Poli, Shaike and Yossi

The stars who accompanied our lives for decades have been replaced by shooting stars who flicker for a moment. The new stars cannot possess the depth, talent and significance the Gashashim had.

No, there is not a mistake in the title. The reference is to Yisrael Poliakov, Shaike Ofir and Yossi Banai - all deceased. It's also to several great talents who have passed away, and to others who are still among us (may they enjoy a long life) who are almost inactive. It's particularly a reference to something very profound in the field of Israeli entertainment that has been dead for years.

The "idols" have replaced the true talents; the stars who accompanied our lives for decades have been replaced by shooting stars who flicker for a moment. What happened to us that instead of the Hagashash Hahiver (The Pale Tracker) we are left with a collection of pale entertainers? Why hasn't a new Gashash appeared, a young Shaike Ophir or another Yossi Banai? Why don't we have another Nissim Aloni to write entertainment programs? Now, as the tears of mourning over the death of Poli are drying, these troubling questions arise.

The Gashashim went far beyond the status of an entertainment group. The widespread, nearly universal mourning over Poli's death underscores this. The members of the trio placed a mirror before us, but in a gentle, pleasant and amusing way, never subversive or annoying. There was, nonetheless, a profound satirical underpinning in their performance, even if there was no direct political dimension. They presented reserve military duty and society's service providers in all their ridiculousness, as well as ethnic disparities in their full severity. They protested against violence, vulgarity and aggression - all in their funny way, to the point of tears. They coined ingenious expressions and generated infinite empathy for the weak. They had excellent writers and they themselves were great performers. From all this, nothing has remained.

They grew up in the institutional hothouse of Israeli entertainment of those years - the military troupes, another Israeli anomaly, both twisted and welcome. A friend brings a friend, from generation to generation; Yehoram Gaon took Poli into the Nahal Troupe and Poli ushered in the next generation. This chain was severed, and instead of acceptance committees we have gradually turned to popular vote via SMS, presided over by Zvika Hadar, or the children's song festivals. The result has been a barrage of instant talents who sprouted quickly, became huge stars, particularly in the gossip and paparazzi columns, and wilted just as quickly.

The new stars cannot possess the depth, talent and significance the Gashashim had. The talents of the past developed slowly. Some of them even spent a number of years abroad before becoming stars. Nothing was urgent; it was possible to spend long months preparing a program, even years sometimes. This is not appropriate for television.

It is no coincidence that the Gashashim faded with the emergence of television, especially commercial TV. There was no place for them in the new era. Most of our memories of the Gashashim are from listening to them on the radio. An attempt in 1999 to give the Gashashim a television platform, "Cracker vs. Cracker," in the early days of Channel 2, did not fare well. They did not suit this platform and it did not suit them.

Now we are paying the price of the damages from the dark years of Channel 2. The trash overflows, with countless insipid game shows, reality and celebrity programs, as well as worthless entertainers who earn millions and do not even elicit a moment of laughter. Screaming jokesters have nothing to say, and compete over who will be more vulgar. In such times, one longs for the Gashashim. The photographers did not chase after them, documenting every cup of coffee they sipped and immortalizing every date, but they made a real contribution to the culture.

Commercial television is teaching entire generations to consume junk. The tribal bonfire, whose leaders think that whatever is lower is better, bears a heavy responsibility for the ruin and emptiness. The death of Poli, the death of an era, is a fitting opportunity to remind them of this. We must mourn Poli, but we should also remember why no heirs have arisen.