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Doughnuts, draft dodgers, and sexy paranormalists

JERUSALEM – Here are some recent stories out of Israel that you may have missed.

Dough for doughnuts

It’s hard to hate Elie Klein of Beit Shemesh, even though he’s been chowin’ down on sufganiyot without gaining a pound.

Israel under the radar

As of Sunday, the still-slender Klein, 30, has raised more than $4,000 for three dozen charities just for eating the Israeli doughnuts — 39 of them.

Via his Facebook page, Klein has asked family and friends in Israel and abroad to donate a certain amount per sufganiya he munches. He has raised more than $100 per puffy fried confection for 37 causes.

The gorging mitzvah grew out of a friendly rivalry among several friends to see who could eat the most sufganiyot, a traditional Chanukah food. The sponsors decide where the pledges go.

Klein, who had a doctor check him out before starting the sufganiyot marathon, told The Jerusalem Post that he’s been balancing his goodies by having plenty of salad. He told Ynet that he is “blessed with a crazy metabolism” and has not gained any weight yet as a result of his binging.

Draft-dodging women caught on Facebook

Memo to Israeli women: If you claim to be religious to avoid army service, don’t update your Facebook status on Shabbat. And don’t post photos of yourself in immodest clothing.

The Israel Defense Forces is using the social networking site to help catch draft-dodging women and reportedly has nabbed 1,000.

Military investigators looking for women who lied about being religious to evade mandatory army service have found young ladies posting photos of themselves in immodest clothing, dining in non-kosher restaurants, and responding to invitations to parties taking place on Friday night.

Some 42 percent of Jewish women in Israel do not serve in the army — 35 percent of them signed a declaration that they are religiously observant. The army has 60 days to challenge the declaration, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Israeli men at 18 and finished with high school are required to serve three years in the Israeli military; women are required to serve two years.

Recharging their batteries

Israelis will soon see electric cars on its roads, imported to test battery recharging stations at several sites throughout the country.

Better Place, a company based in California and Israel, was granted permission by the Minister of Transportation to import 13 Renault Fluence electric cars to test the stations. The cars are set to be approved soon for marketing in Israel for 2011, the Israeli business daily Globes reported, making Israel one of the first markets for vehicles with a quick-change station, where the vehicles can pick up a freshly charged battery for immediate use.

Sexy entertainer

One of the sexiest men alive, at least for the year 2010, lives in Israel.

Israeli paranormalist Lior Suchard was named to People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive list for 2010 representing his age group, 28, on the Sexy at Every Age list of 100 men.

“I still can’t believe that I’m on the list; I’m in shock,” Suchard, who is performing his Uri Geller-esque act in Las Vegas, told Ynet. “I got all sorts of text messages from people telling me that I’m in the magazine, so I immediately ran to the store to buy it.

“On the one hand I’m a little embarrassed, but on the other hand this is very exciting. It was never my goal to be on it, but it is definitely cool to be included.

‘Traffic Light’ passes Emmy muster

“Ramzor,” an Israeli sitcom about three longtime friends and their romantic relationships, won the International Emmy Award for best comedy.

The Emmy was awarded Nov. 22 in New York at an International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences ceremony.

“Ramzor,” which means “traffic light” in Hebrew, defeated entries from Thailand, Mexico, and Britain. It was selected as a finalist by a panel of 700 judges from 50 countries.

Earlier this year, the Fox network bought the rights to the show, which is being called “Mixed Signals” and is scheduled to air starting in February. The American version will be written by Bob Fischer, who wrote the Fox TV series “Married with Children” and the film “Wedding Crashers.”

Russia also has purchased rights to the show.

The Hebrew version will be aired in several other countries, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Georgia, Ynet reported.

“Ramzor,” which airs on Israel Channel 2 and is owned by its franchisee Keshet, is taping its third season. Its second season was among the top 10 most watched shows of 2009, with 23.7 percent of Israelis watching.

‘Sex and the City,’ Israeli style

Casting has begun for an Israeli version of the hit HBO series “Sex and The City,” Ynet reported. The series will follow the lives and loves of three 30-something gal pals. The four American women lived in New York; the three Israelis will live in Tel Aviv.

Ynet reported that young Israeli actress Neta Plotnik has been tapped to play the Carrie Bradshaw character made famous by Sarah Jessica Parker, a Jewish actress.

Two episodes will be filmed as the Globus Corp., which is producing the series, searches for a broadcasting contract.

On the Oscar shortlist

The Israeli documentary film “Precious Life” has been shortlisted for an Oscar.

“Precious Life,” the story of a sick Palestinian child in Gaza and his mother’s efforts to get him the care in Israel that he needs to survive, is up against 14 films for one of five spots to vie for the Best Documentary Film award at the 83rd Academy Awards in March.

The film, by award-winning Israeli TV reporter Shlomi Eldar, who is making his documentary directorial debut, has been screened at festivals around the world in recent months.

JTA Wire Service

 
 

Engaging questions about Israel

 

‘See, enjoy, and be educated’ at the Israel Film Festival

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From top, scenes from “Gei Oni,” “Brothers,” “Precious Life,” “Strangers No More,” “Revolution 101,” and “Avanti Popolo.”

As we celebrate Israel’s 63rd birthday, we marvel at the creation of a Jewish state in our lifetime and how its very existence has affected our lives as Jews here in America. The great Zionist philosophers of a century ago imagined a state that could affect Jewish life around the world, as it clearly has in such areas as religion and culture. Yet, while Israeli music and culture dominated American Jewish life for decades, Israeli cinema here was relegated to replays of such comedies as Ephraim Kishon’s “Sallah” and “The Big Dig: The Blaumilch Canal.” Serious students of cinema paid little attention to the efforts of the dozen or so creative talents who used the motion picture to tell the dramatic story of a new state’s emergence. The only place it seemed that one could see an Israeli film was at a 16mm screening in the basement of your synagogue.

For years, I had to schedule trips to Israel just to be able to screen the newest Israeli films. Watching a film in Israel was always a challenge, and I would come equipped with a baseball cap to keep the garinim, the seeds, off my hair, and I never sat in an aisle seat, so that the various soda bottles that came rolling down the aisle would miss me. But that all began to change about a quarter of a century ago, as a new crop of films began to be produced. The government created funds to encourage and support Israeli moviemaking, enabling quality production. At about the same time, film schools were created, both within the universities and as separate entities, allowing young Israelis wanting to study film to pursue their education and training without leaving the country for New York, Paris, London, or Los Angeles. The quality of filmmaking soared, and many of the dozen or so veterans became teachers of the new generation.

About this time, Meir Fenigstein, the drummer in the Israeli rock band Kaveret (Poogy), was in New York, and he saw the need to bring first-run Israeli films to the United States. Few Israeli films made it to theaters, and Fenigstein saw it as his mission to allow more Israeli films to be shown here. He has since been showcasing Israeli movies, now for a 25th time, in New York City. The Israel Film Festival, which he founded, is taking place at the AMC Loews Theater on Broadway at 84th Street.

One of the pioneers in the Israeli film industry, Micha Shagrir, is being honored at this festival and several of his feature narratives and documentaries are being showcased. Shagrir is the film documentarian who followed the path of Ethiopians Jews across the deserts of Africa to Israel. He has produced numerous features, mentored countless filmmakers, and helped found the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem. One of the more interesting programs in which he is participating will focus on 100 years of Jerusalem filmmaking. Another, “When Israel Went Out,” looks at the exodus of Ethiopian Jewry. Other feature films and documentaries by Shagrir, including the award-winning 1986 “Avanti Popolo,” are also being shown.

Of the films that drew my attention, Igaal Nidaam’s “Brothers” has two Argentinean brothers who had not seen each other for years meet when one of them, a distinguished attorney from New York, comes to Israel to defend a yeshiva before the Supreme Court. The yeshiva-educated attorney is there to defend the right of Torah students not to join the army, a position with which his non-religious kibbutznik brother takes issue. The film raises important questions as it studies the division between these two brothers on the topic of religion, seen not only though the two men but through Israeli society as a whole.

Nir Bergman’s “Intimate Grammar,” based on David Grossman’s novel, is a hard-hitting look at 1960s Israel that focuses on a child of a Holocaust survivor who needs to be different. It is an examination of the inner and outward journey of this troubled youth at a pivotal time in Israel’s history. Avi Nesher’s “The Matchmaker” tackles the same period in his story of a young man who gets a job with a survivor of the Shoah who brokers marriages but seems to have other businesses on the side. Set in 1968, this is a beautiful coming-of-age film about an Israeli youth who encounters a world beyond what he knows.

Veteran director Dan Wolman takes a sensitive look in “Gei Oni” at a group of new immigrants who escaped the terror in Russia to come to Israel over a century ago. Wolman weaves the story of hard pioneering with the history of a new land. Doron Tsabari’s “Revolution 101” is a fascinating docudrama that uses the story of his life as a successful yet struggling filmmaker to look at Israeli society as a whole and how change can or cannot happen. Tsabari, in this well-crafted film, brings us into his life as he takes on bureaucracy, ready to fight to the bitter end.

A film that challenges classic film narrative style by new director Adam Sanderson is also worth noting. Teaming up with Muli Segev, TV director of the hit series “Eretz Nehederet,” they created “This is Sodom,” a zany comedy set in the time of Abraham and Lot. The fact that the actors, known to just about every Israeli, were unknown to me did not interfere with this cinematic phenomenon that reintroduces a lost film form last seen in “Hagashash Hahiver” comedy. Through its incredible wit, we watch as the impending destruction of the city of Sodom approaches. This is one of those films that you’ll either adore or detest. I was most amused.

In a more serious vein, Yair Elazar explores the legacy of his father, David “Dado” Elazar, who was Israel Defense Forces chief of staff during Israel’s 1973 Yom Kippur War. In the aftermath of the great victory that concluded a war that could have caused Israel’s destruction, leaders of the government resigned and Elazar was found by a state commission of inquiry to be fully responsible for the IDF’s lack of preparedness for the attack by the Egyptian and Syrian armies. The young Elazar explores the conclusion of the commission and the man most responsible for Israel’s ultimate victory. Much as Nathaniel Kahn had used cinema in his 2003 “My Architect” to come to grips with his relationship with his father Louis Kahn, Yair Elazar does the same in this worthy effort.

The Israel Film Festival ends on May 19. There is still time to see, enjoy, and be educated by many of the films. For more information, go to http://www.israelifilmfestival.com.

 
 
 
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