The conflict in Gaza hasn’t stopped Israelis from joining the viral sensation that has flooded the Internet: the ALS ice bucket challenge, which calls on people to post videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the neurodegenerative disease colloquially known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
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Actors, diplomats, politicians, prominent Israelis and U.S. Jews have been subjecting themselves to the big freeze and challenging others to do the same.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, joked before he doused himself that the experience was nothing new for him “as I usually get a chilly reception” at the UN. He challenged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “who spends most of his time trying to break the ice between countries," U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, “who is trying to put ISIS on ice,” and Israeli singer Rita, whose concert at the UN a year ago “melted hearts,” to follow suit.
The challenge, which requires anyone who undertakes it to nominate others, was inspired by a 29-year-old former athlete Peter Frates, who suffers from ALS. It has spread from his Boston peers to police chiefs, celebrities and pop stars, helping the ALS Foundation raise millions of dollars. Not bad for what’s essentially a giant digital game of freeze tag.
Jewish celebrities – from Adam Levine to Mark Zuckerberg – have enthusiastically taken up the cause. Appropriately enough, given that her name means “water” in Hebrew, actress Mayim Bialik also took up the challenge.
The phenomenon moved into the political arena last weekend when Justin Bieber called on President Obama to douse himself in ice. In Israel, PR guru Rani Rahav nominated both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara. So far, neither head of state has obliged.
Even without a personal invitation from the Bieb, politicians in Israel have begun taking up the challenge. Two members of Knesset have filmed themselves speaking about ALS awareness, then succumbing to buckets of ice – probably just about tolerable in August in Israel.
Yesh Atid Knesset Member Dov Lipman, in a full suit and tie, announces in both Hebrew and English that he’s “bringing the challenge to the Knesset,” and urged three other MKs to take part as well.
At least one other MK, Eitan Cabel, has taken up the cause, as did U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.
Not to be outdone, the famously media-savvy Israel Defense Forces has tried to redirect some of the viral attention to its own cause – the ongoing battle with Hamas that has so far claimed thousands of lives.
IDF soldier Corey Feldman, 26, and two peers decided to eschew ice entirely and create the “Hamas vs. Hummus” challenge. (In Israel, after all, the iconic chickpea spread is more plentiful than water.)
In a video, three IDF soldiers in full uniform smear their faces with hummus, nominating others (and offering the option of donating to charity Friends of the IDF instead, in case nominees are hummus-averse).
“Hamas is bad, hummus is good,” says one soldier astutely, his cheeks lathered beige.
It’s doubtful whether the Hummus Challenge will achieve quite the viral status that the Ice Bucket Challenge has. All controversy aside, one can only surmise that many IDF supporters would cringe at this scandalous waste of hummus – which obviously should be smeared on pita, not faces.