Dani Versus Rani: A Battle for Israel's Cultural Soul

With marketing now penetrating the news broadcasts on Israel's commercial TV channels, the country is in a struggle against cultural degradation.

While speaking this week at a conference attended by more than 200 directors of local authority cultural departments, I chose to show a chilling moment I had recently witnessed.

In a preamble to the evening news on Channel 2 TV, the well-known newscaster Oded Ben Ami, previously an IDF spokesman, turns to a gigantic screen and congratulates the “judge”. “What can we look forward to tonight?” he asks ceremoniously. The “judge” then embarks on a repetitious monologue extolling Israel’s “national male and female singers” who will perform a duet. The good soldier Ben Ami mentions the timing of the show alluded to, “The Next Star,” and continues with the news.

The “judge” is no judge. He is a public relations man named Rani Rahav. He was rustled into judging a song competition, even though he has no knowledge of music. His line of business is marketing and branding. The “national male singer of Israel,” who has since become “a famous singer suspected of having sex with minors,” is Eyal Golan, a client of Rahav's. Israel’s “national female singer” is Rita. 

Nobody else labels them as such, except Rahav, as part of his branding efforts. A marketing item is delivered by a public relations person selling his client during a broadcast delivered by a franchise selling its flagship product. All this is done as part of the day’s news. This is the distilled essence of the whole abomination.

These days, Channel 2 is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. The channel is celebrating on its own, since there is no cause for joy. Twenty years of public and cultural degradation and erosion, with more to come. In the meantime, a clone channel has flowered in its shadow. The dam has burst and both channels have begun sullying their professional evening news programs.

Rafi Reshef does a news item on Roladin's wonderful doughnuts, which are selling like hotcakes. Incidentally, that chain, too, is a Rahav client. All the while, they're seeking further easing of the laughable broadcasting regulations.

The public is exposed to every ill wind. Twenty years of corruption, brutalization and pandering to the lowest standards. The years have seen a steady march of senior and junior soldiers, who bask in the glory only to be burnt by it subsequently. Whether heroes or victims, addicted or inducing addiction, they were sometimes both at the same time.

Only the faces keep changing. Once it’s Dudu Topaz and another time it’s Eyal Golan. Once it’s Margalit Tzan’ani and then it’s Rani Rahav. Another time it’s Bar Refaeli and then it’s the crazy Fortis. It doesn’t matter. They are all part of a smokescreen. Behind the scenes sit the big brains, pulling the strings. They are faceless, and even their names are featureless. Avi Nir, Avi Tzvi, and before them it was Yochanan and Uri and Uzi, all good guys, the salt of the earth.

Here and there one finds quality programs, sops thrown at the regulator while also serving as conscience-easers. There are also the satirical programs “Wonderful Country” and “State of the Nation.” When the going gets rough, one can always call on Assi Ezer to read from an innocent slide.

But we don’t have a wonderful country and the state of the nation is dreadful. These people are cultural criminals, bearing a great part of the blame. There are no slides that can gloss over this fact. Crime must be fought. Singer-songwriter Amir Benayoun walked out of the studio in the middle of Dan Shilon’s shallow circus.

At this week’s conference, I showed some of Benayoun's songs, as well as some by the Kaveret ensemble. The audience cheered for Benayoun and for Kaveret’s Danny Sanderson but booed at Rahav. A quarter of a million of Israelis came last summer to say goodbye to Kaveret.

It’s not clear that this is a lost cause. This is the rearguard battle for our homes, our children and our future. It all boils down to choosing between Danny and Rani.

Ronen Ackerman