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Lesson Transcript

Shira: Welcome back to our All About Hebrew Series. This is your host, Shira. This is All About Lesson 10 – Top Five Hebrew Pop Culture Things Or Icons That You Need To Know About.
Amir: And I'm your Israeli expert, Amir.
Shira: In this lesson on HebrewPod101.com, we bring you the Israel of today.
Amir: And today, Israeli pop culture. One of the most developed aspects of pop culture in Israel is the music scene.
Shira: Yes, Israeli music is very diverse and Israelis have a deep love for many types of music.
Amir: That's true. It's hard to say, really, what kind of music is most popular in Israel. We like it all; rock, pop, rap, folk, [מזרחי] (Miz'ra'khi).
Shira: Oh, [מזרחי] (Miz'ra'khi)?
Amir: Yes. [מזרחי] (Miz'ra'khi) is an integration of Western and Middle-Eastern or North African styles of music. It's hard to categorize, but you can usually recognize it by the vocal trills and the nasal tones, and of course the Middle-Eastern instruments.
Shira: I don't think I'd ever heard anything like it before coming to Israel. And many Israelis are wild about it, but it hasn't really grown on me yet.
Amir: And another thing the Israelis love is a collection of songs called [שירי ארץ ישראל] (Shi're'i erets is'ra'el).
Shira: Oh, yes. This phrase means "songs of the land of Israel". Anytime you want Israeli's to get nostalgic, start singing one of these songs. They'll be singing for hours.
Amir: Well, one song leads to another, right? They're typically songs that were written from the 1920s to the 1970s, and the songs are usually about the Israeli experience.
Shira: What I love about these songs is that they're dancing songs.
Amir: Israel has a very strong culture of folk dancing. And there are dances that go along with each of these songs.
Shira: The dances are called [ריקודי עם] (Ri'ku'de'i am) and you can find dancing groups in almost every town in Israel. They welcome new people who want to learn, so go and give it a try.
Amir: A good place to find [ריקודי עם] (Ri'ku'de'i am) in action is on the boardwalk, in Telaviv. You can go down and see it for yourself every Saturday afternoon.
Shira: So let's get back now to more modern Israeli music. Who's your favorite pop star?
Amir: I like Ninet Tayeb, she was the first winner of the Israeli version of the American Idol. She sings in a pop-rock style that is very loved in Israel, also because of her personal Cinderella-like story.
Shira: Well, I prefer male singers. So I have to say that I'm partial to Harl Skaat. I think he's pretty cute. I love the song "Milim", which he sang in the 2010 Eurovision contest.
Amir: I guess he wasn't too bad. He was also contestant on the Israeli version of American Idol.
Shira: Right. The Israeli version is called [כוכב נולד] (Ko'khav no'lad) which means "a star is born". I think it's a great title for it.
Amir: It is and it has given birth to many Israeli stars.
Shira: Ok, so now another big thing with stars is, of course, movies. But like in many westernized countries, the top movies on the billboards today are Hollywood movies.
Amir: But Israeli cinema is still dear to the Israelis and many classics are still shown.
Shira: Israeli film production seems to have slowed down in the past years.
Amir: I guess that's true. The films from the good old days have yet to be topped by modern Israeli cinema.
Shira: Yeah. I've noticed that when talking to Israelis about films, people are most of the time referring to old classics like from the 1960s or 1970s.
Amir: And yet, at the same time, the industry continues to create new movies. Some of these modern movies have been quite successful internationally.
Shira: Right. Just recently we saw this Israeli film called Waltz with Bashir. It won a Golden Globe for best foreign language film.
Amir: It did really well abroad. It's actually an animated film about the 1982 Lebanon war. The animation is very different than any other animation I've ever seen.
Shira: The topic, of course, is very controversial. And many Arab countries have actually banned the film.
Amir: One of the biggest contemporary movie icons right now is [מילי אביטל] (Mili a'vi'tal).
Shira: She's really popular for her film and she's had a successful acting career outside of Israel as well.
Amir: She's most recently been seen as a recurring guest on the series "Damages".
Shira: Yeah, she's very good. She's very beautiful and she's very talented.
Amir: And she can act.
Shira: True. I saw her movie [אהבה קולומביאנית] (Ahava kolom'bi'a'nit) where just about everything goes wrong. It'd very funny.
Amir: It was a real blockbuster and it's topped the rankings in Israel for a long time.
Shira: Ok, so now why don't we talk about television?
Amir: So television is taking over, of course, from cinema these days, especially American shows.
Shira: Yeah. Whenever I turn on the TV, American sitcoms seem to be on. Oh yeah, and the Latin soap operas.
Amir: Well, there are other types of shows that are really popular too and have been for a long time.
Shira: Right, like new shows. Israeli's really love their new shows, especially fact finding shows.
Amir: I think the media in Israel do a good job of keeping the government in check. There are many shows addressing problems of situations that should really be corrected by the local or national government.
Shira: And now Israelis are really getting into reality television. There are many Israeli versions of reality shows that have become extremely popular, like survivor and big brother.
Amir: Not all of television stars are from reality TV.
Shira: No? So who's your favorite television star?
Amir: I like [אסי כהן] (A'si ko'hen).
Shira: Who?
Amir: He's the guy that used to be part of the comedy team with [אסי] (A'si) and [גורי] (Gu'ri). They were very popular in Israel.
Shira: Yeah, but that's a live stand-up comedy show, no?
Amir: But now he became a part of the TV satire show [ארץ נהדרת] (Erets nehederet).
Shira: Oh, yeah. That show makes fun of everything and everyone.
Amir: He's really funny. He does so many great impressions from Israeli society and from politics.
Shira: I find it a bit tricky to understand though.
Amir: I guess Israeli television can be pretty speedy.
Shira: The good thing is that when I get lost, I can read the subtitles.
Amir: That's true. I never thought about it, but in Israel, all the television programs have subtitles in Hebrew and many times in Russian and Arabic as well. We have so many immigrants that we want to give them as much opportunity as possible to integrate. Making the television shows accessible to everyone is just one of those ways.
Shira: And it really makes it easy for us immigrants. So are there any famous Israelis abroad?
Amir: Well, you could say Natalie Portman is Israeli. She was born in Israel and she can speak Hebrew.
Shira: Oh, yeah. She is Israeli-America, isn't she? And internationally famous.
Amir: Yeah, but I personally like an even bigger Israeli icon.
Shira: Oh, really? Who would that be?
Amir: The Israeli supermodel [בר רפאלי] (Bar re'fa'e'li).
Shira: Aha, how could I forget her?
Amir: She is one of Israel's most internationally acclaimed names and most importantly, she was on the cover of the sports illustrated swim suit edition.
Shira: No wonder you like her.
Amir: What Israeli guy wouldn't?
Shira: I guess so. Well, she was Leonardo DiCaprio's girlfriend for many years. I guess you have some steep competition.
Amir: Please, don't shatter my dreams like that.
Shira: Ok, ok. Let's move on to the next topic.
Amir: Sure. The next one's my real favorite. Sports.
Shira: So what would you say is the biggest sport in Israel?
Amir: Soccer, of course.
Shira: Soccer is huge.
Amir: But unfortunately we've only managed to qualify for the World Cup once, and that was way back in 1970. But we still love our soccer.
Shira: True. There are soccer teams in all of the big cities in Israel, and each team has a very loyal following.
Amir: And one of the greatest sport figures in soccer in Israel is the player [אייל ברקוביץ] (E'yal ber'ko'vits).
Shira: Well, I don't really follow soccer so who is he?
Amir: He began playing for [מכבי חיפה] (Maka'bi Kha'i'fa) and later played all over Great Britain. He's well known for the way he played mid-field because he plays it more like a play-maker. Unfortunately, he's also well-known for his temper.
Shira: Oh, yeah. That can be a problem.
Amir: But he's still well respected and considered to be one of Israel's greatest sport figures ever.
Shira: Well with that, that wraps up our pop icon lesson.
Amir: It's always interesting to see how a country's pop culture develops. And we promise that Israel has plenty more to offer.
Shira: Sure does.