Grover the Jew

Get ready for a new ‘Shalom Sesame’

(Shalom Sesame and

The road to Shalom Sesame has been rocky. The first Israeli version of Sesame Street ran in 1983. Who can forget the joint, 1998 Israeli-Palestinian Rechov Sumsum/Shara’a Simsim, which was designed to preach coexistence? Behind the scenes, the production devolved into heated arguments over the depictions of kaffiyehs and kippot, Palestinian and Israeli flags. According to Khalil Abu Arafeh, the head writer for the Palestinian show, “the issue of hummus and falafel was very heated,” since both sides considered these items “theirs.” Ultimately, the show split into two separate productions. And the American-Israeli co-production of Shalom Sumsum (recorded in 1986 and 1990) had a much smoother ride. It featured pretty music from Yitzhak Perlman and a guest appearance by Sarah Jessica Parker; it has sold more than a million copies on video and DVD.

Now there is a new version, a 12-part series already on sale (there will be launch parties at various JCCs on December 5). (more…)

Today on Tablet

The funniest Yiddish primer you’ll ever read, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Rick Meyerowitz digs up Golden Age National Lampoon‘s deployment of Yiddish in the service of funny. Liel Leibovitz’s Torah column compares an attack against Arabs in East Jerusalem with Abraham’s visit to Sodom. The Scroll was in Sodom one time in ’82 or ’830, doesn’t remember much more.

‘The Peace Process’

Your weekly dose of Israelispeak

(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use language: Behind the literal meaning of the Hebrew words, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday, we reveal what is really being said.

For English speakers, the term “political process” denotes just about anything involving governmental decision-making. But the Hebrew equivalent of the term—“tahalich medini” (or, to use the definite article, “hatahalich hamedini”)—is a euphemism for a specific political process: The peace process.

As in the recent Hebrew headline “Interior Minister: Palestinians Incapable of Moving Political Process Forward,” tahalich medini generally refers to the intermittent attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though it can also refer to talks with other Arab neighbors, like Syria. While the dictionary definition of medini is “political,” in practice it often means diplomacy or international relations, which helps explain why tahalich medini has come to refer to the peace process. (more…)

Daybreak: After Freeze, Building Begins

Plus Corrie driver testifies, and more in the news

Palestinian workers building Jewish settlements outside Hebron.(Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press/NYT)

• The freeze is off, and the new settlement units are going up by the hundreds. [NYT]

• The bulldozer driver who allegedly hit and killed pro-Palestinian American activist Rachel Corrie in 2003 testified that he did not see her until after she was dead. [LAT]

• President Shimon Peres linked the U.S. interest in preventing Iran from going nuclear to a successful Israeli-Palestinian peace process. [Haaretz]

• Yossi Alpher has a valuable column on how everyone screwed up the peace process this time around. [JPost]

• Egypt is allowing the Gaza embargo to be broken by 140 vans driven by Viva Palestina activists. [NYT]

• The reportedly ailing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will likely nonetheless “seek” another six-term term. [AP/NYT]

Sundown: NYT Continues Its Jacobson Revival

Plus Pollack on Iran, Luban on J Street, and more

(Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Times got around to reviewing The Finkler Question. It’s very Jewish, but don’t worry! “It is by no means too myopic to be enjoyed by the wider world.” Phew. [NYT]

• Ahmad Tibi, the top-ranking Arab Knesset member, argues against the loyalty oath. [IHT]

• Kenneth Pollack says the best strategy for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is an even harsher and still steadily increasing sanctions regime. [National Interest]

• Tablet Magazine contributor Daniel Luban responds to Walter Russell Mead’s J Street essay. [Lobelog]

• Rodger Kamenetz on Burnt Books. [The Jewish Star]

• The Anti-Defamation League’s Annual Leadership Award went to Rupert Murdoch, whose notable public services include putting a good chunk of the likely Republican presidential candidates on payroll. [ADL]

So Maureen Tucker is a Tea Partier? Best be on the safe side and listen to excellent Velvet Underground covers.

Esther Is Ready for Her Close-Up

This week on ‘America’s Next Top Model’

Esther Petrack.(The CW)

All it took was the departure of the catty Kacey and a visit to the Grammy Museum for our Model/ern Orthodox contestant to get the screen time she deserves. First, Ann asks Esther to say something in Hebrew, because she has never heard the Semitic tongue spoken. After Esther obliges her fellow models in a brief bit of Heeb speak, we finally get a glimpse into how she’s more than just Jewish talk.

Earlier this week, Marina Petrack, Esther’s mother announced that her daughter never said she would forsake her Jewish practice in the first episode—that the editing merely made it seem so. She even noted that her daughter had toveled (ritually immersed) a pot in the Pacific Ocean and kept kosher while filming the show. Though we never got to see that act, in this episode we do get to watch Esther explain the myriad rules to her housemates, a ritual which should be as familiar to the Modern Orthodox set as keeping separate dishes for meat and milk. (more…)

The Non-Issue of Settlements

Cohen: The conflict concerns sovereignty and security


Roger Cohen published a fabulous op-ed today. It’s extremely useful because Cohen is what you’d call, for lack of a better term, a liberal on matters Israeli-Palestinian, and yet he makes a point that I think a lot of liberals are having trouble with due to their commitments and values (and it’s a point I tried to make yesterday), which is that, even if you believe the settlements are unethical, illiberal, Israel’s Original Sin, and all that, there is no persuasive case that, as of right now, they are even close to the main obstacle to peace—which means that the Obama administration’s unrelenting focus on them has been extremely ill-advised. Argues Cohen:

No U.S. president should invest his personal capital by inaugurating direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders when those talks are set to abort weeks later over an issue—Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank—that’s long been sitting there like a big truck on the road. (more…)

Such Suffering for Hapoel Tel Aviv

Squad loses third Champions League match, 3-1

Raul, victorious.(AP/Deutsche Welle)

The headline in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz this morning said it best: Haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?

It’s an inside joke, one that only Israelis who grew up in the 1990s might get: A catch-phrase from a famous recurring skit on a popular, now-extinct comedy show. The premise is simple: A sweet and mild-mannered man named Feldermaus appears in various international sporting events and tries to convince the referees that the Israeli competitor, representing the long downtrodden Jewish people, deserves just a little bit of a head start. The referees, of course, refuse, at which point Feldermaus unleashes his mighty catchphrase. Growing up, every time Israeli competitors failed to win something—an Olympic gold medal, a qualifying ticket to the World Cup, an Academy Award—my friends and I would look at each other dolefully and sigh, “Haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?” (more…)

Father Avoids Jail After Church Visit

Court order barred him from taking Jewish daughter

The Reyes couple, pre-split.(ABCNews)

Joseph Reyes, the man who made himself famous by taking his daughter to church, camera crew in tow, despite a court order his ex-wife has requested, has escaped jail-time. Specifically: A court said it could not hold him in contempt because his daughter, Ela, 3, is not visible in the video of the church visit, and so it cannot be proved to the necessary standard that he actually took her to church.

Readers may recall that Joseph, who converted to the Judaism of his wife, Rebecca, when they got married, baptized their daughter once they had split without telling his ex-wife, who has custody, which prompted her to get the anti-church court order. The whole story really gives you faith in humanity.

Dad Who Took Daughter To Church Is Cleared [JTA]
Earlier: One Ugly Divorce

Today on Tablet

Progress toward Kurdistan, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Turkey Week continues with Aliza Marcus’s update on the Kurdish separatist group the PKK and contributing editor Joan Nathan’s essay on the Ottoman Empire’s historic influence on Jewish cuisine around the world. The Scroll urges you to check out the picture of the purple-hearted artichokes accompanying Nathan’s article.

Clinton Speaks Warmly of Palestinian Statehood

But not in the go-through-the-U.N. way


If there is one Palestinian outreach event on the Washington calendar that the city’s establishment is likely to attend, a senior Hill staffer told me earlier this week, it’s the annual gala of the American Task Force on Palestine, a seven-year-old group that advocates for a two-state solution. Last night’s event proved the point: The $250-a-plate dinner, at the Ritz-Carlton in Foggy Bottom, was headlined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and boasted an illustrious host committee headed by one of her predecessors, Madeleine Albright, and including a bipartisan roster of foreign-policy heavy-hitters like Sen. John Kerry and former Bush National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. (more…)

Daybreak: Behind Freeing Pollard

Plus Turkish intransigence on Iran, and more in the news

A pro-Pollard Israeli demonstrator.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

• How several somewhat influential Israelis and Americans have stirred the campaign to free Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy, back to life. [LAT]

• Iran is trying to skirt sanctions by setting up secret banks around the world. [WP]

• In honor of Tablet Magazine’s Turkey Week, Turkey resisted U.S. entreaties to slow its trade with Iran. [LAT]

• Israel’s U.S. Embassy confirmed that a loyalty oath bill, if passed, wouldn’t threaten the U.S. citizenship of anyone seeking to become a dual American-Israeli. [JPost]

• A Hamas official alleged that Israel killed a deal over kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit by refusing to release the Palestinians’ 15 most desired prisoners. [Haaretz]

• The Rent Is Too Damn High Guy is still saying anti-Semitic things … . [Jewcy]

Sundown: Saudi Arms Deal Disclosed

Plus Farkas for presidente! and more

Leonardo Farkas.(Jewlicious)

• The Pentagon outlined its $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. [AP/Bloomberg/JPost]

• At left: This is what Leonardo Farkas, the Jewish-Chilean mining tycoon who gave the rescued miners $10,000 each, looks like. He is running for president! [Jewlicious]

• Israel politics may have played role in the disinvitation of a British-Jewish historian from a panel in Belfast. [Arutz Sheva]

• An unprecedented museum exhibition on Hitler, complete with rarely seen (in Germany) images of the Fuhrer, went up in Berlin. [JTA]

• Former Rep. Gary Condit (D-California) has written a book that touches on his affair with Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old intern who was found dead in Rock Creek Park. [CQ Politics]

• Another report on how mah jongg is back. This time with video!

Movement for Non-Negotiated Statehood Grows

New Palestinian strategy would seek U.N. recognition

President Obama last week.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

So this could be a big deal. Look for the Palestinian Authority, particularly after the U.S. midterm elections, to start working various international institutions, including the United Nations, to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank. Look for Israel, of course, to vigorously oppose such recognition: As U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren said yesterday, “Like Ben-Gurion, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.” But most of all, look to the United States: While it would ordinarily be expected to halt any such effort immediately, President Obama’s strong emphasis on settlements, which are once again being built now that the freeze has expired and not been extended, as well as reports that the U.S. team is immensely frustrated with Bibi’s failure to extend the freeze, suggest U.S. backing might not be quite so easily forthcoming. (more…)

So ‘The Instructions’ Is Pretty Long

But in the good way

(The Rumpus)

Last month, Marissa Brostoff concluded that Adam Levin’s new, thousand-plus-page, über-Jewish novel The Instructions is indeed awesome, perhaps even worth the time.

Today, at The Rumpus, the logical follow-up question is asked (and answered): Is it bigger than a rabbit?

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