Israeli cultural recommendations
May 16, 2005 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Israeli cultural recommendations...

I would like to learn more about life in Israel in the manner that I enjoy best. So I am seeking a few specific recommendations:
• • • Fiction books written in the last 10-15 years that have Israel as a *modern* setting. Bonus points for personal-issues-type books about, for instance, dating or being a teenager.
• • • Good fiction films made since 1990 or so that have Israel as a modern setting. (Does not have to have actually been shot in Israel.)
• • • Good documentaries exploring some aspect of modern Israel or Israeli life, bonus points for not being occupation-related, such as "Trembling before G-d."
• • • places to visit/things to experience in Israel that are "off the beaten path." Such as roadside attractions, tiny ethnic neighborhoods, curiosities, unusual photo opportunities, cross-cultural restaurants, indie shops with local art (but not geared towards tourists), fashion, places to see live music, etc.
posted by xo to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Great film - Late Marriage
posted by stevil at 4:16 PM on May 16, 2005

Best answer: Hey, xo! For films, you should check out pretty much everything by Amos Gitay and Eytan Fox. They're probably the most interesting Israeli filmmakers working right now. I just saw Fox's Le-lekhet 'al ha-Mayim (To Walk on Water) a few weeks ago and was blown away.

For contemporary literature, I'm not sure off the top of my head. I lean toward Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and S.Y. Agnon. But these are probably too highbrow to fit what you're looking for. Let me ask some friends and I'll get back to you.

For artsy stuff, you should find out what gallery showings are being done by the students at Betsalel, the art institute in Jerusalem. I've seen some pretty interesting exhibitions. You can find some really cool Yemenite metalwork in some of the W. Jerusalem art shops. Look around Rehov Yafo. The Cinematheque in W. Jerusalem is a great place to see good films, Israeli and foreign. And the restaurant attached to it has an absolutely sublime view of the Old City. I'm not so sure about the Old City itself; I haven't been to Israel since the second intifadeh broke out, so I can't say what's safe and what's not. But in W. Jerusalem, you should definitely check out Mahaneh Yehuda, the outdoor market where most of Jerusalem does it's shopping. You haven't lived until you've haggled with the vendors there. In Tel Aviv, you'll want to take in the scene on Dizengoff Street.

Are you going to be going to Israel soon? I'm going myself in late June; you should look me up. I'll be living in W. Jerusalem.
posted by felix betachat at 4:23 PM on May 16, 2005

Ah, contemporary fiction. Batya Gur writes mystery novels set in contemporary Israel. Several of her books have been translated into English. I haven't read her, but an ex-gf liked her stuff a lot.
posted by felix betachat at 4:24 PM on May 16, 2005

Best answer: contemporary israeli fiction authors of note: amos oz, david grossman, etgar keret, michal govrin, shulamit haraven, savyon liebrecht.

there's a lot of good israeli film - google "israel film festival" or "jewish film festival" and you'll find plenty of choices, as well as the names of distributors. (on preview, deleting my now redundant gitai & fox suggestions!)

places to visit: there aren't that many off the beaten path places in israel as it's so very tiny & much of the country is unpopulated desert, but i've enjoyed going to archaeological dig sites and such, as well as hanging out in the northern coastal area. a side trip to the sinai peninsula is definitely worth considering...
posted by judith at 4:25 PM on May 16, 2005

There are tons of things to do in Israel, but don't miss the Negev desert. There are a lot of Nabatean/Roman settlements here and there in the Negev desert, but the most accessible ones are Avdat and Mamshit. Complete with reconstructed arches and mosaics. There's also the world's largest erosion crater (Makhtesh Ramon) which is pretty mind blowing. I lived in the Negev for two years, so if you want any more info etc write to me, my email is in the profile.
posted by dhruva at 7:11 PM on May 16, 2005

Best answer: I second Etgar Keret. He is an extraordinary short story writer. And his stories have an edge to them that is distinctively israeli. Efraim Kishon, wrote some very funny books about the israeli experience. They are slightly dated, but very good.

In terms of movies. Both Late Marriage and Walking on Water are very good. I personally like comedy-dramas, so I would add to the list Shuru, Chochmat Habeigaleh, Mars Turkey ...

In terms of activities in israel there is a local magazine of events called the city mouse. You might want to look it up when you get there.
posted by blueyellow at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2005

Best answer: I cannot recommend Tzafat enough. It's freaking beautiful and there's a little artist colony there. There's also an old Sephardic temple that's amazing. Nearby is Mt. Meron where on Saturday night there are people praying and drumming and singing. It's an amazing experience. (I'm secular and I was completely blown away by it.) Beit Guvrin (I think that's what it's called) is an archeological site in the desert and they take you on this tour to look for artifacts and through the caves. Touristy, but very cool. The Negev as a whole is amazing. When I go back, I really want to camp out there for a while. Another typical tourist thing is Masada, but it's completely worth it. I recommend going just before sunrise. The sunrise over the Dead Sea is incredible.

Man, I miss Israel. :)
posted by amandaudoff at 8:03 PM on May 16, 2005

There's always Time Out Tel Aviv.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:02 PM on May 16, 2005

There are plenty of great Israeli films out there. Check out 'Time of Favor' if you can.
posted by greatgefilte at 10:36 AM on May 17, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the recommendations! I checked out some authors and films before my trip and am continuing through the list now that I've returned.

I did find a couple of off-the-beaten-path places on my own, which I'll report here in case any future travelers to Israel are looking for info:

The Elvis American Diner outside of Jerusalem (actually in an Arab area), which is the only officially-sanctioned Elvis attraction in the world outside of Graceland. It also sold Elvis wine made from Israeli grapes.

I also thought it was awesome to visit the future site of the battle of Armageddon. So I know where it is.
posted by xo at 3:50 PM on November 30, 2005

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