that for now boasts the Knesset’s only American lawmaker, Dov Lipman. Wearing a black sweater along with his trademark black velvet kipah, Lipman appeared chipper at halftime as Katy Perry ascended a robotic lion on a TV screen behind him.

“I thought to myself, there’s enough Anglos in Israel who want to watch, so why not watch it together?” said Lipman, who helped organize the gathering. “It’s not a political event. People are coming to watch the game.”

Some 200 fans attended the party, but most were surprisingly quiet for people who chose to pull an all-nighter to watch the big game. Aside from some hard-core New England fans in the center of the room, much of the crowd timidly cheered for the Seahawks.

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Need a Baby-Sitter? Bibi's Your Man

By Anne Cohen

It looks like Benjamin Netanyahu has a new career path lined up — you know, in case the Israeli elections don’t pan out.

A new campaign ad released Saturday shows a couple getting ready for a night on the town. The doorbell rings. It’s the baby-sitter. Or is it?

“You asked for a babysitter, you got a Bibi-sitter,” says a smirking Netanyahu. “Where are the children?”

The parents, understandably confused as to what their country’s prime minister is doing at their door, ask Bibi why he should be the one to watch over their children.

It’s either me, or Tzipi and Bougie,” he replies, referring to Zionist Camp’s Tzipi Livni and Issac Herzog. Oh, no! Not them. The parents shake their heads, demonstrating their mistrust.

Herzog needs his own baby-sitter, the dad jokes. Zing. And Livni? “By the time you get back she’ll probably go over to the neighbors,” Netanyahu quips back. (Livni has skipped to and from four political parties).

The ad conspicuously shows no children. Netanyahu’s previous campaign ad, which showed him as the only adult in a kindergarten class full of children named after Israeli political leaders (subtle, Bibi, real subtle), was banned by the Central Election Committee. Showing children under 15 for political gain is a no-no.

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Chelsea Handler Goes Topless For Middle East Peace

By Anne Cohen

So, Chelsea Handler went topless again.

This time though, it was all in the name of peace. Handler is currently in Israel to help raise funds to the Tal Center for Integrative Oncology the Sheba Medical Center. Apparently, the combination of desert, sunset and camel gave her the sudden urge to disrobe.

“A Muslim allowed a topless Jew to sit on his camel,” the caption reads. “And we say we can’t live side by side? I say we try and we can and we will. And, You don’t even have to be topless. L’chaim”

In October, Handler posted a similar photo to Instagram, mocking a picture of Russian president Vladimir Putin bare-chested on horseback. That caption read: “Anything a man can do, a woman has the right to do better. #kremlin”

[h/t Tablet]

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It's Over. Israel's Wix Wins Super Bowl Ad War

By John A. Oswald

Tel Aviv-based web development company Wix.com has what we think is one of the funniest Super Bowl ads set to air this Sunday and it stars former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre and four other retired football greats.

Favre was the quarterback who just couldn’t quit the NFL. He retired, then unretired, then joined the Jets for one season and the Vikings for two.

The quarterback’s rep is seized on by the folks at Wix to tell their story and sell their cloud-based web page-making service.

Favre turns to his agent, “Entourage” actor Rex Lee (Lloyd), about making yet another comeback.

Favre: “What about Canada?

Lee: “Nope.”

Favre: “That indoor league?”

Lee: “Nope.”

Favre: “What am I gonna do?”

Lee: “Do what everybody else does. Start a business. Build a website.”

And that’s where Wix and its #ItsThatEasy campaign, comes in.

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