The Big Felafel


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Videos category.

Single is the way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Tel Aviv

Another Valentine’s Day trying to separate the happy couples from the sad singles. Oh, but in Tel Aviv this could not be further from the truth (and of course it is far from the truth anyways). It turns out, according to a recent study that a majority of women and men in their 20’s and 30’s living in Tel Aviv, are single. So, like any married Jerusalemite, I went to undercover the mystery behind this shocking new fact. And now I am here to share it with you. I hope you enjoy the results! Take that Valentine’s Day!

 

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Stand up: My name. Aliyah. Bureaucracy. And a faxypack.

It’s not everyday you have a captive audience of 400 Israelis willing to listen to your trial and error approach to living in Israel. So, after winning a stand up contest that the New Israel Fund and Bet Hillel hosted in May, I decided to make my five-minute debut about just that: the new immigrant on the block. I was honored to take part in the stand up night, with the other five outstanding and hilarious women that took to the stage. Even better was the fact we were opening for the famously talented Orna Banai. What I also appreciated was how warm the audience was, even though I did my stand up in English. They listened and laughed, and I think they also could relate, even if they are not new immigrants. Bureaucracy is still bureaucracy.

It was a night I will never forget. And an opportunity I hope to have again in the near future.

To see the other ladies click here

I'm the one in pants, and Orna Banai is the the last black dress from the left. Please keep in mind I was 6 weeks after having my second child here...

I’m the one in pants, and Orna Banai is the the last black dress from the left. Please keep in mind I was 6 weeks after having my second child here…


The Israel Election: What, Who, What? (VIDEO)

The Israeli Election is just a few days away and the campaign ads won’t let us forget it. That said, many people on the streets of Jerusalem don’t know who they are voting for and what’s the point. In my latest Hahafuch News Update, we take it to the streets to hear what the people have to say. 

Click here to check out the post on Times of Israel. 

50 Shades of Blue and White

50 Shades of Blue and White


Bang…Boom…Shooting…Terrorist Attack…A Reflection on Mental Illness and PTSD

The horrific school shooting on Friday in Connecticut has hit home for anyone and everyone, no matter where you are. For people in the US the question of gun control, parenting, and mental illness is probably dominating the conversation. A friend of mine writing to me from her computer in New Mexico confessed that she is afraid to go outside because anyone could kill her for no reason.

In Israel we are shocked about the news, because these kinds of shootings don’t happen here. Reckless, and random, that’s not how you describe a terrorist attack. We are scared for different reasons, but the fear and outcome are still the same. And as a parent we are all saddened when it is a school and children that is the target, whether it is random or calculated. The attack is just as shrilling.

While the news is still unfolding, it seems obvious at this point, that the gunman was someone plagued with mental illness. It is an issue that I understand all to well. My brother, who took his own life almost three years ago to the date, suffered from mental illness his whole life. It’s not something I talk about often, but I believe his story is important for the future of mental health awareness and change.

He was always brilliant. He was always upset. And most of the time he was violent. We couldn’t understand him. He couldn’t understand what he was going through. And as much as my parents tried, the system seemed to fail him. My brother turned to religion, drugs, and then the US army to find a solution for his mental problems. The US army should have never allowed my brother to serve with his illness, but during the Iraq war, they seemed to overlook his problems and accepted him to become a foot-solider in one of the most volatile areas of the world.

I can only imagine that what he saw on a daily basis added to the list of emotional and mental traumas he had suffered. When he returned to the US he of course could not function in a normal setting. The Vet office gave him pills to help the problem. They needed it and him to go away. He took the pills. The whole bottle at once in fact. He almost died but was rescued and once his stomach was pumped he realized he didn’t want to be this person.

He escaped to another state and became another person. But you never escape mental illness. Now he was alone. But still had his pills. Many pills. On the outside he tried to fit in and become the citizen the US wanted him to be. On the inside he remained traumatized. His demons, the ones from childhood and now war, never went away. He died alone, overdosing on pills in his home.

In my eyes, my brother never really had a chance. He never received the proper health care he needed. He was given jail time for his actions. And pills for his pain. He took his life, and I thank God he never took anyone else’s. His violent outbursts led to fights and broken limbs, but never death. He was 24 when he died.

 Now that I live in Israel my battle with mental health treatment turns to the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a citizen and journalist I have met many children and adults with PTSD in Israel, and they are not treated for this severe issue. After experiencing just two rockets in Jerusalem, I realized just how serious trauma can be. When the first rocket hit on Friday night, I will admit that it was the first time I did not have an appetite for Shabbat dinner. I was afraid to leave the shelter, quickly packed an emergency bag and couldn’t stop shaking. I had to be a mother, a wife, and still somehow walk the dog. But I was no longer me. The one rocket hit my core.

I heard the second rocket. I will never forget that boom. I stood in a stairwell and could see the blue sky. I waited for the rocket to appear and crash. Of course it was miles away, but my mind couldn’t handle the truth. As well as the boom, I heard to the beautiful voices of children singing songs about Chanukah. They too were stuck in the stairwell with nowhere to go. How many of these children will forever be affected by war, terrorist attacks and hate? And these children experienced two rockets, what about those down south who had rockets rain on them for years?

Mental illness is just as serious as a broken arm. Just like a broken arm, you are not able to work at normal capacity. You are no longer completely functioning. And until you can get use back in that arm you will never be the same person. We don’t realize how much we need that arm until it is broken. With mental illness it takes moments like a school shooting or rockets to make us realize that our minds can be broken too.

I have shared this post today because we all need an outlet. For the US I hope that there will be a serious change in the healthcare system that puts more weight on mental and emotional illness and behavioral problems. Not more pills in a jar. For Israel I hope we can add more emphasis to PTSD and give people the proper attention they need. After all you can have IVF free in this country, up to two healthy births, but therapy is only partially subsided.

 


LOL: Avoda Aravit (Arab Labor).

TV show Arab Labor

'Arab Labor'

We all know, well except for maybe the dummy TV Tax people, that I do not own a TV. What’s the point of owning a TV nowadays when you can watch any TV show you want, without commercials online?

And while I love my line up of non-reality reality shows, comedies that everyone is watching; every now and then an Israeli show will make it into my line-up. Most Israeli TV has the same five recycled actors in different TV shows that I can’t stand. But, my friends, there is a show so fantastic, so funny and so well written that I just can’t keep it all to myself.

In honor of the Writer’s Festival taking place in Jerusalem right now, I would like to introduce you to the show Avoda Aravit (Arab Labor). Creator, Sayed Kashua, says he named the show Arab Labor because it is a well-known saying in Israel that any crap work is ‘Arab Labor.’ This kind of humor, tight scripts and incredible actors, makes for awesome TV watching.

Arabs and Kippas

Arabs and Kippas, sure write it in!

The show pokes fun at all of Israeli society. The story and characters are based off of Kashua’s life experiences, which you can also read about in his Haaretz columns. The premise is an Arab family who moves into the Jewish Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia. What’s it like to be an Arab living in West Jerusalem? The neighbors make up most of the rest of the cast and include all the stereotypes you would want to see (although I must say I haven’t seen any episode with the token new immigrant, a flaw most Israeli shows make…in my humble opinion). The show has no boundaries and touches upon all those uncomfortable subjects most politicians avoid in their well thought out peace speeches. Make fun of religion? Sure, put an Arab family at a Seder table. The show makes fun of everything from our different religions, cultures, politics and even the level we speak at in a conversation. It’s brilliant. It’s bold. And, yes it’s beautiful.

This is the first Arabic speaking show to be on prime time TV. Don’t worry there is a mix of Hebrew, Arabic and even sometimes some broken English (one of the best episodes which features the BBC and my running buddy Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat).

There are so many hilarious incidents that I want to summarize for you here…but come on, they won’t sound as funny and why waste your time with me when you can watch the real thing?

Do you watch the show? We want to hear from you what you think? And if you want to hear from the creator himself here’s your opportunity this week at the Writer’s Festival. Click here for more details.

 


A Big Felafel Exclusive: Unorthodox.

We at The Big Felafel like to think we are super cool people. You may agree. You may not agree. And we might not care. Who are we kidding, we would care. But when my friend Shira Katz asked if I would be interested in writing about a documentary film she is producing called ‘Unorthodox’ I had a moment of awe.

I felt cool. Really cool. Because this film is amazing. ‘Unorthodox’, a feature documentary, tracks the lives of three teenagers from the modern Orthodox community as they spend their post-high school year studying in Israel. The film follows the teenagers through their journey in Israel and America. The documentary tells this intimate story with personal video diaries, giving us those real life moments that are both raw and profound.

As well as the story of these three teenagers, the documentary weaves together Anna Wexler’s own story. Wexler, the woman behind the documentary who left her modern Orthodox community, reveals her own life story adding a very private layer to the film.

In this exclusive behind the scenes, check out our Q&A with filmmaker Anna Wexler herself and a special Vlog from Producer Shira on the Kickstarter Campaign!

 

Q: Why did Anna decide to do this documentary?

A: In a sense, this documentary tells my own story. I grew up in the Modern Orthodox community in New Jersey, and as a teenager, I broke away from the religion. I watched as many of my friends graduated from high school and went to spend a year studying in a seminary in Israel. These friends had also grown up in Modern Orthodox homes, but like me, they had rebelled, and were not religious by the time they went to Israel. When they came back from their year in Israel they had completely changed: some of my male friends no longer spoke to me since they didn’t want to get “distracted” by women; others now wore black hats and spent their mornings learning in yeshiva. My friends who were girls were suddenly wearing long skirts and long sleeves. And everyone strictly adhered to Shabbat (no more going out on Friday night) and kosher.

I wanted to find out what happens over this year—what makes people change so drastically, and why do the changes happen so reliably, year after year? Originally I wanted to write an article or thesis about the “year in Israel” but I met a producer who suggested that I make a documentary film about the experience. So as a sophomore in college, I got my close friend Nadja Oertelt on board. We taught ourselves a bit about documentary film and together we set out to follow three teenagers through their year in Israel.

 

Q: How, if any, has the goal changed throughout the process?

A: I think the goal has always remained the same—to find out what happens over the year in Israel. What changed was that I became a character in the film. All throughout production people told me that this was my story and that I should be in the film, but I stubbornly resisted. It was only many years later, in the editing room, that I realized how much richer the story would be if you watched the teenagers travel to Israel through my eyes, and if Orthodox Judaism was explained through my childhood experiences instead of using onscreen text. In addition, I saw that my story—of leaving the community—could add another layer to the film, and thus the film could encompass a broader variety of personal experiences with religion.

 

Q: Why did Shira become an Associate Producer?

A: I met Shira when I moved to Israel, and we’ve been close friends since 2009. When I was working on the full-length rough cut this summer, she provided helpful advice and feedback, and when I was working on the trailer this fall, Shira was there at all hours of the night. I would share my screen on Skype and she’d help me tweak the individual cuts. Nadja and I have been thinking about bringing on a third person for a while now, and Shira was always the front-runner in my mind (I don’t think she knows that). When we launched the Kickstarter campaign in December and were overwhelmed with responses, Nadja and I decided that it was the right time to bring on a third person and we made Shira a formal offer. Lucky for us, she accepted.

Shira also has a personal connection to the film—she grew up in a religious home and has been through her own struggles with the faith.

 

Q: What’s it like filming in Israel as oppose to America?

A: People react to the camera differently. In America, we felt that people tended to be more suspicious—Americans have a deep-seated sense of privacy and personal rights, and they are sensitive to potential violations of those rights.

When we filmed in Israel, we often encountered the opposite issue—people were so enthusiastic about being on camera that they’d wave their hands in front of the lens or stick their faces right into the camera and shout random things. Fortunately, Nadja—who was doing the filming—doesn’t understand Hebrew, so whenever they yelled at her, she was able to block it out pretty easily. I found myself clearing the way and trying to fend people off as Nadja was shooting.

 

Q: Why should people see this film?

A: First and foremost, it’s going to be a great movie with a fascinating narrative! By weaving together the very different experiences of four characters, the audience will really get a picture of the varied personal struggles that people undergo with fait. This is something that is not really openly talked about, especially in the Orthodox community, where on the whole, it’s not okay to seriously question. Unorthodox will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will definitely surprise you—there are plenty of plot twists.

Also, I think that Unorthodox will bring up important discussions about the year in Israel and the Modern Orthodox educational system. On a personal level, I’d really like the film to spark conversation about attitudes towards people who seriously question, or outright reject, Orthodox Judaism. We’ve gotten so many emails from people who are not religious but who are afraid to “come out of the closet” for fear of losing their families and social networks. Right now the approach is largely black or white: you’re either religious or not. The reality is that religious beliefs are fluid—it’s a journey, not a two-sided coin.

Don’t just look forward to the film, make it happen and join their Kickstarter Campaign.

 

 


Ha Ha HaHafuch! It’s time for a Comedy Variety Show and You’re Invited!

So it’s shameless self-promotion…so what! I’m just trying to get you to come to the Hahafuch Comedy Variety show this Thursday, July 7th at 8pm. I just want you, person living in Jerusalem, to have a good night out. I want you to laugh, drink some beer, enjoy music and maybe meet some cool people. Is that really so bad?

I hope to see you there. There will be comedy sketches, improv, music, beer and even stand-up with the very talented Benji Lovitt.

For details click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


And the winner is…Israel: Behind the Scenes of Footnote

This week Israel made it in the news a lot. Mostly you read about politics, lame speeches and overused terms, but if you dug a little deeper you might have found out about Joseph Cedar, an Israeli film director who won best screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Whenever an Israeli wins something anywhere in the world, an Israeli citizen feels entitled to enjoy the moment and share the good news, almost as though they are the ones accepting the honor. I think this is where you can definitely say, “we’re all family here.” When Natalie Portman took home the Oscar for best actress at the Academy Awards this year, she might as well have been playing for Team Israel, because she was celebrated as though she brought home the gold. I don’t even know what makes her Israeli (obviously her mom or dad), but I shed a tear (not really) when she gave her acceptance speech— it was like Hebrew to my ears.

So when Joseph Cedar, an Israeli, clinched the Cannes award for best screenplay, I just wanted to give someone, anyone a high five and pop the champagne bottle (more like cheap fantasia, but you get the picture) open and celebrate.

Cedar is a gifted young director, who is no stranger to winning awards. His first movie, “Time of Favor” won six Ofir Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In 2007 his critically acclaimed film, “Beaufort” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie is based on his own experiences during his army service where he served in Lebanon.

His latest win at Cannes is for his new movie “Footnote”, which premiered there. The movie is a dramedy that examines the relationship between father and son, both of whom are competing researchers of Talmud at an Israeli university. The film is set to premiere on June 2.

I had the chance to sit down with Joseph Cedar’s father, Prof. Howard Cedar and talk about his son’s continued success. But what makes the conversation even more interesting, is that Prof. Howard Cedar is also gifted and no stranger to awards— however, this is not a son following in his father’s footsteps story, but quite the opposite, Prof. Cedar is a world renowned scientist. Known in the medical world as the ‘Father of methylation’, Cedar has won many awards for his work including his recent honor, the Canada Gairdner International award for his contribution to medical science. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if his contribution ultimately leads to a Nobel Prize.

Prof. Cedar has been teaching and continuing his investigative research at The Hebrew University’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada since the 1970’s when he moved to Israel. That’s where I interviewed him, in between his busy day of researching and being a top scientist.

By the way, for all the praise I am giving him, it is just as important that you know he is a really nice guy. He sits relaxed on his couch and enjoys speaking to me about his son’s good news. He also makes sure to tell me he is proud of all his kids. Awesome! You can check out the video interview to see what he says about the movie, Cannes and what’s next for Joseph.

And just before you do that, let me leave you with this, so you really get a picture of how great of a father he is— not just in the science world but as a family man too. I told him that I don’t know how he must feel having his son achieve such a great honor. I said my son is sitting up now (he is almost 8-months-old), and for me as a mother it feels incredible. I burst with joy and glee and I couldn’t be more proud. He told me it’s the same feeling.


From Rockets to Knowledge: The Difference We Can Make for Sderot Youth

Summer camp was the best place on earth for me as a kid (probably still would be as an adult). Being a camper and escaping from real life for a week or two at a time was just so needed from ages 7 to 15. I mean school was hard, what with all those math problems, and recess was already filled with drama, whether it was a fight about who would play mom in “house,” or boys with cooties; camp was always the much needed break and promise land away from my problems.

Every kid needs camp. But some kids need it more than others. While back in the sixth grade I stressed out about my boy problems, today the children of the city of Sderot are more worried about rocket fire and staying alive. For over eight years the threat of rockets and war has plagued the city of Sderot. That means that the children of Sderot have grown up with this continued danger, and some of them were literally born into it, making this the only life they know.

Sderot Knowledge Campers

This summer, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has opened up its doors and teamed up with The Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and Committee for a Secure Sderot to provide 200 youth with the opportunity to escape Sderot and the rockets and have a week of fun and learning in the Israel’s capital.

For one-week these kids can enjoy regular kid activities like swimming, bowling and going on hikes without worrying about where the nearest bomb shelter is or make sure their ears are alert for the warning of rockets. On top of the usual fun stuff they will also participate in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder workshops (PTSD) with trained professionals to help them with the trauma they have experienced and most likely will experience again. And to add to the experience the kids will also have the privilege of learning science in labs at the Hebrew University. This is a great treat for them, because coming from a periphery town these kids are barely getting a decent education let alone the opportunity to study at the top university in the country.

I met some of the Sderot kids that are at the camp and was taken away with their candid stories about living in a warzone. Even though most of them are 13 to 16-years-old, they talk like grown ups, speaking about the fear of death and life under fire. Each one of them has a story or stories about kassams (rockets) falling outside their homes, inside their living rooms and for one boy, on the pillow he had just been resting his head on before getting up to go the bathroom. They speak about these incidents void of emotion (due to the trauma); yet listening to them you feel their pain and understand the necessity of bringing them out of the city even if it is for one week.

While each youth is special, there was one that really stood out to me. His name is Daniel and he will be 16-years-old in a month. But unlike teenagers in America, he is not worrying about passing his driving test; instead he worries about surviving rockets. Daniel was a camper in this Knowledge camp but back in Sderot he volunteers helping younger children deal with PTSD as well as to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life. Daniel thinks he is just living life, but to me he is defining it. Everyday he survives his fear, he lives his life, and he supports others and wakes up to do it again, day after day.

If you want to help sponsor a camper like Daniel please check out my Give2gether page. It doesn’t take much for you to make a difference for kids like Daniel, and yet it’s all the difference in the world. I’m sponsoring Daniel or at least I am doing what I can, I hope you can do the same.


It’s Time for funny!

It’s happening again! My beloved comedy troupe, Hahaפuch, is once again bringing the funny and cheap alcohol to Jerusalem. What exactly can you expect: improv, comedy sketches about Israeli life, videos and our special fake news segment. Add to that our musical guest Shira Pruce and Orit Golan and special immigrant guest, as well as Paul Hyams of Bisbari catering who will bring free food with him!

Doors open at 7:30pm so make sure to get there for the cheap stuff and free stuff and grab a good seat. We sold out our last two shows so it’s best to call the box office at 052-603-9115 to reserve tickets. Check out the event on our Facebook group page. And check out our Hummus in a bag video from our February show.
HaHaפuch Comedy Variety Show:
May 13, 2010
Doors open at 7:30pm
The Merkaz Hamagshimim Theater, 7a Dor DorVeDorshav, German Colony, Jerusalem, Israel, the world
NIS 30: Students and soldiers
NIS 35: regular ticket