ISRAEL: Late Marriage (2001)

Late Marriage is a 2001 movie about a Georgian-Jewish PhD student in Israel torn between his relationship with the woman he loves and his traditional Georgian family’s wishes. I won’t spoil it, but it ends terribly, terribly sadly. There are definitely some light funny moments, but fundamentally this is about traumatized people repeating the cycles of trauma. It also has the most absolutely realistic sex scene I’ve ever seen in a movie – not stylized or censored in any way. But oof, what a heartbreaking ending.

This movie is also notable for having part of the dialogue in Judaeo-Georgian, an endangered language of the Jewish community in and from Georgia – like many former Soviet countries, the significant majority of Georgia’s Jewish community has moved to Israel.

ISRAEL: The Origins of Krav Maga

Krav Maga is Israel’s own marital arts system, infamous for being fast and brutal, usually with the intention to disable or even harm your opponent. I used to do kickboxing as a kid, so the moves feel familiar, but Krav Maga is much more focused on maximizing damage – I was taught to avoid eye gouges, not to go for them!

An interesting short documentary on Krav Maga’s origins above, and an introductory class on punches below from an Israeli Krav Maga instructor, if you want to give it a go!

If you’re looking for more of a workout, here’s a 20 minute home workout that incorporates Krav Maga elements as well – it really got my cardio going.

ISRAEL: More snacks

Round two of Israeli snacks! The first part is here.

Elite Shtix – The box open up to 8 individually wrapped chocolates, all with differently designed wrappers. Milk chocolate (similar to the other Elite bars I’ve tried) with “button chocolate candies” (aka Smarties) inside. Pretty good, except I just can’t get over the use of comic sans on the packaging.

Osem Bissli Falafel – Bissli are popular wheat snacks in pasta shapes. I found a lot of options for flavours, and falafel-flavoured really stood out to me. Smells strongly of cumin, and yes, they do actually taste like falafel! Weird but good.

Elite Milk Chocolate with Strawberry Cream – Very soft milk chocolate with very sweet and sugary cream filling. There’s a bit of an artificial strawberry flavour at the end, but this is far far too sweet for me. I much preferred the Elite milk chocolate with poprocks in it.

Gattegno Bros Naughties – Cookies with a slightly creepy face on one end and a chocolate back. The chocolate tastes fine but the cookie itself is weirdly flavourless, almost like made from the same dough as an unsweetened breakfast cereal. Not really a fan, but these might be saved if they’re good for dipping into coffee.

ISRAEL: Israeli radio

Back to Radio Garden for some Israeli radio to listen to while I work! If you haven’t used Radio Garden before, it livestreams radio from around the world, with a really satisfying globe interface – great for finding new channels.

The Baha’i Shrine of the Bab, Haifa. Source: Baha’i Blog

Radio Ham Esh 99.5 – Radio station out of Haifa, a lot of the song are modern remixes of folk music, usually traditional instruments with dance or rock beats mixed in. There are ads mixed in, including many for the clearly popular American Pizza restaurant. Listen live here.

Up2Dance Radio – I love dance music while I’m working, so this has been a great background channel. This online station in Tel Aviv has lots of remixes, no ads as far as I can tell, and often 90s music. Listen live here.

Israel1 Radio – Online radio station based in Jerusalem, though I can’t find much more information on them. They play a mix mainly of folk and pop, generally upbeat and contemporary, all in Hebrew. Listen live here.

ISRAEL: Shtisel

Shtisel is an Israeli show centred around a Haredi family in Jerusalem. I am absolutely hooked on it – a lot of shows about the ultra-Orthodox (or other religious groups, for that matter), tend to focus on people wanting to leave and join secular society. Shtisel instead has characters operating inside that community, with all the richness and complexity of real life and how people navigate their identity and relationships in real life.

It’s also really, really good – the characters are complex and real people with real motivations, and it’s extremely emotionally engaging. More than once I was looking through my fingers going “Akiva noooooo” as the protagonist puts his foot into it. It feels almost like a Haredi Jane Austen novel.

Shtisel was a huge hit in Israel; including with both the secular majority, and quietly among Haredis themselves – one of the show’s creators, Yehonatan Indursky, was raised ultra-Orthodox, and this shows in the attention to detail. There are two seasons out on Netflix, and they’ll be releasing a third soon.

ISRAEL: Snacks

Finding imported Israeli snacks in Ottawa was initially tricky – I checked a few middle eastern groceries, but they only tended to have snacks from Arab countries. However, a bit more searching and I found the jackpot! The Loblaws’ at College Square has a huge dedicated kosher section, and included in that section were a lot of imports from Israel.

Osem BambaBamba is the OG Israeli snack, like cheesies but made with peanuts. They have an intensely peanut butter flavour with a salty puffed corn aftertaste. They’re a bit rich and slightly oily, but really addictive – I’m not normally a big peanut butter fan but these are dangerously good. There’s also no preservatives or other additives, the ingredients are just peanut paste, corn, oil, and salt.

Tnuva Chocolate + Mousse Pudding – Chocolate pudding with vanilla mousse on top. This is genuinely delicious, the chocolate actually tastes chocolatey and the mousse has a real flavour contrast. I wish I could go back in time and give myself these for lunchroom snacks as a kid instead of those tasteless Jello chocolate puddings.

Elite Milk Chocolate with Popping Candies – Just plain honest milk chocolate (kinda like a better version of Kinder milk chocolate) with pop rocks in it. Simple, fun. I’m in.

Gesher Snak Pak Hot & Spicy – There were a whole lot of different flavours of these snacks, each in a different pasta shape. Are these fried pasta? I guess it’s the same dough, judging from the ingredients, just fried instead of dried. Nice and crunchy, good texture, well seasoned, but points off for being barely spicy at all.

Klik Cornflakes – Chocolate-covered cornflakes! Again, the chocolate is really tasty, though feels like there could be more crunch from the cornflakes. I think the big lesson so far is Israelis go hard with the quality of their chocolate. If these treats are their baseline for chocolate? Wow.

ISRAEL: A-WA – Hana Mash Hu Al Yaman

A-WA is a really interesting band in terms of identity – the Haim sisters are Israeli, but their family were Yemenite Jews who came to Israel as part of Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-50. This massive exodus moved the vast majority of Jews living in the Arab peninsula to Israel, both due to persecution and instability at home, and the draw of the newly created Israel. The aliyah over the 20th century was so complete that in 1947, there were approx 55,000 Jews in Yemen, while as of 2018 there may only be 50 left.

Both the stretched logistics of resettling 50,000 people and the internal prejudices and tensions inside Israeli society between different backgrounds of Judaism (especially Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic and Mizrahi) meant that a lot of Yemenite Jews faced a hard start in Israel. A-WA‘s Hana Mash Hu Al Yaman, sung in Arabic, is a sharp critique and a tension over belonging.

ISRAEL: The revival of Hebrew (and decline of Yiddish)

A quick overview of the revival of Hebrew and the establishment of it as the language of Israel. Hebrew is the only successful example of a revival of a dead language. It went from a language that only had written, liturgical use and no native speakers to thousands of native speakers and official national usage. However, the rise of Hebrew led was paired with a rejection of another important Jewish language, Yiddish. Yiddish has been characterized in Israel as the language of the Jewish Diaspora, while Israel has pushed hard instead to make Hebrew the language of Zionism and the lingua franca of all the waves of immigrants that have come to Israel over the last half-century.