Monday, January 31, 2011

Angry Birds, Wildly Popular iPhone And Android Game, Comes Alive In Israeli TV Spoof

If you have an iPhone or any Android SmartPhone or live or work anywhere near someone who does, you're probably aware of Angry Birds, the addictive game where you use a slingshot to launch birds into the fortified structures of little green pigs in an attempt to reclaim the eggs that the pigs stole to set the game in motion.

Last month The New York Times reported that people around the world are racking up 200 million minutes of game play every day, including many people who would never consider buying a video game machine.

Last week Etgar Keret, a Tel Aviv filmmaker and novelist, wrote a funny column in the online magazine Tablet about the effect the game has had on his family life.  One of his observations:
Angry Birds is so popular in our home and in others because we truly love to kill and breaks things. So, it’s true that the pigs stole our eggs in the short opener of the game, but between you and me, that’s only an excuse for us to channel some good old rage in their direction. The more time I spend thinking about that game, the more clearly I understand something:  Under the adorable surface of the funny animals and their sweet voices, Angry Birds is actually a game that is consistent with the spirit of religious fundamentalist terrorists.
Eretz Nehederet, the Israeli equivalent of Saturday Night Live that we have mentioned a few times in our blog, posted a video on YouTube that has gone viral, presenting the Angry Birds and their nemesis, the egg-stealing pigs, meeting in a peace conference to end the conflict, only to have the talks break down into more (hilarious) violence.  We're sharing the video below, with a word of caution:

Viewers are advised that the English subtitles include an F word that usually doesn't make it past our family-oriented censors, but we felt that it is so fleeting and integral to the hilarity that we're letting it go through with just this advisory.  It also shows that Israeli TV is not as prone as US TV to censor language.


P.S.  In the Tablet article, Keter quotes his wife as saying “I  think there are more Japanese soldiers hiding in the forests, not knowing that World War II is over, than people on this planet who don’t know this game. It is probably the most popular iPhone game ever.”  If you are one of the latter, we're including the video below, which shows how the basic game works.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hevenu Shalom Aleichem Around The World: The Wiggles Sing In Australia

Hevenu Shalom Aleichem is such a popular Hebrew song that it's sung all over the world. During the past few months we've shared videos of it being performed in Indonesia, by Mayan children in Guatemala, and in a Korean musical stage show.

The Wiggles, a popular children's entertainment group that started out in Australia 20 years ago, and has been performing worldwide since then, recorded Hevenu Shalom Aleichem and included this video as part of their large collection of CDs and DVDs.

The Wiggles' music, television, video and film that have proven to be modern classics. They have always been a touring band, which in part explains the success they have enjoyed. They have kept in constant contact with their public and the public has responded to the music and characters they have created.  The Wiggles is an Australian success story that cuts across all demographics, and has now to spread across the world stage.

The Wiggles self-titled first album/DVD was released in 1991 and 18 years and 27 VIDEO/DVD releases later, they have been awarded with 17 Gold, 12 Platinum, 3 Double Platinum and 10 Multi Platinum Awards for sales of over 23 million DVDs and 7 Million CDs worldwide. They have also been awarded with Highest Selling Children’s Video Sales in 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2007 at the AVSDA Awards.

As songwriters and recording artists, The Wiggles have also been recognised by their peers, winning three prestigious APRA song writing awards for Best Children’s Song of 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2007 as well as each being awarded the prestigious International Award for their success overseas.


Friday, January 28, 2011

"Fat And Beautiful" Contest Winner Crowned In Beersheba

In each of the last few years, 40 of the most beautiful Israeli women gather in the southern desert city of Beersheva to compete in a beauty contest that's different from all other beauty contests.  It's the "Fat and Beautiful" contest.  

In order to be accepted as a contestant, an applicant must weigh at least 176 pounds.  This year's contest includes several who weigh close to 264 pounds.

Writing for Agence France-Presse, Majeda el Batsh reports:
Unlike your average beauty pageant, which tends to conform to a strict lean-and-lithe standard, here curves are queen.
Ahead of the show, the atmosphere backstage is one of excitement.

"I'm very beautiful and I'm going to win," 23-year-old Tanya Fayman confidently tells AFP. "I'm very proud of myself and my body and my beauty, and no one has the right to dictate my weight, so why should I be skinny?"

For the evening wear section, Fayman sports a skin-tight strappy dress, high heels and strings of necklaces, her dark hair falling pin-straight to her shoulders.

Proud of her figure, she shows no sign of embarrassment when the side of her top splits open slightly as she talks, simply grabbing a needle and thread to stitch up the tear.

The Russian-born beauty's confidence was well-founded. After two rounds in which the 20 contestants strut their stuff in ball gowns, and a trouser-and-top ensemble, Fayman was crowned the winner.
Beauty contests are meant to be seen, and it wouldn't be fair to our readers to describe a beauty contest without a video to experience it. So here's the video on YouTube, from CBS. 


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rita Rudner: Funny And Clean Stand-Up Jewish Comic Now At Venetian In Las Vegas

Rita Rudner has always been one of our favorite comics, but she seemed to slip out of sight about ten years ago.  Until then, we looked forward to seeing her guest appearances on the late night TV shows.  But where has she been for the last ten years?  The answer is:  Las Vegas.  

Rudner has been performing regularly at the MGM Grand, then at Harrah's, and this month landed a contract at the Venetian hotel.  She did a PBS special, Live From Las Vegas, a couple of years ago.

One of the hallmarks of her comedy is that it's clean, free from the vulgarity and shouting that many stand-up comics find necessary.  Sure, there's usually some sexual innuendo (after all, Las Vegas is Las Vegas) but her delivery is demure, tasteful, full of wry observations, and very funny.

Rudner started her career as a dancer, then switched to stand-up comedy about her dating experiences.  She married British producer Martin Bergman about 20 years ago and now they have a daughter.  She is fond of Jewish humor but generally reserves it for when she performs for Jewish audiences.

If you're a Rudner fan, you'll get a kick out of this video of her appearance on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in July 2008.  If you're not familiar with her humor, we think you'll like this sample.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Israel Is World's 8th Happiest Country; USA Is 14th

Despite security concerns, astronomical real estate prices, and claims that Israelis typically like to complain, it turns out that Israelis are actually happy.

Ynet, the online version of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, reported last summer that Forbes magazine published a Gallup poll conducted between 2005 and 2009 that showed Israel's happiness index ranked it eighth, compared to the US and the UK, which came in 14th and 17th.

In the Ynet article, Itamar Eichner wrote:
Thousands of respondents from 155 countries participated in the study by ranking their level of satisfaction in life on a number of different parameters on a scale of 1 to 10. In addition, they answered questions regarding how they felt the previous day as a way of measuring "daily experiences" and scored things like whether they felt well-rested, respected, free of pain and intellectually engaged.
According to the responses they provided, the respondents were divided into three groups: thriving, struggling, and suffering.  The poll showed that no less than 62% of Israel's citizens are "thriving", in other words are contented with their lives and are happy, while just 3% were found to be "suffering."
Israel outranked countries like the US and Britain as well as all of its neighbors in the Middle East.  Israel shares eighth place with three other countries -- Australia, Canada, and Switzerland.  Leading the list are Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.  Ranked at the bottom of the list mainly are the African countries.  Togo was found to be the least happy country.
The poll also found that there is a connection between the wealth of the country and its level of happiness.
Israel21c, a non-profit educational foundation that identifies, researches and reports on how Israelis create, innovate, improve and add value to the world, sent a reporter into the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to interview Israelis on their reaction to the Forbes listing.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nobody Comes To The Minyan No More - Banana Boat Song Parody

Getting a quorum of ten every day for early morning or evening services has always been a problem and a subject for discussion in too many synagogues.  It's also been the subject of many jokes, and a mystery novel, Murder at the Minyan, about a congregant who needs a minyan to say Kaddish for his mother and concocts a plan to murder relatives of other members so they will have to say Kaddish and help him to fulfill his obligation.

Now we have a song to add a musical dimension to this unfortunate situation. It's Nobody Comes to the Minyan No More, a parody of Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), one of Harry Belafonte's most popular calypso songs in the 1950's.  The song has been posted on some Jewish web sites this week, but we haven't been able to find out who wrote the lyrics or who sings it.  If you know, please comment below so credit can be given where credit is due.

(A tip of the kippah to Nancy Weisberger for bringing the Minyan song to our attention.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jennifer Grey Sings Mickey Katz's "Duvid Crockett, King Of Delancey Street"

We've always known that Jennifer Grey, who WAS "Baby" Houseman in the 1987 hit film Dirty Dancing, is the daughter of actor Joel Grey and the granddaughter of comedian and musician Mickey Katz.  What we didn't know is how close grandfather and granddaughter were and how well Jennifer could sing Mickey's songs.

Thanks to a tip from Nate Bloom, writing in Friday's Jewish Standard, we found an old video clip of Jennifer singing one of Mickey's classic parodies, Duvid Crockett, King of Delancey Street, on Conan O'Brien's Late Night TV show.

First, here's Grandpa Mickey Katz singing the song, one of the many pop tunes of the '50s that he parodied.  Then, we have a link to Jennifer Grey singing the same song.  The embed feature of the Jennifer Grey YouTube video is disabled, so we can't include it directly in this blog, but if you click on the link, you'll see it on YouTube.  Finally, if you want to hear the original Ballad of Davy Crockett from the Disney TV series, we're including the version sung by Bill Hayes which reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1955.

The song was introduced on the television miniseries Davy Crockett, first telecast on December 15, 1954, on ABC's Disneyland. Fess Parker played the role of Davy Crockett and continued in four other episodes made by Walt Disney Studios.  Enjoy!

Jennifer Grey singing Duvid Crockett 
Click here or on the photo at left to see the YouTube video of Jennifer Grey on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

 Bill Hayes singing the original Ballad of Davy Crockett

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stand-Up Comedy: Meet Gail Robin - Comedian/Singer from Sunny Florida

Gail Robin is a talented comedian, singer, songwriter and entertainer who performs mainly in South Florida.  Her stand-up comedy is very funny, and we thought it would be a great warm-up for a cold winter's day. 

In this performance at the New York Comedy Club (located in Boca Raton), Gail uses the comedy stage to share the humor of the Yiddish language she grew up hearing during her baby boomer childhood through characterizations of her crazy (meshugener) relatives, culminating with a musical performance of a parody of Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious" called "Naches kvelling shvitzing chazerai tzedreit mit goornisht." Enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Matzo Ball Soup Showdown: Jeff Nathan vs. Bobby Flay

When the weather forecast is for more snow (3 to 5 inches in the New York-New Jersey area today) and it's erev Shabbat, our thoughts turn to.....chicken soup with matzo balls.  The internet and printed recipe books are overflowing with recipes for the real stuff, as made by bubbes worldwide and by gourmet chefs.

Bobby Flay, Food Network chef and host of Throwdown, challenged Jeff Nathan, one of the most popular kosher chefs and owner of Abigael's Restaurant in New York City, to a chicken matzo ball soup competition.

The mission:  Create a chicken matzo ball soup with a twist that even the most discerning Jewish grandma would be proud of.

So choose your sides and place your bets.  Which chef will emerge the winner?  Enjoy the video and have a Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Today Is Tu B'Shvat - A Day To Celebrate Trees And Enjoy Their Fruits

Today is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, also known as Tu B'Shvat.  No, it's not another fast day.  It's a real holiday, but one without any restrictions.  The holiday is known as Jewish Arbor Day and the New Year for trees.  It's a day to feel good about the bounty of nature, including trees, fruits and nuts.

Last year we wrote a lot about Tu B'Shvat, but the blog was just getting started and we only had about 50 email subscribers.  Now we're way over 800 and growing fast, so we're making an exception to our policy of posting an original item each day and we're sharing last year's post with our subscribers old and new.  We hope you'll enjoy it.

It is customary to eat fruits on this day, especially fruits from Israel.  This includes figs, dates, oranges, pomegranates, and persimmons or Sharon fruit (afarsimonim).  All are available at most supermarkets or gourmet groceries.

Trees have been very important to Israel from its earliest beginnings.  From the tree of knowledge of good and evil described in Genesis to the eucalyptus trees planted in the Huleh Valley to drain the swamps and make much of the land inhabitable early in the 20th century, trees have always been part of Jewish life.

Yaakov Kirschen, the political cartoonist whose daily Dry Bones comic strips have appeared in The Jerusalem Post since January 1973, is using his talents to highlight the value of trees to everyone, and especially to the Jewish people, throughout the millennia.
In addition to his cartoons, which are also published in his daily blog, Kirschen has written a book in comic book format, Trees...The Green Testament, that illustrates the history of the world as narrated by a tree.  The tree, from its days as a seed and a sapling, observes and comments on world events from its own perspective.

The book is out of print, but new and used copies are available through online booksellers including  It's really worth finding and reading.

Tu B'Shvat is a time for singing, feasting, and rejoicing.  So here's a video tribute to this least known but very happy holiday.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This Is Sodom - New "Israeli Monty Python" Film Coming To New York

Last June we profiled Eretz Nehederet, the Israeli Saturday Night Live.  Now they've really outdone themselves, bringing to the big screen a lavish satire that is being compared to Monty Python's Life of Brian.

It's called Zohi Sdom in Hebrew, This is Sodom in English.  Actually, there is no English soundtrack, but English subtitles have now been added so English-speaking audiences can join in the fun.

The film was a blockbuster when it opened in Israel last year, with 100,000 tickets sold in the first four days.  It's a spoof set in the city of Sodom.  The cast, performers from Eretz Nehederet, portray the original Sin City with its gambling, orgy-obsessed culture complete with shopkeepers hawking non-kosher food, including a goat in its mother's milk, DVDs to be watched on Yom Kippur, and pushing elders out of their wheelchairs.

If you remember the story of Abraham and Lot from Beresheet (Genesis), you'll recognize all the familiar players, with some unorthodox changes.  God is portrayed as a salesman trying to push Judaism on Abraham, and the angels sent to destroy Sodom are motorcycle cops.

So now it's finally coming to New York (it was shown in Los Angeles last October and will be in Miami after the New York showings) as one of the films in the Israeli Film Festival from March 31 through April 14.  Locations and show times have not yet been announced, so check their web site for up-to-date information.

The festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  Its founder is Meir Fenigstein, once well known as Poogy, the drummer for the legendary Israeli rock band Kaveret.  For over two decades, Fenigstein has worked hard to raise awareness about Israel’s cultural diversity and cinematic creativity.

We'll keep you posted on other screening venues and DVD and Netflix availability as soon as the producers provide us with updates.  In the meantime, here's the trailer for you to enjoy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saturday Night Live Mocks Over-The-Top Bar Mitzvah

This week, without any warning or context, Saturday Night Live included a skit lampooning an over-the-top bar mitzvah party, where the father, through family music industry connections, arranges to have some top performers show up and sing for Bar Mitzvah boy Jacob, who only wants a modest luncheon.

The spoofing of the event is anything but subtle.  Pop music lyrics are modified to sound as Jewy as possible, throwing in references to Torah, haftorah, Bloomingdale's, Loehmann's, Moses, kosher, even the Mishnah (yes, probably the first reference to Mishnah on TV).

Over-the-top Bar Mitzvahs are nothing new, and there are plenty of jokes that focus on this phenomenon.  Last year we ran a post about an over-the-top Bat Mitzvah where the parents hired performers from Cirque du Soleil to provide the background for the girl as she made her appearance in a duplicate of a costume worn by Britney Spears.  That party was reported to cost a million dollars, a sum that could have provided four years of day school education for the celebrant and nine of her friends.

Here's the SNL skit.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Classic Catskills Comedy: Stewie Stone Performs In Florida

Stewie Stone is another classic Catskill comedy performer who is still doing his shtick in Florida and wherever Jewish audiences can be found.

Stone is living proof that you can take the kid out of Brooklyn, but you can't take Brooklyn out of the kid. Even his name, Stewie, comes direct from Flatbush. "In Brooklyn," he explains, "we're very big on vowels. We put 'E's at the end of everything -- Hermie, Frankie, Stewie. " 

Stone started as a drummer for New York bands, became a midweek entertainer at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills, and worked his way up to being the opening act for Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Dionne Warwick, Ben Vereen, Bobby Vinton, Sonny & Cher, and Engelbert Humperdinck in Las Vegas.

Here is a typical Stone routine that he performed in Florida as part of a comedy tour with Freddie Roman, whom we profiled in December.  Enjoy!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The 99 Cent Chef Invents The Loxaco -- A Jewish Taco

Billy Vasquez, aka The 99 Cent Chef, has worked his way to the top tier of the blogosphere by removing the haute from haute cuisine.  He cooks and finds interesting and tasty low-cost meals in and around Los Angeles using ingredients that cost 99 cents or less.

Well, this time he's made an exception, and used a high priced ingredient, smoked salmon, to create a new dish, the Loxaco, or Jewish taco.

Vasquez recently created the Loxaco, a Mexican twist on bagels and lox, to celebrate the opening of a lending library and used bookstore called "Libros Schmibros" in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.  The chef not only assembles the Loxaco, but also cures his own lox, using fresh salmon and a mixture of salt and sugar for two days in the refrigerator, before serving it in a taco.  

In the last ten seconds of the video, he goes a bit too far and strays into very non-kosher territory, but otherwise, all is strictly kosher and easy for you to prepare in your own kitchen.  Looks like a lighter version of the traditional bagels and lox, and it would go well with some mariachi music in the background.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mermaid Spotted Off Haifa Coast -- $1 Million Reward Offered

Loch Ness Monster, look out.  You've got competition.

A mermaid has been reported off the beaches of Kiryat Yam, a suburb of Haifa.

(There are so many funny things happening in the Jewish world and so many funny Jewish videos cropping up on YouTube that some even get by our eagle eye searches for the latest and the funniest.  That's why we're grateful to some of the web sites that list their top 10 whatever -- songs, jokes, videos of the previous year.  Here's one of the best, courtesy of

As Harvey Stein wrote for Israel21c,
There were always rumors about mermaids in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Yam, according to Shmuel Sisso, mayor of the quiet beachside municipality. But it was six months ago, when the promenade along the sea was completed, that the number of sightings reported by residents leapt dramatically.
That's when Sisso decided to offer a million dollar reward to anyone supplying unshakeable proof of the mermaid's existence.

Many are hoping to reel in that prize with proof that Israel's mermaid really does exist. Last year an NBC film crew shot footage in Kiryat Yam last summer as part of NBC's Destination Truth, which follows unique natural phenomenon all over the world.
As part of the report, the show's film crew spent a week on the Kiryat Yam beach, filming morning and night, both under and above water. The crew claims that late one night they spotted a human figure that disappeared under the water. The show's researchers dived after the figure, but were unable to trace it.
While the crew's footage hasn't yet been confirmed by the municipality, interest in the Kiryat Yam mermaid and the $1 million prize is growing fast worldwide.
Here's the video report, including an interview with the mayor and a man who says the mermaid spread his legs apart and passed through them.  Really.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Inside View Of Stand-Up Comedy With Myq Kaplan

No, it's not a misprint.  That's the way Myq (pronounced Mike) Kaplan spells his name.  Kaplan is an accomplished stand-up Jewish comedian who has been appearing in lots of venues lately.  He was a finalist on Last Comic Standing, had his own Comedy Central special and has performed at many comedy clubs. He is a veteran of late night TV, including The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brian and Late Late Night with Craig Ferguson.

In the video below, Kaplan performs a set at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a New York comedy club, and discusses what its like to write and perform comedy.  If you want to see his performance on Late Late Night with Craig Ferguson, just scroll down to the next video.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dance With Bnei Akiva In 20 Countries To Celebrate 12th International Convention Today

World Bnei Akiva's 12th International Convention starts today, January 12, 2011, in Jerusalem.  Approximately 150 delegates from 23 countries around the world will arrive in Israel for the convention, with a special tribute to the movement's shlichim (emissaries) around the globe. 

The delegates will come from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Panama, Great Britain, Israel, the US, Canada, Germany and France.  Bnei Akiva's Shlichut network has been in existence for close to 80 years, in 30 countries around the world, providing education in Judaism, Zionism and Aliyah.

World Bnei Akiva's convention takes place every four years, with the local branches sending delegates to Israel. During the convention, the delegates, youth and young leadership, will vote on the movement's ideology, projects and future.

Thousands are expected to attend Bnei Akiva's main event at the Jerusalem Theater today.  Shimon Peres, Israel's President, will salute Bnei Akiva Shlichim throughout the years, together with key figures in Israeli society.  Also performing are the Maccabeats, the Yeshiva University a cappella group, who will sing together with the Bnei Akiva participants at the opening ceremony for the first time in Israel.

To celebrate the start of this convention, World Bnei Akiva has produced a video showing members dancing all over the world to the song Am Yisrael Chai (The people of Israel live!)  And everywhere means everywhere from a snow-covered Zurich forest to the sandy beaches of Rio de Janeiro to a shoe store in Detroit.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winner Picked In Short Sci-Fi Film Contest To Show Visions Of Jerusalem In 2111

What will Jerusalem look like 100 years from today?  That's the question put to filmmakers who took up the challenge to produce a science fiction short film envisioning the Jerusalem of 2111.

And now the results are in.  We were hoping for a funny film, but looking through the submissions, we couldn't find even one.  The best we could find were a few somewhat hopeful films, but these were a minority among the generally dark, somber visions that were portrayed by the contestants.

The Jerusalem 2111 contest was sponsored by the Association of Planning and Conservation - Jerusalem (Beit Hamodel), a non-profit organization responsible for building and maintaining the Contemporary Model of Jerusalem ( Beit Hamodel, see pics), used for architectural planning and futuristic decision making.

As reported by Reuters in,
To judge by an Israeli-sponsored competition of animated short films envisaging Jerusalem a century hence, things won't go easier for the city at the heart of the Middle East conflict.
But against the drag of science-fiction dystopia, there are currents of hope – the kind that organizers believe will have Hollywood appeal, not least given the world-class filmmakers who served as jury for the contest, dubbed "Jerusalem 2111".
Winner of the $10,000 prize was US-based cinema student David Gidali, whose two-minute-long "Secular Quarter" shows a Jewish couple, religious and non-religious, coming face-to-face as UFOs remove the huge cages sealing off their neighborhoods.
We invite you to watch all of the submissions and find the one you like the best.  You'll find them all at the Jerusalem 2111 website.

Here's the promo video which weaves together visions from many of the entries, followed by David Gidali's "Secular Quarter," winner of the $10,000 first prize.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Saudis Detain Israeli Vulture For Spying After Egypt Says Mossad Complicit In Shark Attack

As we're fond of saying, you just can't make this stuff up.  Today we're reporting two stories from the past few weeks that we would have taken for Purim spoofs if it weren't mid-January.

A few days ago the Saudis "detained" a vulture that flew into their airspace with a leg tag saying "Tel Aviv University."  The authorities claimed the vulture was sent by the Mossad to spy for Israel.  If we were sending a bird to spy we certainly wouldn't put our return address on it, but when does logic apply in the Middle East?

This report comes on the heels of another one last month that the Mossad was responsible for shark attacks in Egyptian waters.

To show that we're not making this up, here is the article from the BBC about the vulture caper:
Saudi Arabian officials have "detained" a vulture on accusations of being a spy for Israel, media reports say.
The griffon vulture was carrying a GPS transmitter bearing the name of Tel Aviv University, prompting rumours it was part of a Zionist plot. Israeli wildlife officials dismissed the claims as ludicrous and expressed concern about the bird's fate.
Last month, Egyptian officials implied the Israeli spy agency Mossad was to blame for shark attacks off its coast.
The vulture, which can have a wing span of up to 265cm (8ft 8in), was caught after it landed in the desert city of Hyaal a few days ago.  When locals discovered the GPS transmitter, they suspected the worst and handed it over to the security forces, said Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper.  Conspiracy theories quickly began circulating in Saudi newspapers and on websites that the bird was involved in espionage.

Israeli officials told Ma'ariv they were "stunned" by the allegations and concerned that the bird could meet a horrible punishment in the notoriously severe Saudi justice system.
"The device does nothing more than receive and store basic data about the bird's whereabouts, and about his altitude and speed," a bird specialist at Israel's Park and Nature Authority told the newspaper. The data would be used to improve understanding of the endangered species' behaviour.
"Now, this poor bird is paying a terrible price. That's very sad," said the unnamed expert. "I hope they release the poor thing."
The vulture is the latest animal to be accused of being an unwitting Mossad operative.  In December, the governor of Egypt's South Sinai province, Mohamed Abdul Fadil Shousha, suggested the spy agency may have had a hand in a string of deadly shark attacks off the coast of the Sharm el-Sheikh resort.
He said it was "not out of the question" that Mossad had put the killer shark in the area.
The Israeli foreign ministry dismissed that allegation, saying the governor "must have seen Jaws one time too many, and confuses fact and fiction".
Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, had a lot of fun reporting the Egyptian allegation, and we'll share it with you below, just after the serious report from Israel Television News.  Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and we hope you enjoy both videos.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Israel Shark Conspiracy
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>Video Archive

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How Tzena Tzena Made Its Way To #2 On Billboard's Top Hit List

The year was 1951, and a Hebrew song made its way up the Billboard list of top hits to #2.  No, it wasn't Hava Nagila.  It was Tzena, Tzena, as recorded by The Weavers, with Pete Seeger.

This week Ari Y. Kelman went beyond the list of the best 100 Jewish songs of all time that he and Jodi Rosen published last month in Tablet magazine, and zeroed in on the fascinating story behind the success of Tzena, Tzena.

The full article is worth reading, and we're giving you the link to it here.

As Kelman, a professor of American studies at the University of California, writes in Tablet,
In 1951, American Jews heard something they never heard before and have not heard since: a Hebrew song at No. 2 on the Billboard charts. The song, Issachar Miron’s Tzena Tzena, had been recorded the year before by the Weavers, a politically leftist folk singing group from Greenwich Village with hyperactive accents and closer ties to Woody Guthrie than to Golda Meir. Adopted by Pete Seeger as a folk song, the Weavers’ version of Tzena Tzena fed American Jews’ sense of what Israel was—a land brimming with tanned and muscular kibbutznik-soldiers singing, dancing the hora, and making the desert bloom.
Along with “Hava Nagila,” “Tzena Tzena” became one of the first Hebrew songs to be embraced widely by American Jewish audiences. But unlike “Hava Nagila,” which rang with overtones of religion and hasidism, “Tzena Tzena” lyrically evoked the sounds, sights, and soldiers of the new State of Israel, with its pastoral yet vigorous lyrics about girls going out to meet soldiers in the new settlements. In the early 1950s, Israel in the minds of Americans was some combination of the Garden of Eden and the little engine that could. It was dreamily socialist and seemed to hum with the vigor and romance of manual labor, filled with Jewish men and women who could fight and plant and love. The image of Israel in the minds of American Jews happily excluded the realities of malarial swamps and massive, hastily erected tent settlements to house the tens of thousands of Mizrahi Jews.
In the following few decades, the song was covered by everyone from Vic Damone and Mantovani to Richard Tucker, Chubby Checker, Judy Garland, and Dusty Springfield, among countless lesser-known artists like the Temple Israel Senior Youth Group Choir and the performers of Songs NFTY Sings II. In truth, it is probably one of the most recorded and best-known Jewish songs in the world.

“Tzena Tzena” is important not only for its popularity, but for how it became so popular in the first place. With its romantic depiction of young women lusting after righteous male soldiers, the song fulfilled the expectations of Israel held by many American Jews in 1951. Yet, this image needed a Harvard-educated American folk singer to reach an American audience. Despite the song’s pedigree, it took Seeger’s “hechsher” to make Israel audible to American Jews.
Here's the original performance by Pete Seeger and The Weavers, followed by a funny version that we discovered, sung by Arlo Guthrie, the folksinger/storyteller who gave us Alice's Restaurant.  In this tongue-in-cheek version, Guthrie presents the song as an Irish ballad about boys named Tzena meeting girls named Alna.  We hope you enjoy both versions. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Back To The Catskills Again With Stand-Up Comedian Adrianne Tolsch

The weather forecast for New York and New Jersey is snow today and tomorrow.  That's a good reason to start the day with some good old-time Catskills-type humor, and we're here to help you enjoy some of it with Adrianne Tolsch.

A veteran of comedy clubs and casinos, she has toured with Catskills comics Freddie Roman, Stewie Stone, and Dick Capri, and she's really funny.

Tolsch began her career in New York City at Catch a Rising Star. She has headlined at every major comedy club in the United States, as well as casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. She has performed as far away as London, England, Melbourne, Australia and Hobart, Tasmania and has been the opening act for Jay Leno, The Pointer Sisters, Bobby Vinton, Pat Cooper, Chita Rivera, Clint Holmes and Billy Crystal.

Here's a ten-minute stand-up session that she did recently before an audience of Florida retirees.  We laughed a lot and hope you will, too.  Just a little warning -- toward the end of her delivery, her language gets a little bit salty.  Enjoy!