Israel Story is an award-winning podcast that tells true stories you won’t hear on the news. Hosted by Mishy Harman, the bi-weekly show brings you extraordinary tales about ordinary Israelis. The show is distributed by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, and produced in partnership with Tablet Magazine. For Hebrew episodes, see סיפור ישראלי, or go to our website: israelstory.org
Here's the Latest Episode from Israel Story:
What does it mean to be 'in it for the long haul'? In our fiftieth episode, which is also our season finale, we explore this question in the context of both creating a podcast and forging a relationship.
Some people operate within the confines of reality. Others don't. Instead, they will things into existence. Today we'll meet one such determined woman who - faced with countless obstacles - decided to keep calm, put one foot in front of the other, and carry on in pursuit of love.
Back in 2014, we met Elik Fromchenko. During the day he works at an auto magazine, but - just like Clark Kent - he has a secret superpower: Elik is a world-class whistler. And, in an adventure that could only happen to an Israeli backpacker, he found himself in an ambassadorial role in Hebei Province, China.
If you happen to associate Christmas Eve with egg rolls, hot-and-sour soup and sesame chicken, tune in to tomorrow's re-release of one of our Season One classics - our sole China-related story.
Rachael Cerrotti was a college freshman when she first came to Israel on a Birthright trip. Shortly thereafter, back in Philadelphia, she and her grandmother - Hana Dubova - started sitting down for what they called "storytelling sessions." The result was a ten-year-long journey in which Rachael retraced her grandmother's steps during, and in the wake of, WWII.
In our last episode, "Achi" (my brother), we told the tale of two siblings and their unusual life together. And today, we're sharing a little companion bonus track, in which senior producer Yochai Maital talks to his older sister Temira Finesilver about their very different lifestyles.
When God first spoke to Benjamin, he was reading the newspaper. That was just the start of a wild journey that led two Orthodox brothers from the Bronx to a new life, a new homeland, a new lord and - above all - to each other.
Growing up, Benjamin and Reuven Berger never imagined they'd be roommates well into their seventies. Nor did they imagine their lives would unfold as brothers in faith. But from their majestic home in the serene village of Ein Kerem, they reflect on an unusual, almost biblical, path that led them far apart and then back together.
In the prologue, Mishy Harman tries to understand why - if an alien landed in Israel today - it would probably think that the word "achi" is a form of Hebrew punctuation.
Act I, "The Berger Bros," is a tale of two brothers who are brothers in more than just one way. Joel Shupack brings us the story of Benjamin and Reuven Berger, the Bronx-born sons of European Jews who escaped the Nazis. Tumultuous years of doubts, revelations and risks led them from a muddy copy of "Peyton Place" all the way to Jerusalem's small community of Messianic Jews.
Ari Jacob composed and performed the original music in "The Berger Bros." Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions. Thanks to Dina Kraft for editorial help. Adam Milliner mixed the episode. The end song, *November, *is by Shaanan Streett, and features Selva de Mar. It was written in memory of Shaanan's sister, Tova.
Jews have been in Iraq for more than two-and-a-half millennia. Today, the entire Jewish community of Baghdad can fit in a single car. In this special Thanksgiving bonus, we bring you a conversation between Mishy Harman and Emad Levy, the last "rabbi" of Baghdad.
It's a busy week. Many of you will be traveling, and those of you staying put will probably be cooking turkeys and preparing cranberry sauce. And while you are doing all that, we wanted to keep you company.
With the kind of storytelling we do, most of our interviews end up on the proverbial "editing room floor." And we're often sorry about that, since we'd like you to hear them too. So today, in a new experiment for us, we bring you an edited version of an interview we recently recorded. Want to know what the last "rabbi" of Baghdad is thankful for? Listen and find out.
A century ago, close to one-third of Baghdad's population was Jewish. Today, just five Jews remain in the city. In today's episode, we explore the story of the Jews of Iraq, all the way from Nahum the prophet to a Jerusalemite grandma who became the unlikely champion of kidnapped Yazidi girls.
Jews first arrived in what is today Iraq in the 6th century BC, after the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar sacked Solomon's Temple. It was from there that Ezra and Nehemiah led returning exiles back to Jerusalem. It was there that the Babylonian Talmud was debated, compiled and codified. And it was there, in 1941, that the Farhud - a violent pogrom - left hundreds of Baghdad's Jews dead and thousands injured.
While there were many different phases in this 2600-year-long history, Jews knew numerous prosperous periods in the 'land between the two rivers.' There were Jewish politicians, jurists, doctors, businessmen. There was even a Jewish Miss Baghdad.
Today that community is all but gone.
Ari Jacob wrote the original music in “You Cannot Clap With One Hand.” Joel Shupack arranged the music for the rest of the episode, and for parts of Act I, with music from Blue Dot Sessions. Shai Satran and Mishy Harman edited the episode, and Sela Waisblum mixed it all up. It was recorded in Jonathan Friedlander's 'Quality Sound Studio' in Jerusalem. The end song is a new cover version we commissioned of Boney M.'s "Rivers of Babylon.” It was recorded, arranged and performed by Shay Perry.
To most, Adolf Eichmann - the mastermind behind the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution’ - is the ultimate symbol of evil. But to a small group of Israelis, he was no more than a gaunt and balding middle-aged prisoner. This is the story of those who looked evil in the eye, and lived to tell the tale.
Last week we aired a story about Dr. Yonah Elian, the anesthesiologist who sedated Eichmann during his capture back in 1960. And today we bring you a rerun of another Eichmann story we aired back in a 2016 episode called “Of Numbers and Names.” It is the story of the select few who interacted with Eichmann as he stood trial in Jerusalem - his guards, his interrogators and even his executors. Israelis for whom the encounter with the Nazi officer wasn’t just a moment of national catharsis. It was an intimate experience. Perhaps even too intimate.
This piece was produced by Katie Pulverman with help from Shai Inbal. Special thanks to Yuval Orr, Roy Barzilay, Shlomo Maital and Chanoch Lipperman. The end song, “Efer Ve’Avak” (“Ash and Dust”) is by Yehuda Poliker.
In May 1960, the Mossad captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, and brought him to stand trial in Jerusalem. It's one of Israel's most glorified chapters, right up there with Entebbe, the bombing of the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor and Operation Solomon. So why did the doctor who sedated the Nazi mastermind minimize his role in the saga? And what can that tell us about the legacy of World War II, eighty years after its start?
Last month, the world marked the eightieth anniversary of Hitler's invasion of Poland and the start of WWII. In Israel, too, this was a big milestone: Kids discussed it at school, academics held conferences at the various universities, newspapers ran articles and editorials. But this wasn't, of course, always the case in Israel. For years, the war - and the Holocaust - were taboo topics. European Jews, many Israelis felt, had gone to the camps like sheep to the slaughter, without resisting, without putting up much of a fight. That perception began to change, almost overnight, as a result of one major event - the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann.
This episode is a collaboration with "Rough Translation," an NPR podcast that tells stories from around the world that offer new perspectives on familiar conversations. Gregory Warner and Daniel Estrin bring us the complicated story of Dr. Yonah Elian, the anesthesiologist who sedated one of the world's most notorious Nazis.
Marianne McCune edited the piece, and scored it together with Mike Cruz. Joel Shupack arranged the rest of the episode with music from Blue Dot Sessions. It was produced by Jess Jiang, Neal Carruth, Will Dobson, Anya Grundman, Sarah Knight, Andy Huether, John Ellis, Matt Orton, Autumn Barnes, Zev Levi, Yoshi Fields, Niva Ashkenazi, James Feder and Yochai Maital. Sela Waisblum mixed the episode. The end song, "Perurim Shel Or" ("Sparks of Light") is the first single from the new album of Israel Story's band leader, Dotan Moshonov.
The special was recorded in Ben Wallick’s studio and was mixed by Sela Waisblum.Repentance, prayer and charity, we are told, are our saving graces when Yom Kippur comes around. And, of course, confession is a big part of that trifecta. But do we still get the coveted brownie points if that confession took thirty years?
In 1989, Robby Berman - a recent Yeshiva University grad and enthusiastic Zionist - made aliyah and was drafted into the IDF. But nothing in his basic training prepared him for the blood-chilling discovery he made in his friend Tom Cole's Old City dorm-room. There, dangling from the ceiling, Robby saw what looked like a round Hershey bar. But it wasn't. Instead, he immediately realized, it was a forgotten WWII hand grenade. Old and rusty, perhaps, but still fully operational. And how does one get rid of a hand grenade? Thirty years after the dramatic events of that evening, and just in time for Kol Nidre, Robby finally comes clean.
In one version of his life, he spends years in jail, as a homegrown terrorist. In the other, he walks away scot-free. What set his life on one path and not the other? In his first-person narrative, Robby answers that question and revisits his encounter with a real-world Detective Columbo.
This is the second of our listener drive specials. The Israel we try to explore is all about its people, about its diversity and complexity. About a place that's both genuinely wondrous and utterly messed up. That cracks you up one moment, and brings you to tears the next. That's heartfelt, bizarre, and interesting. So, on the eve of the Day of Atonement, as we open up our hearts and think back to our own story in the past year, please consider donating. Listener support is what makes our show possible.
Joel Shupack edited and produced this piece, with help from Yochai Maital, James Feder and Zev Levi. Joel also arranged the scoring with music from Blue Dot Sessions. The special was recorded in Ben Wallick’s studio and was mixed by Sela Waisblum. The end song is Shoshana Damari's version of "Etz HaRimon" ('The Pomegranate Tree'), which was written by Yaakov Orland and put to a traditional Buchari tune.
Rosh HaShanah is cleanup time, even at the Kotel. But what happens to the millions of notes tucked away in its cool crevices? And what on earth does that have to do with Leonard Cohen, impromptu sword-fights and carp fish in the bathtub?
For many folks, visiting the Kotel is emotional, meaningful and - more than anything - private. In fact, the single most common experience people have at the Western Wall is inherently personal - putting a kvittel, or note in between its ancient ashlar stones. Whether you're a believer or not, the simple act of writing a small note, folding it up, and shoving it deep into the cracks is the closest we get to talking to God. But what happens to all those requests, prayers and hopes? Where do they go? Is the Kotel just an ever-expanding archive of notes? And, if so, how doesn't it run out of space?
The short answer is the Rosh HaShanah cleanup. But while reporting on this peculiar semi-annual ritual, producer Yoshi Fields discovered that a cleanup can be much more than just a cleanup. It offered him an opportunity to rethink the story he was told about Israel, and evaluate how reality measured up to myth.
This ''short" is also our first listener drive of the season. If you feel that the show adds something to your life, if you feel that it captures unique aspects of the crazy human tapestry called 'Israel,' please consider opening your hearts and making a donation today.
Walls can make us feel safe, warm and protected. But that's also their greatest danger. After all, walls can cut us off from what is going on outside, and hiding behind them can give us a false sense of security and stability. Throughout this series, we've tried to open up windows in the walls that make up Israeli society. And that's a tricky thing to do, really. You need to make sure you don't damage the foundations that keep us bonded together. But you also need to be ready to see your neighbor, and let your neighbor see you.
Joel Shupack and Yochai Maital scored this piece, with additional music from Blue Dot Sessions, Broke For Free and Peter Gresser. The end song, "A Wall That Has a Door" is an original song commissioned by Israel Story. It was written, arranged and performed by Ari Wenig, together with Dotan Moshonov, Ruth Danon, Eden Djamchid and Ronnie Wagner-Schmidt.
This episode was edited by Julie Subrin and Mishy Harman, recorded by Ben Wallick and mixed by Sela Waisblum.
It was conceived as part of Israel Story's latest live show tour, "The Wall."
And lastly, whether you are new to Israel Story, or have been following us from day one, do us a favor - go to Apple Podcasts, rate us and leave a review.
Walls are something you can see. Something you can touch. Something you can run into and get a nasty bump on your head. Or... are they?! In our episode today - part three of our miniseries - we tell the stories of three walls that won't appear on your typical map. Three walls you'd probably miss unless you heard about them, well... here. But don't think that makes them less significant or present in daily Israeli society. Not at all. In fact, they help us trace our history all the way from its earliest beginnings to its menacing future.
For the last seventeen years, when people say "the wall' and "Israel" in the same sentence, they're usually referring to something very specific: A four-hundred-and-forty-mile-long barrier - some 95% of which is a sophisticated multi-layered fence, and some of which, especially in urban areas, is an imposing concrete wall. Seen from the Israeli side, this fence/barrier/wall represents security, stability and safety. It allows us to calmly ride the bus, peacefully go out dancing, and - mainly - quietly sleep at night. Because it was, after all, born out of violence and carnage. People were getting killed often and daily. It was scary. And, as experts around the world agree, the wall has succeeded, dramatically reducing terror. But when Israelis go to bed at night, there are other people - really close by - going to bed too. And from their perspective, looking out of their window, the same wall represents something different altogether. Not safety or security, but rather, a lack of freedom.
Without getting into political polemics, in our episode today we meet some of those neighbors. Regular people, living in the shadow of a wall.
Everywhere we turn these days, it seems as if walls are staring back at us. Their powers are magical: They protect and alienate; keep people both in and out; and can even - as we have all seen - bring mighty governments to a total standstill. Israel, too, has its share of walls, and no, not just the West Bank separation wall. In this four-part miniseries, we visit some of the country's most famous walls journeying from the Bronze Age to the modern-day Start-Up Nation, from the soccer pitch to the Six Day War, from the holy to the political.
Here’s a little bonus - a wonderful recent story from our friends at Unorthodox.
For more, head to our site.
A quick note from a big celebration.
For more, head to our site.
Over the last four episodes, we’ve told the stories behind some of Israel’s most iconic songs. When we set off on this musical journey, we hoped to find a unicorn, a unifying island of Israeliness that escapes the usual polarization which dominates most conversations about Israel. Instead, however, we discovered that music not only reflects, but often amplifies, our contrasts. We all sing in different keys, with different words and in different voices. And that, at the end of the day, is what Israel is all about. It is not that the inherent complications go away or stop existing. It’s just that somehow, miraculously perhaps, the cacophony can almost sound harmonious.
In today’s episode, the final installment of the Mixtape miniseries, we turn to Yitzhak Rabin’s 1995 assassination, and to two songs – one taking us decades back, the other catapulting us forward into the 21st century – that symbolize the messy multifariousness of Israeli society.
In Israel today, Mizrahi – or “Eastern” – music is ubiquitous. In fact, to many, it is practically synonymous with Israeli music. But that wasn’t always the case. For decades, Israeli radio stations ignored Mizrahi tunes and exclusively played music rooted in Ashkenazi traditions. That began to change in the late-1970s and early-1980s, due – in no small part – to a few veritable trailblazers.
The original music in this episode was composed, arranged and performed by the Mixtape Band, led by Ari Wenig and Dotan Moshanov, together with Ruth Danon, Eden Djamchid and Ronnie Wagner-Schmidt. The final song, Ad Matay Elohay(Till When My G-d) was written by Uzi Chitman and sung by Zohar Argov. The episode was edited by Yochai Maital, recorded by Tony Hernandez at the Off Record Studios in New York, and mixed by Sela Waisblum. It is based on our latest live show, “Mixtape.” You can listen to Part I of the miniseries here and Part II here.
In 1968, an up-and-coming left-wing politician by the name of Uri Avnery brazenly suggested replacing Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah. His proposal was surprising, given the fact that the would-be replacement was the unequivocal anthem of the Six Day War, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.
While Avnery’s motion never made it to the Knesset floor, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav has indeed become an anthem of sorts. It is probably the most recognizable and beloved Israeli tune ever, and is repeatedly voted the most important song in the country’s history.
The original music, including the cover versions of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav and Yerushalayim Shel Barzel, was composed, arranged and performed live by the Mixtape Band, led by Ari Wenig and Dotan Moshanov, together with Ruth Danon , Eden Djamchid and Ronnie Wagner-Schmidt. The final song is a recording of Shuly Natan’s original rendition of the song, at Festival Ha’Zemer Ve’Ha’Pizmon in Jerusalem in May 1967. The episode was recorded by Adrian Lau at the Off Record Studios in New York, and mixed by Sela Waisblum. It is based on Israel Story’s latest live show tour, “Mixtape.”
Let’s face it – when it comes to Israel, everything is complicated. Politics are complicated, religion is complicated, democracy is complicated, the conflict is complicated. Even our complications are complicated. These are the things that take us out to the street. That make us shout, and cry. That fill us with hope, and – just as often – plunge us into utter despair. But there is (seemingly) one island within Israeli society that escapes complexity, and brings us together more than it divides us: Israeli music. Or so, at least, we thought.
In this special mini-series, we set out to explore Israeli society – warts, rifts and fuzzy togetherness alike – through the stories of some of the country’s most iconic tunes.
The original music in this mini-series was composed, arranged and performed by the Mixtape Band, led by Ari Wenig and Dotan Moshanov, together with Ruth Danon, Eden Djamchid and Ronnie Wagner-Schmidt. The final song is a 1950s Tunisian rendition of HaTikvah sung by M. Cohen. The episode was recorded by Russell Castiglione and Josh Piel at the Dubway Studios in New York, and mixed by Sela Waisblum. It is based on Israel Story’s latest live show tour, “Mixtape.”
Somewhere between post-Passover fatigue and summer-is-around-the-corner excitement, Shavout tends to be overlooked. But in reality, it is the secret gem of the Jewish calendar: A festival that’s all about strong women, wheat harvests, creamy cheesecakes and receiving the Torah. What else could you possibly want from a Jewish holiday?
And at the center of this wondrous celebration is an unlikely heroine, the Bible’s quintessential convert to Judaism – Ruth the Moabite. Following the death of her Israelite husband, Mahlon, Ruth refused to part ways with her mother-in-law, Naomi. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you,” she famously told her. “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth followed Naomi back to Bethlehem, where she met a man, Boaz. They got married, had a son, and started an illustrious lineage, which supposedly included David, Solomon and Jesus.
Ruth herself has since become a feminist icon, a symbol of acceptance and dedication. In today’s episode, we will hear three modern-day incarnations of Ruth’s story – a trio of tales about determined women who will follow their hearts to the ends of the earth for love, family and companionship.
The original artwork for the episode is by Aura Lewis, and the original music was composed and performed by Ari Wenig. The final song, “At Telchi Ba’Sade,” is by Chava Alberstein. The episode was recorded by Ben Wallick and Paul Ruest, and mixed by Sela Waisblum.
Tonight, Jews around the world will gather together at their seder tables. They will drink wine, ask questions, search for the Afikoman and recite the obligation to see themselves as if they personally had come out of Egypt. And that is, really, what the seder is all about – the telling and retelling of the greatest Jewish “coming out” story of all time. A story of venturing out into the unknown, of wandering in physical and metaphorical deserts and of seeking refuge in a new home.
Today, we bring you an episode from our friends over at Unorthodox – another show produced by Tablet Magazine: “The Kids Are Alright.”
For more, head to our site.
According to a recent study conducted by the Israeli Anti-Drug Authority, the Holy Land might as well be rebranded as a ‘Weedtopia.’ More than a quarter of adults aged 18 to 40 reported having used marijuana within the last month. This stat, says the Authority’s chief scientist Prof. Yossi Harel-Fisch, places Israel among the countries with the highest rate of pot smokers in the world. In this episode, we chugged along the Hudson Valley and – in Poughkeepsie, New York, of all places – met up with the one man who is most committed to making that number even higher.
The original music in this episode was composed and performed by Ari Wenig, with help from Yochai Maital and Ruth Danon. Additional music by Boom Pam, Meir Ariel, Michael Swissa, Michael Greilsammer, and Kevin MacLeod. The episode was edited by Shai Satran with help from Julie Subrin.
Imagine an abandoned White House, covered with graffiti, open to the winds, full of trash, broken bottles and condom wrappers. Now go a step further and picture it against the background of the most beautiful Middle Eastern panorama you can conjure up. That is Tell El-Ful, a hilltop in East Jerusalem. Ever since we learned about the existence of a deserted Hashemite palace perched atop the mound, we’ve been on a mission to uncover its past. Like many other tells in the region it has a biblical past (perhaps), an archeological past (probably) and a historical one (most definitely). But more than almost anywhere else, this litter-strewn hill is a metaphor for life in these parts: It has seen tears and blood, dreams and hopes. It has been home to kings and shepherds, soldiers and tribesmen. And it has brought together lovers and enemies; Arabs and Jews; Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians.
People in one-hundred-and-eighty-seven countries around the world – including Iran, Iraq and Papua New Guinea – tune in to Israel Story. And today, we went out to talk to a few, very special, fans: our youngest and oldest listeners.
For more, head to our site.
On November 2, 1917, Arthur James Balfour – Britain’s mustached Foreign Secretary – signed his name at the bottom of a short, typed letter addressed to a shy banker-turned-zoologist by the name of Lionel Walter Rothschild. “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” it read. In the century since that fateful day, those words have reverberated around the world. They’ve changed reality, creating national dreams on the one hand, and squashing political aspirations on the other. And, of course, they’ve been scrutinized, analyzed and debated from every possible angle. The Balfour Declaration, for better or worse, is still very much with us. In a special commemorative episode, we set out on a less-than-intuitive journey in Balfour’s footsteps.
The original music in this episode was composed and performed by Ari Wenig, with additional scoring by Yochai Maital. The episode also includes tracks by the late Nachum Heiman. The final song, “Balfour“, is by Itay Pearl.
Food, it turns out, is a serious business. And as we recently came to appreciate, it can lead folks to embark on all kinds of unlikely crusades. In today’s episode we tell two stories, from almost diametrically opposed perspectives, about the ways in which recognition and pride matter, especially when it comes to what we eat and drink. The first, about a Jerusalemite’s quirky liquid obsession, couldn’t be more local, whereas the second is an outsider’s take – the impressions of a visiting radio icon on her first trip to the region.
The original music in “The Pitcher” was composed and performed by Ari Wenig. The final song, “Hummus Metamtem” (or “Hummus Makes You Stupid“), is by Yehoshua Sofer. The episode also features music by Yochai Maital, Kevin MacLeod, Bachar Mar-Khalife, Ibrahim Maalouf, Arthur Oskan and Hadag Nahash. It was mixed by Sela Waisblum.
In 2007, long before Tesla and Elon Musk became household names, a thirty-nine-year-old Israeli tech entrepreneur by the name of Shai Agassi came out with an announcement that rattled the world: He was going to revolutionize transportation, make countries oil-free by 2020, and curb the effects of climate change. Agassi hoped to put millions and millions of drivers, all around the globe, behind the wheel of an inexpensive electric car, with virtually unlimited range. And that, he told anyone who would listen, was going to make the world a “Better Place.”
The music in this episode includes original tracks composed and performed by David Peretz, as well as music by Blue Dot Sessions, Jason Shaw and Audionautix, Kevin MacLeod and Royal Free Sound, Bird Creek, Twin Musicom, Chris Zabriskie and Bensound. The final song, “Mechonit,” is by Mashina. The episode was edited by Julie Subrin and mixed by Sela Waisblum.
Eli Amir, Eliyahu Rips and Eliezer Sonnenschein couldn’t be more different: the first is a celebrated Baghdad-born author, the second is a brilliant mathematician from Latvia, and the third is the enfant terrible of modern Israeli art. But they are all, in their own unique ways, outsiders. Their struggle for recognition took on different forms, and enjoyed – naturally – different degrees of success. But whether it’s the hora dancing circles at Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’Emek, the pages of prestigious statistical journals, or the hallowed galleries of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, our episode explores just how far we go to feel as if we belong.
The original music in ‘Skipping the Torah,’ was composed and performed by Ruth Danon. The final song, “Yeladim Kamonu”, is by Elai Botner and Yaldey Ha’Chutz. The episode also features music by Karolina, Tristan Lohengrin, Dana Boulé and Robert Schumann. It was edited by Julie Subrin and mixed by Sela Waisblum and Aviv Meshulam.
More often than not, we think of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel as being adversarial. We frequently hear tales of hatred, violence, animosity and discrimination. But reality is, of course, much more complicated: Not only are some Jews actually Arabs, and vice-versa, but there is a tremendous amount of intermingling, sharing and cooperation. In this episode, we explore some of these fascinating points of contact.
The original music in this episode was composed and performed by Eran Zamir, Ruth Danon, Nili Fink and Noam Sadan. The final song, ‘Tamally Ma’ak,’ is by Amr Diab and covered here by Tsahi Halevi. Ahmed Ali Moussa wrote the lyrics and Tag Sherif composed the music. The episode was mixed by Sela Waisblum.
In the early summer of 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. The First Lebanon War — as it would later be called — would ultimately lead to thousands of casualties, an eighteen-year-long Israeli presence in Southern Lebanon, and growing political disillusionment around the region. In a way, it ushered in a new era in Israel, one in which the necessity of wars was publicly doubted, and leaders’ intentions were questioned and scrutinized.
But for two Jerusalem families, who just happened to share the same surname, the first days of war were an even more devastating emotional whirlwind. They each went through an unimaginable cycle of shock, grief, hope and despair. By the end of that cycle, the war had formed an oath of blood between them, a covenant of sorts.
Though few people grasped it at the time, the Six-Day War put the young state of Israel on an entirely new trajectory. Some see the war’s outcome as a historic triumph and almost messianic return of the Jews to their ancestral lands. Others, of course, view it as the start of a downward spiral that led to internal political fragmentation and an oppressive occupation. For proponents of both positions, and everyone in between really, the 50th anniversary of that war provides an excellent excuse to pause, think, and evaluate.
So while everyone else is busy considering the meaning of the last half century, we returned to the days immediately following the Six-Day War, and to a little-known saga that could have changed the face of the Middle East as we now know it. Yochai Maital tells the story of two reserve officers, Dan Bavly and Dave Kimche, who stumbled upon an unlikely ally: A prominent Ramallah lawyer by the name of Aziz Shehadeh. Together they soberly imagined a peaceful future; a dream that most Israelis, including the political and military leadership at the time, were too drunk from victory to even consider.
This episode was mixed by Sela Waisblum, and produced in partnership with Libby Lenkinski and the New Israel Fund.
In 1991, REM’s Michael Stipe famously sang, “That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion, trying to keep up with you, and I don’t know if I can do it.” Just over a quarter-century later, we set out to explore what happens when religious couples no longer see eye to eye. Do you follow your heart? Do you tell your partner? And can the package stay intact, despite the tectonic shifts?
Early next week we will mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. There are just about 160,000 Holocaust survivors still living in Israel, but they are rapidly vanishing. More than forty survivors die each day. And that means that the memory of the Holocaust, and the stories we tell and hear about the Holocaust are also changing. There are fewer and fewer first-hand testimonies, and more and more tales – like our episode today – of second generation survivors.
It’s springtime in Israel and renewal is in the air: Wildflowers are blooming, short pants make their first appearances of the year, and – most importantly – we are back with the start of our third season. But of course, it wouldn’t be Israel Story if there wasn’t a twist, and indeed our season opener takes us… right to the end. So tune in for an episode full of surprising stories that explore how we die, and what comes next.
In the second installment of this two-part series (and our season two finale), we pick up where we left off last week: Presenting small stories – one per decade – that took place on Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’Atzmaut, and that, in some way, reflect their era. Part I, took us from 1948 to 1978. In today’s episode, which begins in 1988 and brings us all the way to the present, we encounter a Soviet ‘refusenik’ celebrating his first Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel; an American couple building a new West Bank settlement; Batsheva Dance Company dancers caught up in a heated culture war over tank-tops and long-johns; a controversy surrounding a tilted flag; and the four Israeli finalists in this year’s International Youth Bible Competition.
This is the first in a two-part series that takes us through Israel’s short but dramatic history. Over the last few months, we’ve spent many hours, in all kinds of archives, learning all we could about Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. The result is a mosaic of stories that took place on Yom Ha’Atzmaut itself, in ten year intervals, and that in some way reflect their era.
Part I will take us from 1948 to 1978: We’ll visit Israel’s first makeshift national radio studio, we’ll ride a bicycle piled high with Persian carpets, we’ll march in an extravagant military parade in Jerusalem, and finally we’ll sink some dramatic game-winning jump shots. Next week, Part II of the series will bring us all the way to the present.
This Thursday, May 5th, Israelis observe Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. At 10 a.m., according to custom, an air raid will sound and the country will fall quiet for two long minutes.
Silence won’t do for a podcast, so instead we bring you two stories. Act I, “B-1367,” is about an elderly father and his 53-year old son, and the inked number that binds them. In Act II, “Herr Eichmann,” we meet up with a group of men for whom Eichmann is not a symbol of Nazi evil, but a gaunt, balding prisoner for whom they were responsible, as guards and interrogators.
On Today’s show, we delve into the messy territory of family bonds—how they’re formed, challenged, and change over time. We’ll meet three families who are all, at the end of the day, happy, but are not (contrary to Tolstoy’s claim) in any way alike.
First we hear from Mishy’s family—Dorothy, David, Danna and Oren—who like to talk to each other. A lot.
In Act I, “The Missing Moms,” producer Shoshi Shmuluvitz introduces us to Tali Griffel, a thirty-six-year-old physical therapist from Jerusalem who has been searching for a stable maternal bond her entire life, ever since she lost not one, but two, mothers.
In Act II, “The Radio Babe,” we tell the tale of a couple who won’t be able to hear their own story. Eli and Mira Kosover, both deaf, somehow managed to raise a radio producer, our very own Maya Kosover. Through conversations with her parents and her brother (who is hearing, like her), Maya brings us into the noisy world of her deaf upbringing. A transcript of the episode is available at israelstory.org.
Israeli buses regularly make international headlines, be it for suicide bombings, fights over gender segregation or clashes concerning Shabbat schedules. On today’s episode of Israel Story, we delve into the world of lesser known bus-related conflicts.
In Act I, “The White Elephant,” Yochai Maital walks us through the history of Tel Aviv’s ‘New’ Central Bus Station — a derelict eight-story behemoth and modern day Tower of Babel — which mirrors much of modern Israeli history, with its grand vision and messy implementation.
Act II, “The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God,” is adapted from Etgar Keret’s short story collection of the same name, and performed by Keret himself. In it, we meet—yes—a bus driver whose deeply held belief in equity and fairness flies right smack in the face of Eddie, an assistant cook who has a problem getting places on time.
In the last episode of Israel Story, we met couples in love. But for every story of love found, there are, of course, piles and piles of broken hearts. So today on our show, “Over and Out.” We’ve got three stories of relationships that have ended, and the things (the often slightly nutty things) that people do once they no longer see eye to eye. We’ll journey back to the early dates of the State of Israel, and then travel all around the world, to London and New York, even to Beijing.
The stories in today’s episode come from our most recent live show, “Israel in Love.” We’ll meet three couples looking back at their love affairs from very different vantage points.
Zvi and Regina Steinitz’s romance has been going on the longest—in fact, it’s been going on since the very birth of the state of Israel. Danna Harman shares their story in Act I, “Like A Stone.”
Act II, “There’s a Wall Between Us,” began as a radio piece called “Checkpoints and Secrets,” by Daniel Estrin, which aired in last year’s Valentine’s Day special. Daniel’s piece followed the winding love affair of two men, an Israeli Jew from Jerusalem and a Palestinian Muslim from the West Bank, as it unfolded over a long time. We then gave Daniel’s original recordings, so the actual words the two men had told him, over to composer Or Matias — the Musical Director of the electro-pop opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812,” which will go up on Broadway this coming fall. Or, in turn, adapted the piece into a mini-musical, with entirely original music, performed here by Alaa Daka and Eyal Sherf, with Mike Cohen on flute, Dillon Condor on guitar and mandolin, and Dan Weiner on percussion.
Our final story, “When Time Will Fold Over,” takes place in a tiny village, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, called Mevo Modi’im. The 254 people who live there look like a cross between the Lubavitch Rebbe and Jerry Garcia. This is the story of two of them, Michael and Leah Golomb, and their 37-year marriage. It is an updated version of a piece that we aired exactly a year ago, and is produced by Benny Becker and Yochai Maital, with original music by Collin Oldham.
When Raymonda Tawil met Ruth Dayan in 1970, they seemed well-primed to be enemies. Ruth, the then wife of Israeli war hero and Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, was visiting a hospital in the Palestinian city of Nablus to deliver dolls to children. Tawil, of Palestinian aristocracy, was there to witness this exercise in diplomacy. She was not impressed. Today, these elder stateswomen are dear friends. From Malta, where they most recently met up, they share the story of how they won each other over in “R&R,” Act I of this week’s episode. Anthony David told the story of these two grand ladies in his recent book, “An Improbable Friendship.”
Act II, “The Center for Rationality,” introduces us to economist Eytan Sheshinski and mathematician Yisrael Aumann, both of them at the top of their fields who, nevertheless, seem to leave clear thinking behind when it comes to their favorite pastime: hiking together.
In Act III, journalist Danna Harman brings us “Girls’ Night In” – the story of two women in their forties who have been acquaintances, but by no means friends, since childhood in Ramat HaSharon. It was a pair of tragedies that drew them close.
There have already been a few sightings of anemones in Israel, and that means it’s the start of wildflower season. Many Israelis track wildflowers with a passion. There are traffic jams near popular flower-carpeted hills and even websites that tell you what’s popped up where. But what Israelis (or at least the vast majority of them) don’t do is pick those flowers. That restraint does not stem from any particular zeal for following the law that forbids such picking. Rather, it is the product of a fantastically successful public service campaign that began back in the early 1960s. Daniel Estrin brings us that story in “Act I: Flower Power.”
In Act II, we switch gears, locales, and just about everything else to follow the journey of Nathan Ehrlich, a Brooklyn-based reporter. For the past few years, Nathan has sought the help of Peruvian shamans (including one kindred spirit, Sergey, who came to Peru from Ukraine by way of Israel), whose work with ayahuasca, huachuma, and other sacred plants has helped him break through emotional and physical barriers. His story is “Where the Wild Things Grow.”
The first place travelers to Israel encounter is usually Ben Gurion Airport. What they’ll remember of that experience depends in part on their relationship to the country. Are they coming home? Arriving to a place they’ve always dreamed of visiting? Passing through, with fear or wariness, en route to someplace else?
In this week’s episode of Israel Story, we hear from people who have had unforgettable encounters in or on their way to TLV. First, we meet Lily Sayegh, an Iraqi-born Israeli in her 80s who had a very unusual seatmate on a flight from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. Next, we hear from a couple whose romantic fate was sealed by an Israeli security officer. And finally, we meet Victor Rodack who, in 1967, at age 14, was perhaps El Al’s very first stowaway.
There is nothing inherently special about the people who live at 48 Herzl Street, an address that shows up in big cities, small outposts, and everything in between throughout Israel. But symbolically, it’s about as freighted an address as they come. Theodore Herzl was the father of modern Zionism, and there are 54 streets named after him in Israel—more than any other national figure. And 48 comes from 1948, the year the country was founded.
For this episode, which was commissioned by the Manhattan JCC and has been performed before live audiences across the U.S. and Israel, Israel Story producers crisscrossed the small country, knocking on doors at every Herzl 48 they could reach and collecting stories from whomever they encountered. Today’s episode, culled from the live show, features seven different characters, including a butcher in Akko, a stoner in Tel Aviv, and a young couple whose very dramatic tale is told in song.
For information on future live tours, go to israelstory.org/en/tours.
How many people does it take to start a family? Well, if you are a gay Israeli couple, both men, and you’d like your children to be biologically related to you, it may take the two of you, plus a Ukrainian egg donor, an Indian woman to serve as the surrogate, and a Nepali safe house to shelter the surrogate, who is not allowed to perform this service in her home country. Sound complicated? It is. It’s also very, very expensive and raises sticky questions about the complex relationship between a paid surrogate and the people who hire her services.
In this very special episode of Israel Story, producers Yochai Maital and Maya Kosover team up with Radiolab’s Molly Webster, Jad Abumrad, and Robert Krulwich, and reporters Nilanjana Bhowmick in India and Bhrikuti Rai in Nepal, to tell the story of Tal and Amir. The two are an Israeli couple who went to Nepal to pick up their three babies from two surrogates and then discovered that the transaction is not as straightforward as they’d believed. The journey is further complicated by the terrible earthquake that struck Nepal during the weeks that Tal and Amir were living there, learning to care for their infants. Here’s how it all went down.
Yiscah Smith lives in Nahlaot, in Jerusalem. But her journey to this Orthodox-meets-hipster neighborhood took her through what seems like four lifetimes. She was born in Long Island, as Jeff Smith, to a Conservative Jewish family. Jeff married a woman, they became more religious, and moved to Israel. Jeff became Yaacov, a Chabad Rabbi, and also the father of six children. A few years later, Yaacov’s identity began to unravel, presenting a terrible dilemma: What do you do when you realize that in order to be true to yourself, you have to shatter everything around you, including the lives of those you love most?
This is Yiscah’s story, as told to reporter Molly Livingstone.
Produced by Benny Becker with help from Raoul Wootliff and Rachel Fischer, and music help from Shoshi Shmuluvitz. Music for this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions, Dana Boulé, and Ben Sound.
Who is Yitzhak Rabin today, twenty years after his murder? In this episode, we discover that for many Israelis, he represents completely different – and often conflicting – things: Rachel Rabin remembers her older brother as a shy kid, who forced her to be the goalie in neighborhood soccer games. His ‘fixer,’ Me’ir Palevsky, tells how a crude joke might have saved Rabin’s political career. Aliza Goren, the woman closest to the scene of the assassination, talks about standing in the operating room, looking at a dead prime minister. For Etgar Keret, Rabin is a cat, and maybe that’s not so strange, when we hear how others – filmmakers, educators and politicians – take Rabin’s legacy in all kinds of other – no less bizarre – directions. Lastly, Naomi Chazan reads the very last note she got from Rabin – a letter from the grave.
Israel is embroiled in Middle Eastern geopolitics. That, at least, everyone knows. We also aspire to be part of Europe, and never miss a chance to reiterate our “special relationship” with the US. But what about Africa, our next door neighbors? Our history stretches all the way back to the earliest hominids leaving Africa and marching through what is today Israel. Since then there’s been an endless stream of people crisscrossing between the two regions. And on today’s show, we bring you the stories of two of them: Journeying in very different directions, and for very different reasons, out of – and then into – Africa.
A look back and a peek ahead.
Starting October 21st, we’ll be releasing a new episode of Israel Story every two weeks. A new reason to love Wednesdays!
For more, head to our site.
Valentine’s Day is not native to Israel, but the country does not lack for tales of love, romance, and the pursuit thereof. In this, our sixth episode, we bring you stories of love and all the ways it’s got to do, got to do with it.
The stories of four featured moo-ers: a red heifer that some think will bring the messiah, a cow that’s become the symbol of radical Israeli veganism, buffalos that hold the future for a self-described “Israeli redneck,” and the golden calf that was biblical big-business.
In this, our fourth episode, we introduce three Israelis who are not religious but have pursued unusual hobbies with missionary zeal. One is a hitman-for-hire, another collects a highly specific classification of autographs, and the third is a professional whistler. This has earned them, variously, animus, accolades, and celebrity in far-flung places.
Are Jews still “the people of the book”? Are Israelis? What does that even mean today? In the third episode of Israel Story, we’ve got three stories that all revolve around people who rescue books, chase after books, or otherwise allow books to determine their destiny—from a Yiddish book collector based in the Tel Aviv central bus station to a lonely college student to bibliophiles in search of the lost fragments of the Aleppo Codex.
Chaya Ben Baruch grew up as Enid, in a Conservadox Jewish family in Far Rockaway, NY. Midway through college, she left that world behind to study sea otters in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Fast-forward a decade: Enid is now married to a nice Catholic salmon fisher named Stan. She’s just given birth to her sixth child, and discovers he has Down syndrome. Many parents in her position would be devastated. Some might place their baby in an institution, or put him up for adoption. For Enid, the birth of Angkor started her and her family on an incredible journey—to Tzfat, Israel, and from there to court rooms, hospitals, ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, and wedding halls, all so she could do right by her child and the other special-needs children she picked up along the way.
From our relationship with Ira Glass to priceless antiquities all the way to coveted sick passes – Israeli stories that are anything but real. In our very first episode, the Israel Story team delves into the realm of fakes, forgeries, and mimicry. Three stories, from different periods and places, of people pretending to to be something they are not.