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An Israeli Film about Small-Town Life in the Negev Comes to the American Stage

Dec. 13 2016

Set in the fictional town of Bet Hatikvah, the Israeli film The Band’s Visit (2007) tells the story of how this small, dull community is shaken up by the accidental visit of an Egyptian police orchestra. David Yazbeck and Itamar Moses have transformed the movie into an English-language musical. Ben Brantley writes in his appreciative review:

The Band’s Visit uses a well-worn formula that hasn’t stopped being recycled since Oedipus stumbled into Thebes. That’s the good old story of a stranger—or in this case strangers, an entire Egyptian police band —arriving in a sleepy town and shaking it to its foundations.

Think of The Rainmaker, Shane, or even The Music Man, in which that stranger’s kiss (or gunshot or con act) winds up transforming lives forever. The Band’s Visit flirts with the clichés of such a scenario, and then triumphantly fails to consummate them. Just when you think it’s going to deliver big on an anticipated clincher, it pulls back, and that withdrawal feels far more satisfying than the expected obvious climax.

Consider, for example, the possible political implications of the plot. . . . Uninvited Arabs in Israel? Surely, we can anticipate a fraught cultural collision and a subsequent feel-good reconciliation, proving that even perceived adversaries have more in common than they thought. But nationalistic tensions are touched upon only glancingly.

Instead, the Bet Hatikvans are delighted, in their low-key way, by the mere novelty of these traveling musicians, led by their dignity-conscious conductor Tewfiq, who wear robin’s-egg-blue uniforms that make the townspeople think of Michael Jackson.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Arts & Culture, Broadway, Film, Israeli culture, Musical theater

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC