Oznia, a blog of Israel things

~Surprising Loss for Waltz With Bashir by ozniablog
February 25, 2009, 7:41 pm
Filed under: movies/television | Tags: , , ,

When the presenter announced the Academy Award nominees for best foreign language film, I held my breath. I had read glowing reviews and favorable predictions that suggested Israel would finally win for the chilling biopic released just a few weeks ago. And, truthfully, when the Oscar went to Japan, I was livid. Waltz with Bashir tells the story of director Ari Folman’s experiences as a young fighter in the first Lebanon War. The animated documentary follows his attempt to recall the painful events he has blocked out in his memory. The film received immediate international acclaim, and even scooped up the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film as well as a host of awards abroad, in countries including Britain and France. If Israel was not slated to win, France’s The Class was next in line; Japan swooped in, though, with a shocking win for Departures, a movie about a cellist. “I saw the Israeli movie which I honestly had thought would win as it was wonderful,” Japanese director Masahiro Motoki told reporters.  Better luck next year, Israel!


~When Israel Advocacy Is Just One Click Away by ozniablog
October 22, 2008, 6:20 pm
Filed under: opinion | Tags: ,

About a month ago, I received an e-mail from Stand With Us (an Israel Education and Advocacy Organization) recruiting writers for CampusPost, a college campus newspaper and joint collaboration with the Jerusalem Post. Caught off guard, I was a bit confused; why was I, a high school junior, being asked to write for a college newspaper? I was curious, but figured the message was delivered mistakenly and did not actually apply to me; I forwarded it to my college-aged sister and then let the ad archive into my AOL account. A few minutes later, I decided to venture into my “old mail” folder and click on the newspaper’s link, to learn, if nothing else, about what I had recently passed on. I began reading, and was immediately enthralled by the mission and contents of the paper. Written by students for students, Campus Post is a nonpartisan monthly newspaper that works to highlight “the richness of Israel’s diversity” through its innovations, its culture, and its true relationship to the rest of the world. Somewhat hesitantly, I decided to respond to the mass recruitment e-mail and find out if there was some way I could possibly get the paper to be delivered to my high school. I was cheerfully surprised when a response the following day asked me simply for a number, shipping address and contact.

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~Cartooning for Peace by ozniablog
September 8, 2008, 2:43 pm
Filed under: arts/culture, politics | Tags:

Though Israelis and Palestinians might have differing views, when it boils down to it, the majority of each side is rooting for peace.  Centuries of history have proven that the more conventional means for reaching a harmony (such as attempted negotiations and conferences) do not always have the desired outcome, or even a strong effect on the general public.  Fortunately, many projects in recent years have focused on bringing the effort of reaching peace down from a national level to a personal one; in other words, rather than make this endeavor a heavy diplomatic one, it is being made more relatable to the people, who ultimately control the result.

One of these projects, called “Cartooning fore Peace,” took place this past June in Israel.  The workshop included a diverse group of cartoonists, among them Israelis, Turks, Palestinians, Americans, French, Algerians and Egyptians.  These artists had the opportunity to present their work to one another, and take part in educational sessions (whose audiences included diplomats). Israeli political cartoonist Michel Kichka, who helped to found “Cartooning for Peace” explains that the event was important because it gave these people an opportunity to talk.  He says that this allows us to discover “how much we have in common and how similar is our fight.”

He also emphasizes the relevance of peace to cartooning; while it is an art, it is too often used to ridicule certain ethnicities and religious groups.  He explains that the beauty of the workshop is that it teaches to not take democracy for granted.  Freedom of speech is a powerful right; it can either be used forcefully for the worse, or tremendously for the better.

By appealing to the hobbies of individuals, these projects help the more unlikely of people to connect by highlighting their shared interests, and perhaps even achieving peace along the way.

~Exclusive Interview with Shaanan Street of HaDag Nachash! by ozniablog
June 25, 2008, 1:07 am
Filed under: arts/culture | Tags:

When hearing the term “Israeli music,” the first thing that probably comes to the minds of our parents and grandparents are hopeful chalutzim marches and folk singers like Naomi Shemer. While the poignant pitches of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav and Al Kol Eleh are undoubtedly timeless classics, it is important to recognize the revolution that is taking place on the Israeli music scene. It is no secret that Israel is a cultural melting pot; the unique sense of Middle-Eastern diversity is palpable in everything from the sounds to the signs on the streets. The greatest musical breakthrough in the past decade, combining the likes of ethnic beats and western pop, is arguably the strong surge of hip hop.

In 1996, the radio program Esek Shachor (Black Business) got started on the popular station Galgalatz to promote the American beat throughout Israel. Many Israeli artists were guests on Esek Shachor to show off their English rapping skills – many more, though, recognized that English rap should be left to native English speakers and they therefore attempted Hebrew rap. By 2000, the program was the most popular nationwide, granting big breaks to many artists, and nurturing the rise of Israeli hip hop.

Both within the state itself and throughout the international community, HaDag Nachash has become one of the most renowned Israeli hip hop groups. A mixture of jazz, funk and world music, the group continues to pick up speed as it discovers the excitement of new fans.

In a unique interview opportunity, Shaanan Street, lead singer of the band, explained to me how the band got started in 1996: “I had written, recorded and printed a rap song in Jerusalem early that year. After a month or two, an acquaintance of mine [David Klemes] heard the song and told me he loved it,” explains Shaanan. Klemes invited Shaanan to “jam with this funky instrumental band he was part of.” Shaanan did just that and, with Atraf Moshe Asraf on drums and Yaya Cohen Harounoff on bass, “HaDag Nachash came to be.”

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~Peace with Syria? by shaynaschor
May 25, 2008, 2:19 am
Filed under: opinion, politics | Tags:

On Wednesday May 21, the Prime Minister’s Office announced direct negotiations between Israel and Syria in Turkey.These negotiations frighten some people – is Syria’s drive for “peace” to deceive Israel and grant Iran easier access to our homeland? Do they want to talk to us just to get the Golan Heights, and then coordinate with their Palestinian and Arab neighbors to destroy Israel? In essence we ask: is it worth it for Israel to participate in this peace process, and does Syria truly have legitimate reasons to do so?The answer, in my opinion, is yes.

Talks actually began in February 2007; for all three parties involved to have kept this a secret for so long suggests that a well thought out focus on peace is shared among the powers.Wednesday’s statements, released simultaneously by Jerusalem and Damascus, read: “The two sides have declared their intention to hold the negotiations in good faith and openly, and hold a serious and continuous dialogue in order to reach a comprehensive peace deal.Fom a security standpoint, it is vital for us at this time to remain open to discussing peace with Syria.Iran’s strong grip and steady support of the Syrian nation intensifies the threat at our northern border.Some argue that our current status with Syria, a seemingly quiet one, is enough; they believe efforts for peace will ruin the tranquility. However, as long as Syria and Israel are not seriously invested in discussions, Iran will be using Syria to its advantage against Israel.And as long as Iran and Syria foster a tight alliance, violent bedlam can erupt in Israel at any moment.I think we should be thankful that we find ourselves in this opportunity to seek peace with a nation we have long been shaky about.

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~Hand in Hand by ozniablog
May 7, 2008, 2:11 am
Filed under: arts/culture, opinion, politics | Tags:

No name. Just “55.”

Okay, see you soon! My parents replied. I looked at my older sister nervously.

You see, it’s not so easy to get a taxi in Israel for a family of five. Until this past trip to Israel, we would send my dad to the front seat, while my mom, two sisters and I would pile into the back of a rickety white sedan and hold our breaths. Israel’s recent enforcement of seatbelt laws, however, has thrown off our routine. Calling a cab company and explaining, in broken Hebrew, that we are five people and will need to get to Tel Aviv on Tuesday at 10:15, and then Zichron Ya’akov on Thursday at 7:30 is not always pleasant. That’s why, when they asked for his name, my parents were satisfied with our Arab driver’s response. We finally had a relaxing ride and had a good amount of traveling to go, so why sacrifice comfort for surrendering to your conscience’s suspicion? We called the company and he returned the next day to drive us to Jerusalem.
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~Greening Israel by ozniablog
March 31, 2008, 3:32 am
Filed under: science/nature | Tags:


Israel has always been one step ahead of the technological world; from the contemporary communication of IMing and text messaging to the life saving radiation-free cancer devices, Israeli scientists have been at the top of their class for the past sixty years. It is, then, no surprise that they have come through yet again in developing methods of sustainability, with plans of action that are essential for our modern world. Realizing the immanent threat of climate change and the immense effect our actions have on the environment,Israel has become a leading force in the worldwide efforts to achieve eco-friendliness and partnership with the earth. A team from the Israeli Institute of Technology is working on the efficiency of non-polluting powered cars. More than 85% of the country’s waste is treated in an environmentally sound way. Israel has the highest number of solar power heaters per capita. An Israeli company was the first to install a large-scale solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert. These are just a few of Israel’s many eco-accomplishments to date, and, make no mistake, they are just beginning; plans of the world’s largest solar power plant to be built in the Negev as well as tax breaks for residents of “green buildings” suggest their best efforts are yet to come.

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