The Shmooze

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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New App Detects Military Police Presence

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s the iPhone app that helps you to be a shloch. For Israeli teenagers who grow up attending schools with — how shall I put this delicately as the husband of a teacher? — loose discipline by international standards, the military police they encounter on their conscription to the army come as a shock.

All of a sudden they can be apprehended anywhere in the country if they’re not wearing their uniform according to regulation, or for a variety of other misdemeanors. Coming from schoolrooms where threats of punishments are rarely acted upon, they’re now in an army where the police officers mean business, and punishments are harsh.

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Herman Cain Angers Palestinians With Gaffe

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has once again demonstrated that he could use a crash course in American foreign policy. His latest blunder in this subject area comes as a quote from him in Israel Hayom, the Israeli right-wing mass circulation tabloid backed by American multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Sounding more extreme than even the most hardened Israeli nationalist, Cain referred to the Palestinians dismissively as “the so-called Palestinian people.” He was speaking of the Palestinian’s seeking U.N. membership and the full quote was “I think that the so-called Palestinian people have this urge for unilateral recognition because they see this president [Obama] as weak.”

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Montel in Israel on Medical Marijuana Quest

By Nathan Burstein

iStockphoto

“Fact-finding missions” to Israel don’t usually involve cannabis, but medical marijuana is the reason former talk-show host Montel Williams is currently in the Holy Land.

“Some of the leading science on where and how those chemicals [in marijuana] work is being done right here in this country,” the Emmy Award winner said during the trip.

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‘Good Girls’ Rewarded With Sticker of Boys

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s just the prize that every seven-year-old girl wants. Not a teen-pop record or a Barbie doll, but a sticker with the faces of her male contemporaries.

Take kids to the physician here in Israel and they are often rewarded for their cooperation with a sticker. If you belong to the Clalit health maintenance organization, the stickers have pictures illustrating the message, such as a recuperating child with the message “get well soon.” But the stickers bearing the message “good girl” distributed in some parts of Israel are illustrated with a picture of four boys.

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Social Justice Protestors Taking To Israeli Streets Again

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel’s social protests are due to return to the streets tomorrow with a march, the first in just under two months. “On October 29, we young people need to take to the streets and demand a new national budget, and the social justice we deserve,” protestor May Turgeman said at a press conference in which details of the renewal of the struggle were released.

The protests, which began on July 14, clearly had a large impact on the national agenda, forcing the government to grapple with the cost of living and convene the Trajtenberg Committee. This panel has recommended reductions in tariffs on food, extra benefits for working mothers, a home-building plan and expanded childcare, and has had its recommendations endorsed by the cabinet.

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Diabetic Israeli Children Test Artificial Pancreas

By Renee Ghert-Zand

An artificial pancreas was taken for a test drive recently in Israel. This new technology, if it proves successful, could be a huge breakthrough in diabetes care and control.

“A Sweet Life,” a website for healthy living with diabetes, reported that 18 children in Israel were gathered at Kibbutz Ma’aleh Hahamisha to participate in the world’s first out-of-hospital artificial pancreas trial. The study was led by two doctors from the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel: Prof. Moshe Phillip of the Institute of Endocrinology and Diabetes, and and Eran Atlas of the Diabetes Technology Institute.

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Fashion Week Comes to Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Israeli model Bar Refaeli on the runway in 2008

It won’t be quite like Fashion Week in New York, Paris or Milan, but it will be Holon’s biggest fashion week ever. This month, the Mediatheque Cultural Center in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, will host a fashion-focused event October 24-27 that will include film screenings, an international symposium, master classes taught by international fashion personalities and a fashion show.

The Holon municipality and the Design Museum Holon, which opened in 2010, are behind the fashion week. They are aiming to make a name for their museum and to gain recognition for Holon within the international design community. This, the third annual Fashion Week in Holon, is being produced by produced by Benny Moran Productions in collaboration with the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, the lifestyle channels of Ananey Communications, the Israel Textile and Fashion Association and the Foreign Ministry.

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Israeli Scientists Learn to Levitate

By Renee Ghert-Zand

You know that scene in “Back to the Future 2” when Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly skates on a hover board? It’s no longer just movie magic.

Tel Aviv University scientists demonstrated quantum levitation at the Association of Science-Technology Centers annual conference held last week at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. The researchers from the Superconductivity Group at TAU’s Schools of Physics and Astronomy wowed conference attendees with their demonstration of superconductors locked in a magnetic field.

They showed how a disc frozen with liquid nitrogen can be made to hover over a magnet in any position. Similarly, it can “fly” over a track at any height or at any angle. It even appeared to defy gravity as it circled underneath the track.

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Gymnast Alexander Shatilov Is Israel’s Great Olympic Hope

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Israeli gymnast Alexander Shatilov is on his way to the 2012 Olympic Games in London after winning the bronze medal for floor exercise at the Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo on October 15.

The 24-year-old Uzbekistan native, who immigrated to Israel in 2002, tied for third in the floor exercise with Diego Hypolito of Brazil, with a score of 15.466. China’s Zou Kai, the Beijing Olympic and 2009 world floor champion, won the silver, and Kohei Uchimura of Japan took the gold. Uchimura had won another gold 18 hours earlier, becoming the first male gymnast to win three all-round titles.

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Bootlegged Lulavs, Etrogs, for Sukkot?

By Nathan Jeffay

Wikimedia Commons

Produce harvested in the dead of night, smuggled and sold for high prices under the radar of authorities. Warehouses burglarized. Tourists hiding the good stuff in suitcases and getting found out by customs.

No, this isn’t a story of drug rings, but rather of lulavs and etrogs, the plant species waved during synagogue services on Sukkot, the festival that starts tomorrow night.

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Mubarak for ‘Man of 5771’?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The Egyptian newspaper Al-masry Al-youm took note of the fact that an Israeli journalist has suggested that ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak be named Israel’s Man of the Year (with “year” meaning the recently departed 5771).

Political correspondent Udi Segal apparently said on air during a Channel 2 evening news broadcast that “Mubarak symbolizes the last Jewish year ‘with all its changes, risks, hope and despair.’”

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