We all knew that Mariah Carey can sing, but what we didn’t know was that she can also speak Hebrew. Well, at least she knows three expressions—and can use them correctly.
Carey surprised us when she greeted American Idol contestant Shira Gavrielov, the 23-year-old daughter of Israeli singer-songwriter Miki Gavrielov, with a friendly “Shalom.” She also appropriately threw in a “Shana Tova,” given that the audition was taking place early in the new (secular) year.
And then once Gavrielov wowed the judges (especially Nicki Minaj, who gushed about Gavrielov’s being a superstar in the making) with her soulful rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie,” Carey sent her off stage with an encouraging “Sababa!” — leaving us to wonder where she picked up this Israeli slang word for “Cool!”
This time around, the singer definitely showed significantly more advanced Hebrew language skills than she did with her “L’chaim” tweet from last year. What’s next for the diva? A year of ulpan on kibbutz?
In 1962 Jewish Agency officials declined to give Kibbutz Yotvata a grant to set up a dairy herd. The kibbutz is in the hot desert near Eilat, and experts said that cows couldn’t live in such a climate. Similar skepticism was voiced decades earlier, when Zionists first started dairy farming in this dry part of the Middle East.
Amazing then, if you think about it, that Israel’s cows have become the most productive in the world. It shows how innovative methods can overcome inhospitable conditions, and also serves as a testament to the success of Israel’s cooperative farming communities — moshavim and kibbutzim — in spreading expert skills around farmers. Figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (not published in English) show that Israeli cows produce, on average, 22,500 pounds of milk last year, the best yield in the world. American cows produced 20,571 pounds, Japanese cows 16,528 pounds and European Union cows produced 13,534 pounds.
A conservative Knesset member is attacking the “culture of Sodom and Gomorrah” that might bring thousands of naked Israelis to the shores of the Dead Sea.
Zevulun Orlev, a member of the religious HaBayit HaYehudi party, has asked Israeli legal authorities to prevent a planned photo shoot by Spencer Tunick, an American artist who has, according to his Web site, “been documenting the live nude figure in public” since 1992. Tunick, who has staged similar mass-nudity “installations” across Europe, the United States and South America, hopes to carry out his Dead Sea photo shoot later this year, having already raised funds in excess of his $60,000 budget.
It’s a bit ironic that it happened on International Women’s Day. Israel’s most prominent female-by-choice, Dana International, scored a big victory last night when her song “Ding Dong” was chosen to represent the country at the glitzy annual Eurovision Song Contest, the kitchy and politicized competition that, ironically, spawned international stars like Abba and Celine Dion.
Dana International was born Yaron Cohen into a traditional Yemenite family in 1972 and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1993. In 1998, the performer’s song “Diva” took the first-place crown in the contest and was later chosen as one of the 14 most-popular songs in the history of Eurovision.
The undisputed Israeli disco queen struck gold again last night. “Ding Dong” was the favorite among television viewers, who texted votes to choose the winner following live performances. The song beat out nine other tunes sung by Israelis competing to be this year’s Eurovision entry.
A 62-foot menorah graces a mountaintop. Israeli flags flutter from taxi stands. The local synagogue shines after a government-sponsored renovation.
The images don’t immediately bring Indonesia to mind. But a tiny northern outpost in the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population “has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiments,” reports The New York Times,, as a small number of Indonesians embrace the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors.
On first utterance, “Israeli Jews are flocking to Berlin” is a phrase that might draw more than one cocked eyebrow. But as Public Radio International’s “The World” reported last week, a thriving Israeli Jewish community — mostly young, creative types — has found newfangled appreciation in what was once the capital city of the Nazi regime.
The PRI segment profiles Ofri Brin, a 28-year-old, auburn-haired avant-pop singer from the Golan Heights, who followed her boyfriend, also a musician, to Germany. “Berlin has become such a cultural pearl,” she told the country’s international radio broadcaster, Deutche Welle, in February. “That’s what it was before the war — it was always a place that broke all the rules and made things happen. It’s very avant garde and has space for every kind of culture and art.”
It would have been a “Kumbaya” moment in Singapore on the first day of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games: a 17-year old Israeli locked in fierce but friendly battle with his Iranian counterpart in the under-106-pound tae kwon do competition.
The scene of international sportsmanship was scuttled, however, when the Iranian contestant, Mohammad Soleimani, pulled out of competition against the Israeli, Gili Haimovitz, citing a recently aggravated injury.
Haimovitz won the gold medal — Israel’s first in the competition — by default, having already bested Kirk Barbosa of the Philippines and Nicholas Guzman of Argentina. “I knew beforehand that if I was matched up against the Iranian, there was a chance he would withdraw, but I really wanted to compete against him. It’s a shame he didn’t show,” Haimovitz told Haaretz.
Israeli Arabs may soon make your Yom Kippur fast easier.
It’s often said that Jews and Muslims have a lot in common when it comes to religious observance, and that’s rarely highlighted better than when it comes to fasting. Both religions require full-on fasting several times a year.
Now there’s a theory that a drug called etoricoxib (commercial name Arcoxia), if taken before a fast day, reduces the occurrence of migraines and headaches. Before Yom Kippur, doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center gave 211 patients pills to take — some were placebos, others were etoricoxib. Those who took the real thing — which conveniently remains active in the body for 22 hours — reported an easier fast.
The same researchers are working with Muslims who are fasting through Ramadan to continue their research, and if all goes well, they may just find a cure to fast-related migraines. On their recruitment website, they present the participation in the research as a religious virtue, as it will test whether the drug will “decrease the incidence of people breaking their fast.” You can see more on the experiment in this piece in the Jerusalem Post.
The name Shaykh Mowafak Tarif probably doesn’t mean much to you. But among Israel’s Druze minority, everybody has heard of him — he is the community’s spiritual leader.
Today he will receive an honorary doctorate at the University of Haifa. There is much excitement about the award in the Druze community, where it is seen as a well-deserved recognition of his contribution to Israeli society.
Remember Shuli Rand, the actor who took the lead role in “Ushpizin,” an internationally acclaimed Israeli movie made in 2004? Well that role is pretty much the extent of the actor’s exposure outside Israel since he returned to the ways of his Orthodox upbringing and became ba’al teshuva, or newly religious, in 1996. But in Israel, he has become a huge musical star.
In 2008 he managed the unlikely achievement of writing an album based on the teachings of his religious mentor, the late Hasidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. The album went gold, with buyers across the religious spectrum.
Israelis have been shunning Whoppers, causing Burger King to shut down all of its 55 locations over there, according to an article on JTA’s website.
I never thought my health-conscious American Jewish parents’ refusal to let me eat any fast food growing up, echoed the sentiments of our homeland. Though unlike my folks, instead of being replaced by organic treats, former deep-fried locations will morph into Burger Ranch chains, which offer more Mediterranean style morsels.
Defining Israeli cuisine is tough work, as Forward Ingredients columnist Leah Koenig recently pointed out. But difficult or not, Israeli food culture is thriving, and the global gastro community is taking notice.
If you think Israeli food comprises just hummus, falafel and shawarma you have a lot to learn (and taste). Modern Israeli cuisine is hip, fresh, local and heavily influenced by the loads of immigrants living there. For your convenience, we’ve found two food programs, both happening this week, sure to bring you and your taste buds up to speed.
Celebrity Israeli Chef Haim Cohen, host of the cooking show “Garlic, Pepper and Olive Oil,” will be preparing a dinner at the venerable James Beard Foundation tonight in New York. Serving up dishes like whitefish ceviche, labaneh filled torellini, and seared calamari with hummus, he’ll incorporate traditional and new Israeli ingredients into the meal.
For a more in-depth look at modern Israeli cuisine, you can sign up for the New York Times’ course “The New Israeli Cuisine,” a week-long online seminar led by Times food writer Joan Nathan and Janna Gur, editor of Israel’s leading food magazine, On The Table.
Leave the schnitzel and falafel at home.
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