Navigate to News section

Welcoming ‘Israel Story’ to Vox Tablet

The hit Israel radio show launches its new American version on Tablet

Julie Subrin
August 18, 2014

Vox Tablet listeners are in for a surprise today. In the place of Sara Ivry, our inimitable host, you’ll find a fellow named Mishy Harman, youngish, with a slightly nasal voice that reminds you of… who’s that guy? Oh yeah—Ira Glass. And then you’ll hear three stories, all based on a theme—this week: “Faking It”—and all centered around Israeli characters.

This is Israel Story. It’s the brainchild of four Israelis—Harman, Roee Gilron, Yochai Maital, and Shai Satran—who were childhood friends and who have in common a love of long-format storytelling radio programs (or podcasts) like This American Life, Radio Lab, Snap Judgment, The Moth—a format that simply doesn’t exist in Israel. So they decided to make it themselves, despite the fact that none of them had any radio training whatsoever.

The program they created, Sipur Israeli, started as a podcast for friends and family, and then went viral. Then, last fall, the popular army-owned radio station Galei Zahal agreed to air their first season, and it was a huge hit, averaging about 200,000 listeners per episode.

They heard stories about an Eritrean refugee who translates The Diary of Anne Frank into his native language, a Russian novelist who writes during work as a security guard in a parking lot, and an adolescent who devotes himself to learning everything there is to know about female members of the Knesset. (Sipur Israeli’s second season begins airing in Israel this Saturday.)

You can find out more about all that here, or here. Harman and co. then approached Tablet with the idea of sharing some of their stories with an English-speaking audience, and we jumped at the opportunity.

Vox Tablet has always tried to bring listeners stories that show Israel as more than just a topic of heated debate, by introducing stories that are intimate and complex. In collaborating with Sipur Israeli, we now have access to far more of those stories, made by people who are fully immersed in Israeli life, but who understand the sensibilities of a mostly-American audience like ours.

Over the past six months, we’ve combed through their archive, selecting the stories that were most translation-friendly. The Sipur Israeli team has gone back to those subjects who speak English, and invited them to tell their stories again. They’ve also collaborated with the public radio program To the Best of Our Knowledge to try out a few of those stories with an American audience, and they’ve had an enthusiastic response.

Now, Israel Story, the English-language version of Sipur Israeli, is ready for your ears. You’ll find the first episode here, and another episode each month through January. We can’t wait to hear what you think! And yes, Sara Ivry will be back next week.

Julie Subrin is Tablet Magazine’s executive producer for audio.