Archive for September, 2011

In 1984 when we escaped the ’1984′-shaped Communist Romania and became free people one of our first sources of fascination and the only entertainment we could afford as new immigrants was the TV. Coming from the 2-hours-a-day programs filled with propaganda the (then) only Israeli TV channel broadcasting all day long in colors seemed heaven. We did not understand much Hebrew, so films and TV series were some of our main points of interests. Most series combining science-fiction and action like A-Team, Manimal or Wonder Woman and re-runs of the older series of Star Treak which I was so lucky to see, having missed the Captain Kirk and Captain Picard phenomena during all those years. One series step apart with a somehow darker vision of the contacts between human and alien species and the title was simply V. The V was for Visitors and they were in this case a cruel race of reptilians who were hiding their identity under well fabricated human skins and whose superior technology allowed them to invade planet Earth and put humanity in bondage. Of course, mankind fought back.




The remake of the 1984-85 series brings the Visitors to the present. The Visitors do not invade in the 21st century, they just put huge spaceships atop the big cities of the world and make spectacular demonstrations of their might and apparent good will. As expected most of the humans are inclined to collaborate, and only a handful of people see the true nature of the visitors and decide to fight back. As one can expect the graphics in the new series are spectacular, we are in the post 9/11 world where terrorism is fought with earthly and sometimes alien technology, and and the special effects support well a paced action line which plays all the time on the uncertain balance between the longer story line and the need to provide enough story, substance and conflict resolution in the 45 minutes of each episode. The build-up of the characters is excellent and it is supported by good acting so we soon start to care about FBI officer Erica Evans (Erica Mitchell) and her son Tyler (Logan Huffman), V-deflector Ryan Nichols (Morris Chestnut), his human lover Valerie (Lourdes Benedicto) and father Jack Landry and learn to mistrust, fear and hate the Visitor’s Queen Anna (Morena Baccarin), and we watch with interest the evolution of a few characters that oscillate between the interests of the two species like TV anchor Chad Decker (Scott Wolf) and Anna’s daughter Lisa (Laura Vandervoort).


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The ambitions of the series goes however beyond the pure action story and even the longer thread of the conflict between species. Some critics read in the plot an allegory of the American politics which I was not to fast to decipher. What was obvious to me however especially in the second season was the moralistic and even religious line taken by the authors in defining the differences between the species as lying mostly in the existence of feelings like compassion and love with the concept of ‘soul’ representing their incarnation in one concept. I think that the religious terminology got too explicit at some point and a more abstract definition of the concepts of Good and Evil would have looked better, but overall the show gained amplitude and led to some emotional moments as it advanced in its second season. I can regret even more the decision to take the show off the screens exactly when it became more interesting and broadened its plot with a new chance for the freedom fighters and a new secret organization becoming part of what seemed to become a hopeless fight to save mankind. Sometimes commercial realities kill dreams exactly when they start being more exciting.


We chose three wines from the Israel Mony vineyards for our Rosh HaShana table: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.

The Cabernet was slightly unusual, lighter than expected, with interesting fruity nuances. I loved the Chardonnay, deep and with a honey color fit for the occasion. The Gewurztraminer was a light and pleasant companion for the deserts.



Their Web site is

The review of some of Mony’s wines written by the late wine critic Dabiel Rogov can be read at

Some more impressions ca be read at



On Facebook the vineyard can be befriended at

Here is an excerpt from their Facebook entry page:

Mony is set in the grounds of a Christian monastery, is owned by an Arab-Christian family and makes Kosher wines. For years wine was produced by the resident monks of Dir Rafat, famous for its painted ceiling with the words “Peace” written in hundreds of languages. The Artoul family worked in the winery until Shakib Artoul leased the land and established Mony in 2000. The winery is named for Dr Mony Artoul, Shakib’s first son who tragically died of a heart condition in 1995 – a plaque dedicated to him hangs over the entrance to the tunnels and cellar at the back of the winery. Nur Artoul is the winemaker and with his father and two remaining brothers they oversee the winery operations.

Shana Tova!

Here we are, on the eve of the Jewish New Year or Rosh HaShana. The Year we enter in this evening is 5772.




The coming of the holiday is announced by the sound of the shofar, which is traditionally a ram horn.




Alsacian painter Alphonse Levy shows how it was blown in Europe in the 19th century …


(video source LowellSun)

… and here we have a clip filmed in a Reform synagogue in the US nowadays, we can hear its sound as well.




As with any Jewish holiday we have food associated. Honey is the main theme of Rosh HaShana with the wish that the next year will be sweet as honey is. We will eat our honey this evening with home made bread prepared by our beautiful daughter-in-law …


(video source MendyTV)


… but some prefer it with apple as we can see in the clip above.


Shana Tova!



Bad things continue to happen to Habima, the national theater of Israel. The renovation of the historic building was supposed to be ready during the previous season, but it looks like even its inauguration is not sure for this season either. Exiled in improvised halls, most of them below the minimal technical requirements and/or suffering from access and parking problems, the theater seems to be in permanent improvisation mode. What is worse however is that they are making in many cases bad artistic choices.


Rami Heuberger and Ricky Blich



This is the case of the performance with Irish author Stella Feehily‘s ‘O Go My Man’ which is brought to stage here under the name ‘Monogamia’ (Monogamy) which I saw last night. Even from the title which brings in clear the anagram of the central theme of the play we are faced with one of the principal problems of the Habima choice – the Hebrew adaptation of the Irish author’s play. I confess not to be at all the fan of the Israeli habit of relocating plays in Israel, changing slightly the names of the characters and the seting, sometimes inserting local political jokes. At least the last outrage is spared to the audiences of ‘Monogamia’ but most of what at second thought must be a complex intrigue with a rich baggage of symbols is lost in the translation and localization of the action from Ireland to Israel. The symbol of Alice for example or the character of the Polish immigrant which provides the comic counterpoint are completely lost. In a country like ours where a real and intense conflict is far from being healed even the post-trauma situation of the main character is hard to accept.


Amnon Wolf, Dov Reiser, Ricky Blich



The audience reacted accordingly last night. I have seldom seen here a performance in theaters where actors are called back at the final applause only once. It would not have happened if the staging of the play did not make the close to two hours (no break) experience simply boring. I am sorry to say, but as much as I like Rami Heuberger as an actor, he is no stage director, maybe not yet. This is obvious starting with the casting, where some clear miscasts are immediately perceived beginning with himself in the main role. He seems to have aimed to copy Jack Nicholson’s appearance without Jack Nicholson’s sex appeal, so it is hard to understand how and why the character played by Ricky Blich (good casting here and maybe the best acting in the performance) falls for him. Why Dov Reiser accepted such a small collection of roles is hard to understand. It’s maybe the economy, stupid, as the actors at Habima were on strike for their unpaid salaries last week. The strike was cancelled a few days before the performance yesterday, but after seeing it I am almost sorry that it did not go on for a while.


If the first selection in the Beit Lessin theater season was on the safe side, the second one we attended on Saturday morning was much more daring. ‘Peace Syndrome’ is a documentary theater coproduction of Beit Lessin with the Theater and Orchestra of Heidelberg in Germany, part of a two years project which included shared work of German and Israeli actors, authors and directors. It was presented together with other events in the ‘Open Stage’ festival organized each fall by the Tel Aviv theater.




A few months ago I wrote about a similar project that resulted in the performance with Post-Trauma at Habima. While the subjects are both in the complex and fascinating area of the relations between the German and the Jewish people in the aftermath and shadow of the Holocaust, there are many differences. In the case of ‘Peace Syndrome’ the text is compiled by author Torge Kübler from the testimonies of the German activists who take part in the activities of NGOs like Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) or Medico International and focuses on their experiences when faced with the complex situation in the Middle East and especially with The Conflict, the feelings of collective guilt, the personal need to take a position when faced with injustice, but also the difficulty in taking or not taking sides or even expressing an opinion in a dispute that is so intrenched, passionate, and violent.


author and director Torge Kübler


The team of four actors (two Israelis and two German) succeeded to bring life to the text, and after the overcoming the first few minutes of difficulty caused by the bi-lingual experience (with one language that I know only at very basic level) the rules of the game played on stage became visible and we were more and more absorbed in the exchange of ideas and the dilemmas of the real-time characters that they represent.


debating after the performance


The performance on Saturday morning was followed by a debate with the performers and the authors of ‘Peace Syndrome’. The most interesting aspects of the debate were the ones related to the experiences of the actors on the two sides, and the differences in how they related to the overall situation were obvious. While the German actors approached the show with the curiosity involved in knowing new cultures and events, for the two Israeli young actors the material was close to their daily lives and experiences. For ones it was a deep-dive in a reality they knew only from far away, for the other it was a more drastic change of perspective. All were bound by the language of art, and by what the final replicas in the text describe so well as the principal symptom of the people who get under the influence of the Peace Syndrome – Hope. The message that good will of good people is the only chance for humanity to prevail in the conditions of a complex conflict with no visible solution in sight is a good ending to take home, especially in these days.



We have a busy theater weekend ahead, with two Beit Lessin performances (one, today, part of the ‘Pothim Bama – Stage Opening’ event) and one tomorrow at Habima. It is the start of a new season, and I am eager to see what the four theaters in Tel Aviv we are subscribed to are preparing for this year.  


Hana Azoulay Hasfari - source


‘Mimouna’, the play that we saw last night is written by playwright and actress Hana Azoulay Hasfari. She is born in Beersheva and I wrote about her as the principal partner of Sasson Gabai in the excellent TV series Polishuk. Her plays as most of the roles she undertakes are related to contemporary Israel social problems – status of women, conflicts between the ashkenazi and sephardi communities and between tradition and modern life. She is rightly building to herself the image of a talented (and beautiful) artist engaged in multiple creative ways in the life around.




‘Mimouna’, directed by Cfir Azoulay, fits well in the profile of Beit Lessin, a theater that tries (and succeeds) to survive in the competitive commercial theater environment of Tel Aviv while bringing up from time to time social and political issues on stage in a manner that is ‘digestible’ by weekend audiences, and also makes room and for the creation of Israeli original playwrights. It is not great theater in most cases (not to my taste in any case) but it succeeds sometimes to bring to stage some artistic emotion and triggers reflections on the current problems of the world close to us. This is the case for Azoulay Hasfari’s play which provides an insight into a second and third generation of a family of Morocco descent, with connections in politics, with the fights between tradition and modernity, between family and social conveniences and the different forms of rebellion of the young generation. Maybe too many problems are being brought into the time of 90 minutes of stage action, but overall the story works. The play is well written, the action is paced and the characters are credible and well acted (special mention for Sarah Von Schwartze who is playing the role that the author would have played if distributed). No surprises, but a better than average start for a new theater season.

Zora Palova, born in 1947 and wife of Stepan Pala has spent much of the last 15 years in England, as a research professor at the University of Sunderland, on the shore of the North Sea. She works in melted glass, with abstract forms and intense colors.


Gray Green Sea


The work she exposes at the exhibition at the Litvak Gallery is inspired by the sea. A column, abstract and vertical, refusing in a programmatic manner the line of the horizon incorporates in its shape the dynamics of the movement of the sea and deep color of the water, the primary element that glass is closer to.

Let me cross the street (over the bridge) for this posting and remember one of the exhibitions at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art that Liliana and me visited last Friday morning. I will be back with impressions about other artists who expose at the Litvak Gallery in future postings.


Zubin Mehta in Rehearsals - source


The biography of photographer Yakov Agor is one of those legendary biographies of Jewish personalities of the 20th century that can make you dream, or can lead to assertive judgments. He was born in Ukraine in 1911, lived his youth in what was then Poland, took his first pictures when he was 8, and made his studies in Berlin at the School of Art. He spent WWII in the Soviet Union where he worked in the film studios, and after the war he made a name to himself in Poland in the 50s, designing theater sets.


Hanoch Levin - source:


When he arrived in Israel in 1958 his name and fame had preceded him and, he was received as a personality and quickly integrated in the Israeli press and art scene. He worked from 1960 to 1962 for Uri Avnery’s HaOlam Haze magazine, and starting with 1963 for the weekend supplement of Ha’Aretz. He became the best known photographer of the art and cultural scene of Israel for the coming two decades. Yakov Agor passed away in 1996.


Golda Meir - source


For this first major exhibition of Agor in a museum, curated (not alone) by internationally famous artist Dani Karavan offers a consistent collection of photos, mostly portraits. There are not too many (the exhibition is organized in the side room on the right-hand side of the museum entry) but most of them are strong and sensitive. The technique used by Agor avoided in a programmatic manner any artificial light, and this gives depth and density to the image, with some kind of dark vagueness similar to the technique of clair-obscure paintings. Most of the works are portraits of artists or public personalities, although a few surprises are reserved for the visitors in the non-portraits shots. For the older generation this exhibition must be a certain source of nostalgia, for us, the more recent Israelis a meeting with figures who are part of the legend of a young country we never knew. Even if part of them are still alive they are now at the golden age, in the pictures in the exhibition we met them young and enthusiastic as Israel was once and most important of all alive and present due to Agor’s art.

More information about the exhibition is available at It will stay open until October 8, 2011.



The Slovak artist Štěpán Pala belongs visibly to the school of Vaclav Cigler. He uses the optical glass as well although his preferred technique of melting and molding the glass is different. The three works exposed at the Freedom to Create: Beyond the Glass Curtain exhibition at the Litvak Gallery in Tel Aviv (named Messenger, Infinity I, Cradle) are all combinations of geometrical, almost mathematical forms which remind the basic cubist and abstract art principles with the difference that color is replaced by transparency and surface by volume which seem to integrate with the air and transform and segment parts of it in volumes.





Johny Raducanu was one of the best jazz-men of Romania, maybe the best ever. He was a complex artist, descendent of a dinasty of musicians, he played the piano and the bass, he taught and inspired for decades many generations of musicians.



The best way to pay respect to a great musician who died is is to play some of his music.


(video source bogdanbelcea)


(video source iordan7)


(video source virici)


(video source fredericmoreau01)


(video source 19vital63)


(video source TheLudwigg)

(video source TheLudwigg)


May his memory be blessed!