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Life Surreally Imitates Art During Gaza Conflict

Israel’s Saturday Night Live interrupted by sirens while rehearsing war satire skit

Rikki Novetsky
November 20, 2012

Eretz Nehederet, Israel’s version of Saturday Night Live, is not on vacation during Operation Pillar of Defense. On Monday night, the show screened as regular, featuring a slew of skits mocking the cast of characters involved in Israel’s military Operation Pillar of Defense. The video can be found here, and for the time being is only accessible in Hebrew.

One highlight is a fake Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying:

“People ask me, ‘Why now?’ And I respond: ‘Tradition is tradition! Every four years there is Olympics, and every four years there is an operation in Gaza! And because this one also won’t change anything, there will be another one four years from now!’”

The video makes light of the Minister of Culture relocating a theater festival originally planned within firing range of Gaza, and Israelis who are supposed to be in a shelter coming outside to filming falling rockets with their iPhones. As would be expected, a fake Bibi Netanyahu makes a cameo appearance, along with an IDF correspondent warning citizens of Gaza: “The IDF is sick in the head, so don’t make them angry.” Another notable moment was smack in the middle of the show, which featured a satirical advertisement from the Israel Ministry of Tourism in which a fake Israeli actress Noa Tishby asks, “Rockets? Sirens? Shelters? Who cares?” and promptly encourages Israelis to lie to their friends outside the country, saying “It’s quiet here, cheap here…” — a subtle reference to the expensive cost of living in Israel, another extant problem in Israel, unfortunately not erased by rockets from Hamas and a military operation.

The longest skit within the ten-minute clip posted online is one that makes light of a group of Tel Aviv residents who leave their apartments during a siren, and end up meeting their neighbors. Hilarity ensues: neighbors insult each other, a man is encouraged not to answer his phone lest it be Hamas on the other line, and a couple from the floor above having a one night stand are forced out of bed into the hallway.

But there is a more deeply disturbing video linked on the same page, right below the excerpt of the show featured on website. In the midst of rehearsal, a real alarm was sounded in the Dan region of Israel, where the show was being filmed. The actors, like any group of Israelis at that time, retreated to a shelter. Below this video reads a post, “The cast did not miss the opportunity, and the event is documented and forwarded to you.”

The video sufficiently blurs the line between satire and reality: the actors were already in costume, and are acting as light-hearted as they were when the sketch was actually filmed, probably a few minutes later. The dark humor featured in Eretz Nehederet demonstrates wit and talent, and is vitally important in the case that it can be used by terrorized Israelis as a coping mechanism. But the juxtaposition of these two videos gives watchers a rude awakening: the situation of which they are making light is ongoing, and relentless. Israeli satire may be entertaining, but it is also very, very real.

Rikki Novetsky is TK BIO.

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