The Shmooze

Egypt Reality TV Prank Goes Very Bad

By JTA

courtesy of memri

Egyptian actors on a hidden camera television show reacted violently upon being told they were being aired on an Israeli TV channel.

Excerpts from the show, part of satellite TV channel Al-Nahar’s special Ramadan programming, were translated and distributed this week by MEMRI-the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In one show, Egyptian artist Ayman Kandeel attacks the producer, who had identified himself as Israeli, and slaps the host, causing her to fall to the floor.

Realizing he has been pranked, Kandeel tells the host that she brought it on herself and offers to rub lotion on her back where she has been hurt.

Actor Mahmoud Abd Al-Ghaffar also reacts violently, pulling a producer by his hair and fighting with other staff members.

“If you weren’t a girl, the moment you told me you were Jewish … I hate the Jews to death,” he said.

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Should Israelis Cancel Trips to Bulgaria?

By Nathan Jeffay

Getty Images
A member of the Israeli rescue and recovery squad collects evidence during investigations at the Airport in Burgas where a suicide blast targeting Israelis took place.

The tragic attack in Bulgaria has united Israelis in shock and mourning. But some are also left asking a rather mundane question — who pays for the knock-on effects?

The Hebrew media reports that in the main Israelis with travel plans for Bulgaria are continuing to travel. But inevitably, some want to cancel.

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Conflict Condoms Turn Up the Heat

By Hannah Rubin

Buzzfeed.com

Israel advocates don’t just want you to visit. They want you to come.

Over the past decade, pro-Israel campaigns have internationally turned up the heat, by printing pro-Israel messages on widely distributed…condoms.

The unambiguous mix of sex and sightseeing first began in 2003, at the behest of the University of California — San Diego’s Inside Israel Initiative. The campaign, funded by the campus Hillel, aimed to promote Israel’s unique gender equality record through the dissemination of condoms branded with the slogan “Israel: its still safe to come.” T-shirts with condoms waving Israeli flags were featured as well.

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Axl Rose Lands in Israel

By Haaretz

Axl Rose, the lead singer of American legendary hard-rock band Guns N’ Roses arrived in Israel on Monday, ahead of the group’s one-off performance in Hayarkon Park on Tuesday.

Rumors of an Israeli stop of a GNR tour have been circulating nearly annually since the band’s last Israel show – their now legendary 1993 show in Tel Aviv, part of their Use Your Illusion tour, which took place in the same venue.

In addition to Guns N’ Roses, the bands Ugly Kid Joe and the popular Israeli rock band Hayehudim will also perform at the concert.

In 2008, a somewhat depleted new version of Guns N’ Roses released the band’s first album in 15 years, Chinese Democracy, which was certified platinum in the U.S. in 2009.

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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Scribe vs. Scribe on Soccer Field

By Assaf Gavron

In the shadow of the Euro 2012 soccer championship, a smaller yet more intellectually profound sports event, took place last week in Haifa.

Israel hosted the so-called Authors’ Euro, an international tournament of national soccer teams consisting of writers and poets. For three days, German, Italian and Israeli authors battled for the cup. In between, they shared stories, participated in readings and panel discussions (and, of course, guzzled beer) while watching television as their “real” national teams fought for their own trophies.

The European Writers’ League has been in existence for about a decade. Teams of scribes from different countries started meeting and playing each other in the hope of fostering cultural exchange, increasing literary awareness and, of course, fulfilling lost childhood dreams of becoming soccer stars.

The Israeli team was founded by yours truly in 2008, following an invitation by the German team to play in Berlin. The response to my call was impressive. Among those traveling to Berlin in May of that year were striker Nir Baram (whose novel “Fine People” in English translation is due from Knopf next year); winger Avi Shilon (whose biography of Menachem Begin will be published this fall by Yale University Press); successful pop musician and novelist Yali Sobolin in midfield; and the author of “Almost Dead” (HarperCollins, 2010) — that’s me — in defense.

We were badly beaten there, but the event (hosted by the German Foreign Minister) was so successful, that as soon as we returned to Israel, we started plotting the replay. That December we invited the German and the English writers’ teams to a tournament in sunny Tel Aviv, in which we beat both teams and won the cup. A year later we travelled to London and were badly beaten again, in the pouring rain.

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Madonna's Mixed Reviews

By Haaretz

France’s far-right National Front is considering a lawsuit against Madonna over a video she used during her concert in Israel on Thursday night. The clip showed party leader Marine Le Pen with a swastika on her forehead.

While she performed the song “Nobody Knows Me” in Ramat Gan Stadium, Madonna showed a video in which her face was collaged with a number of well-known personalities. The face of Marine Le Pen appeared for a few seconds with a swastika affixed to her forehead before dissolving into a composite character resembling Adolf Hitler.

The concert, which opened Madonna’s 65-city MDNA world tour, received mixed reviews from the international press, which provided extensive coverage - around 80 foreign journalists were here for the performance.

“For a show that was originally billed as a ‘Concert for Peace,’ the opening night of Madonna’s world tour in Tel Aviv, Israel, featured a disproportionate amount of violence,” the critic from The Hollywood Reporter wrote, citing the guns and religious imagery used during the first part of the concert.

For more go to Haaretz.com

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Mekhi Phifer Hangs Out at Israeli Air Force Base

By Nathan Jeffay

Getty Images

What is “ER” doctor Greg Pratt up to nowadays? Well it seems that he fancies himself as an Israeli fighter pilot. The actor who played him, Mekhi Phifer — also famous for his co-starring role opposite Eminem in the feature film “8 Mile” — is in Israel at the moment, and hanging out where all the celebs go… on an air force base.

He Tweeted:: “We r now headed to the military base. Its about to go down! Me and my dude @omarepps r trying to pilot one of the fighter jets!! Pray for yo.”

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Bono: 'Hope Springs Eternal'

By Haaretz

getty images
Bono

U2 front man Bono surprised Israeli passers-by earlier this month with his sudden visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, BuzzFeed published the note Bono left behind at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, which consists of a poem about how “hope is like a faithful dog,” and his sketch of “a dog called Hope.”

“In Jerusalem, hope springs eternal,” the poem read.

“Hope is like a faithful dog, sometimes she runs ahead of me to check the future, to sniff it out and then I call to her: Hope, Hope, come here, and she comes to me. I pet her, she eats out of my hand and sometimes she stays behind, near some other hope maybe to sniff out whatever was. Then I call her my Despair. I call out to her. Here, my little Despair, come here and she comes and snuggles up, and again I call her Hope.”

He signed, “With great thanks for great room in great hotel in great city, Bono.”

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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Israeli April Fool's Jokes Went Too Far

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

Coming soon after the Purim prank season, April Fool’s Day didn’t used to be such a big deal in Israel. But every year it becomes more popular — and more chaotic. Israelis, it seems, aren’t always great at knowing where to draw the line.

Three youngsters from Beit Shemesh have just spent three days in police custody after faking an armed robbery at a kiosk run by a friend (or probably now former friend). They went to the kiosk on Sunday night wielding toy guns and with their faces covered and demanded money. Their victim handed over 4,000 shekels (just over $1,000) and called the police — only to find that the “robbers” returned an hour later to explain it as all a joke. But the three men were arrested and brought before Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on charges of armed robbery, threatening behavior and disturbing the peace.

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Whitney Houston Had Israel Trip Planned

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown with Ariel Sharon in 2003

For some people, that one last trip to Israel never takes place. That’s what happened to Whitney Houston, according to CBS’s “The Insider.”

AbbaNibi, the Israeli/Jewish cultural newswire reports that it was revealed on the gossip show last night that Houston had been planning a return trip to the Holy Land as a follow up to the time she spent there with her then-husband Bobby Brown. She apparently wanted to be baptized again in the Jordan River by the African Israelites (Black Hebrews). “The Insider” showed Houston’s goddaughter Brandi Burnside saying, “We planned to go to Israel together. She said to me, ‘We need to get into the holy waters, so that nothing can harm us.’”

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Madonna Fans To Bibi: Hold Off On Iran Strike

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Madonna’s upcoming concert in Tel Aviv, or the Iranian nuclear crisis: Which is more important? The answer is obvious to some of the Queen of Pop’s Israeli fans.

Confident that they have their priorities straight and that their cause is just, Madonna fans are pleading with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on striking Iran until after the singer’s concert has taken place at the Ramat Gan Stadium on May 29. And just like any other protest group, they have set up a Facebook page — this one replete with a photo of Bibi posing with Madge, likely taken on one of her recent visits to the Holy Land). It’s called, “Bibi, No War with Iran until after Madonna’s performance on May 29.” Not too snappy a title, but they do get their point across.

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Madonna To Kick Off Tour in Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The Super Bowl halftime show was just the start. All of us are going to be seeing a lot more of Madonna this year, but Israelis are going to be the first to see — and hear — her.

Following the release of her new album, “MDNA” on March 26, Madge will kick off a world tour in Tel Aviv. Her many Israeli fans will have to scramble for tickets for her May 31 performance at the Ramat Gan Stadium, where she is expected to sing both new and old songs in characteristic spectacular style. This will be the Material Girl’s fourth concert in Israel, following one in 1993 and two in 2010.

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Natalie Shows Off Aleph to Israeli Relatives

By Renee Ghert-Zand

She may be an Academy Award-winning actress and many men’s dream Jewish woman. But she is also a new mother, and like all new moms, Natalie Portman, wants to show off her baby to friends and family.

That is just what Portman did last week on a trip to Israel. Ynet reports that the actress made an under-the-radar trip to the Holy Land with fiancé ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied and six-month-old son Aleph to visit with friends and family. The 30-year-old Portman, whose birth name is Natalie Hershlag, was born in Jerusalem and has many relatives living in Israel.

Portman, Millepied and little Aleph stayed at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel (where Portman checked in under an assumed name) and visited (accompanied by two body guards) tourist sites such as the Western Wall, Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market, and the Dead Sea. Portman was also spotted sitting in cafes greeting friends and relatives, as well as graciously posing for photographs with fans who had recognized her.

The family departed Israel Monday, but knowing Portman’s strong attachment to Israel, it can be assumed that they will be back again with little Aleph soon.

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Ovadia Yosef Frees Man Who Tried to Kill Him

By Nathan Jeffay

What would be your attitude toward someone who had plotted to kill you? I can’t help thinking that I’d be more than a little broiges.

You would imagine that the stakes are upped a little when the target of the murder plot is the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party. After all, his would-be murderer was planning his death as an act of terrorism, and Yosef famously said in 2001 that it is “forbidden to be merciful” to Palestinian terrorists. People initially presumed that the “them” referred to Palestinians in general, but he then clarified that he meant Arab terrorists.

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School Called ‘Impure’ After Muslim Wedding

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Parents of students who attend the public-religious Ohel Meir school in Afula in northern Israel are demanding that it be spiritually purified following a Muslim wedding that took place there. They are up in arms that the wedding was allowed to happen in the hall where the school’s Torah scrolls are kept, and are threatening to keep their children out of the school synagogue until a purification ceremony is carried out.

“We’re talking about a serious event that should never have happened,” one parent told the Israeli news website Walla! “I am not prepared to let my child pray in a space in which a Muslim wedding took place…this was an impure act.” One father said that he thought a delegation of rabbis needed to enter the school synagogue and perform a special prayer service in order to purify it.

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Israel To Convert Army Bases Into Apartments

By Nathan Burstein

Israel’s government may kill two birds with one stone by converting as many as eight army bases into residential living areas.

The plan, still under discussion among the treasury, defense ministry and Israel Land Administration, would initially turn four bases into apartment complexes, in a move that could eventually create up to 40,000 new housing units in the greater Tel Aviv area. The plan addresses two sources of local protest: anxiety among residents who’ve seen real estate prices sky-rocket in recent years because of a housing shortage, and concerns among army officials over a treasury proposal to cuts its budget by 3 billion shekels (about $795 million) annually.

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#israelhates on Twitter: Fun or Offensive?

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s like one of those catchphrase competitions, but for Israel-haters. The new craze on Twitter: #israelhates.

According to reports at one point this week the hashtag accounted for 0.15% of all Twitter traffic, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you think about the scale of Twitter’s usage, is quite remarkable.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers (Finally) Perform in Israel

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

It took more than a decade, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers have finally found a “more suitable time” to perform in Israel.

The band, which received a Grammy nomination yesterday for best rock album, will play in Tel Aviv next September in support of its latest release, “I’m With You.” The show will take place more than 11 years after the band’s original date for the concert, which it called off because of security concerns in August 2001, during one of the worst periods of the second intifada.

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Revealed! Henry the K Blasted Jews

By Renee Ghert-Zand

getty images
Henry Kissinger

It seems Henry Kissinger had little patience for Jews who were fighting for the rights of their brethren in the Soviet Union or lobbying for Israel.

Britain’s Daily Mail reports that newly-released State Department documents indicate that in 1972, when he was National Security Advisor in the Nixon administration, Kissinger called such Jews “bastards.”

At the time, the White House and State Department were being flooded with requests from Soviet Jewry activists for the U.S. to make some public diplomatic moves to address the high levies the Kremlin had put on exit visas. Among the documents revealed was a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir urging Nixon to abandon his “quiet diplomacy” approach and to confront the Soviets directly on the issue.

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Gender-Bending Baby Names Take Off in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s hard work keeping up with my four-year-old’s social life — not only because it’s far more lively than mine, with invitations freely exchanged over the sandpit, but also because it’s so difficult to identify his friends.

“Can you see Rotem?” he asks during morning drop-off at kindergarten. I look at each of the girls, believing I’ve already met her and risking his wrath because I have forgotten what she looks like, but no, this Rotem — though it’s a traditional girls’ name — is a boy. A couple of days later, a woman chats to me at the kindergarten gate. “I’m Natanel’s mom,” she says, positive that I know Natanel (the Hebrew form of Nathaniel). The name rings a bell, so out of politeness I say I know how much my son enjoys playing with him. Cover blown: Natanel is a she.

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