Producer Dafna Prenner on Creativity, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, and the First Lady of Israeli Television, Who Happened to be Her Mom

Dafna Prenner, center, with actor Michael Aloni and actress Irit Kaplan on the set of “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.” Photo by Nati Levi

I didn’t know this fact. You probably didn’t, either. Israel sells more scripted TV shows than any other country in the world except for the United Kingdom. I learned that when I visited Dafna Prenner.

On her office wall at Artza Productions is an axe.

Really, an axe?

Because she is tall and blondish, the writer of “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” nicknamed Prenner “The Viking” and presented her with an axe as a gag gift.

Prenner’s walls are also covered with classic movie memorabilia, photos of her family and friends, and a row of trophies for various TV shows her company has produced (“There are a lot more of them but these are the ones I keep here,” Prenner explained.)

Dafna Prenner next to some of Artza’s trophies. Photo by Diana Bletter

Along with her partner, Shai Eines, the 52-year-old has produced shows like “Miller’s Crossing,” “Stockholm” and the movie “Kicking Out Shoshana,” which was the Israeli movie debut for Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot.

During my recent visit to her office in Tel Aviv, far from the city’s trendy shops, cafés and skyscrapers, Prenner was getting ready to shoot the second season of “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” which debuted on Netflix in May to rave reviews.

Dafna Prenner in the costume room at Artza Productions with clothes for “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.” Photo by Diana Bletter

To continue reading the story, click here.

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Passing Down the Ancient Craft of Organ Building In Western Galilee, Israel

Gideon Shamir entrusts apprentice Uri Shani with his workshop, where metal and wooden organ pipes soar upwards like mountain peaks.

I was so enchanted during my visit at this workshop for organ building in the Galilee. The article appeared in Israel21C, which has fabulous news about Israel. I am sure you will enjoy reading this.

Uri Shani, left, and Gideon Shamir in front of organ pipes they will restore. Photo by Diana Bletter

I was so enchanted during my visit at this workshop for organ building in the Galilee. The article appeared in Israel21C, which has fabulous news about Israel. I am sure you will enjoy reading this.

For over 40 years, Gideon Shamir, 82, was the only organ builder in Israel. He searched for an apprentice to whom he could pass on his legacy and knowledge, but never found anyone with the patience to do the work.

Then, in June 2021, Shamir took theatre director and playwright Uri Shani, 55, under his wing.

“Uri passed the test with flying colors,” Shamir said. “He grasps what I’m trying to teach, he has good hands and musical ears.”

On February 14, the day I visited Ugavim, Shamir’s organ-building workshop and recital space in Yuvalim, in the Galilee hills, the two men signed a formal agreement. The business is now in the younger man’s hands.

Ugavim’s large, high-ceilinged workshop is filled with metal and wooden organ pipes that soar upwards Jewish organ music.

Shamir points out that the organ is first mentioned in the beginning of the Bible. Genesis 4:21 introduces Yuval, “the father of all who play the harp and the pipe — kinor v’ugav. How fitting that Ugavim (Pipes) is located in Yuvalim.

Read the rest of the story here.

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Israeli Aid Worker’s HeartBreaking Report: On the Ground with Refugees from Ukraine

Here’s the latest news…I spoke to Linor Attias, a relief worker in Moldova, helping refugees fleeing from Ukraine for Israel21C.

Israeli volunteers distributing food to Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. Photo courtesy of United Hatzalah of Israel

A delegation of 15 physicians, medics and paramedics from Israel’s voluntary emergency response organization, United Hatzalah, was the first international relief organization on the ground in Moldova, aiding about 70,000 refugees fleeing from Ukraine.

“We’re the only ones here,” said Linor Attias, a United Hatzalah emergency situation manager who arrived in Kishinev, the capitol of Moldova, on Sunday afternoon. (Tuesday, a team from Israeli humanitarian aid organization IsraAID arrived in the Moldovan town of Palanca.)

Reached by phone, Attias said there are an estimated 500,000 Ukrainian refugees who’ve fled into Poland, where other international relief organizations are helping them. Moldova is a less-developed country without as many resources, she said.

“Moldovan officials don’t know how to handle a civilian emergency like this but with our experience, we can help.”

The refugees have traveled by foot for days in freezing weather and snow to reach Ukraine’s border, Attias said.

Only women and children are allowed to cross into Moldova, however. Ukrainian men over 18 are not allowed to leave Ukraine and “must stay and fight. Once across the border, the women have no way to communicate with their husbands, fathers, brothers,” she said. “They don’t know if they’ll ever see them again.” The rest of the story is here.

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Take Your Wife to Work Day in Israel

Tales from the heart: Out on the tractor at dawn

Here’s my article in Israel21C about my husband, Jonny Kuritsky who has been farming the fields of Shavei Zion, Western Galilee, Israel.

By  Diana Bletter  FEBRUARY 3, 2022, 2:15 PM

Avocado grove workers in Shavei Zion in the Western Galilee. Photo by Diana Bletter

The alarm clock hasn’t even rung. Most people would say it is still night but for my husband, Jonny Kuritsky, it is morning.

He’s long out of bed as the muezzin’s voice floats toward us over the loudspeakers from the mosque in the village of Mazra’a across the road.

In the dark hours of pre-dawn, the jackals cry. Then, at exactly 5am, Kuritsky (that’s what I call him) climbs onto his rugged electric club car, headed for his job in the avocado groves of Shavei Zion, the village where we live in the Western Galilee.

He mostly works on a tractor, a dream job for a guy who, as a child, played with tractors and trucks in the dirt. He sprays against diseases that harm the avocado trees in the 1,000-dunam (about 250 acres) grove.

Most people his age – he just turned 70 – might prefer to retire. That’s not his game plan.

“Why should I stop? If I can get on a tractor and spray and do a good job with a little experience under my belt, why should I stop because of a number?”

Kuritsky works with a diverse team of men that includes four Israeli Arabs, four Israeli Jews, and four workers from Thailand who are in Israel for five-year stints. The dozen men speak to one another in a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic, Thai and English.

He mostly works on a tractor, a dream job for a guy who, as a child, played with tractors and trucks in the dirt. He sprays against diseases that harm the avocado trees in the 1,000-dunam (about 250 acres) grove.

Most people his age – he just turned 70 – might prefer to retire. That’s not his game plan.

“Why should I stop? If I can get on a tractor and spray and do a good job with a little experience under my belt, why should I stop because of a number?”

Kuritsky works with a diverse team of men that includes four Israeli Arabs, four Israeli Jews, and four workers from Thailand who are in Israel for five-year stints. The dozen men speak to one another in a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic, Thai and English.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Environmental Activist Sharona Shnayder is Only 21, Just Moved to Israel, and She’s Already Tackling Israel’s Trash

Tuesdays for Trash founder Sharona Shnayder picking up garbage on the beach. Photo by Kseniia Poliak; makeup by Paula Fay; styling by Lilya Kubrick

Awesome. That is one of Nigerian-Israeli environmental activist Sharona Shnayder’s favorite words, and when I told her we could meet for lunch at one of her favorite cafés in Tel Aviv, a block from her office, that’s what she said.

The café is readymade for Instagram. And Shnayder, in her black sweater and impossibly long, colorful braids, fits right in. She’s a photo shoot just waiting to happen. In fact, she’s a politician just waiting to happen.

“I am focused on politics because without legislation, nothing can change,” said 21-year-old Shnayder.

hnayder, who moved to Israel in May, is cofounder and CEO of Tuesdays for Trash, a global environmental movement that encourages individuals around the world to dedicate at least one day a week to picking up garbage.Sharona Shnayder throwing away trash she picked up on a Tel Aviv street. Photo by Diana Bletter

Here’s my article from Israel21C, a great site with informative articles and profiles. It shows you what one person can do.

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Finding promise in a farewell to summer

At the local lifeguard station here in Israel, I savored the last few moments of summer with the Jews and Arabs who kept my beach safe.

This article appeared in Israel21C.org.

By  Diana Bletter  OCTOBER 11, 2021, 1:50 PMLifeguards at Shavei Zion beach, from left, Ali Srhan, Gabriel Perez, Bassel Hlwe. Photo by Diana Bletter

It was the last hour of the last day of the official summer season in Israel.

I biked over to the beach in the village where I live, Shavei Zion in the Western Galilee, to say goodbye to the beach employees.The staff of three Arabs and three Jews had been working together from sunrise to sunset, every day, since March 15. I wanted to talk to them, to thank them for a job well done.

There is rarely a day that I’ve missed going to the beach since I moved to this village in 1991. I’m drawn to that turquoise bluish-green water. Those startling white waves. The indelible line on the horizon where the sea meets the sky.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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“Shtisel” Star Michael Aloni On His Upcoming TV Series, Family, Love and History

PHOTO CREDIT: NATI LEVI

 I had the wonderful opportunity to be on the set of the upcoming TV series, “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” where I spoke to the actors, producers and director of the show.

Up in the hills of Safed, in a picturesque cobblestone alleyway, actors Michael Aloni and Swell Ariel Or stood together recently and hugged during the filming of The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, a TV series based on Sarit Yishai-Levy’s best-selling novel. The story of the multi-generational Ermoza family, set in the early-mid 20th century, actually takes place in Jerusalem, but most of the series was filmed in Safed. The city’s ancient streets — without too many air conditioning units — make the vintage cars and costumes seem authentic. It was a chilly, drizzly day, the 70th day of filming, with 10 more days to go. During a pause between sprinkles of rain, actors who play extras walked up the narrow alley in period costumes, passing the signs plastered on building walls in the old-fashioned font of the time, and a clothing store filled with vintage clothes. The series starts in 1917, at the time of the Ottoman Empire, and continues through Israel’s War of Independence. The day’s shooting was now during the British Mandate and a large British flag fluttered by a shop window.

For the rest of the article, click here.

Looking at the director’s screen during an emotional scene of “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” with Michael Aloni. PHOTO CREDIT: Diana Bletter
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Yom Kippur – Finding a Way Toward Forgiveness

I wanted to share my short story that was just published in the latest edition of Jewish Fiction. It is timely for Yom Kippur. Thinking about forgiveness, forgetting. You can find it here.

I revised the above story many times and watched it get rejected many times. And now it’s finally found a home. 

And posting my non-fiction piece on my quirky Jewish mother that appeared in Kveller.com here.

 

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First Place Winner in Moment Magazine’s Fiction Contest (Me!)

I’m honored to announce that my story, “What If I’ve Changed My Mind?” won First Place in Moment Magazine’s Fiction Contest, judged by Max Brooks, author of World War Z and many  other  books  and  articles.

This reminds me, once again, not to give up. I keep doing the work each day. Over the past years, I’ve gotten 12,397 rejections, but who’s counting? I never, ever thought I would win this contest. Best of all, I’ve got my imagination. I can travel anywhere while sitting in my chair.

Details for entering Moment’s Fiction Contest this year can be found here. I encourage you to send in your work. The deadline is September 1, 2020.

Fiction | What If I’ve Changed My Mind?

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Coronavirus and My Husband’s Shoelaces

Here’s my latest blog at Times of Israel on the Coronavirus and my husband’s shoelaces.

The other day, hours before Israel imposed a countrywide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, I rode my moped to a grocery store in the nearby town of Nahariya, and then took a few moments to search for a pair of shoelaces for my husband, Jonny. I always go to an old-fashioned shoe repair shop in a small side street. The repairman has worked magic on my four-inch high heels, and refashioned my orthotic inserts for my sneakers. Surely, he’d have shoelaces. But the government deemed his shop non-essential so it was shuttered, along with almost every other store except supermarkets and pharmacies.

At home, I scrounged up an old shoelace, convincing Jonny that he was now a fashionista in his work boots with one purple shoelace and one gray one. At least my husband has a job. For today. He works in the 200-acre avocado groves of our village, Shavei Zion, about 75 miles north of Tel Aviv and if you keep going for  twelve more miles, you’ll reach Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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