|Beny Lovitt, inset, and Ari Teman|
What’s the toughest part of working for the Hamas Propaganda Unit? You need equipment to stage films and you can’t go to B&H Photo.
“Can we PLEASE bring Hamas to NYC? The Second Avenue subway tunnel is taking FOREVER.”
“Cabs in Israel have hands-free devices so the Jewish driver can talk to you with BOTH hands. I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die from the conflict… being discussed.'”
“With all the tension they’re saying Israel is becoming one big family. We’ve suffered enough!”
“My parents made Aliyah, which is Hebrew for ‘Abandoned Me.'”
“My friend told me, ‘The Jewish community is no longer safe in France and seeing my family there makes me really sad.’ I can relate, seeing my family ANYWHERE makes me sad.”
“The Iron Dome is far more effective this
“PFLP-GC Secretary-General Ahmad Jibril
“After hearing his statements, the NRA gave him a free lifetime membership.”
“People rioting and burning their own cities around the world because they don’t like Israel is like me trashing my apartment because I’m mad at the cable guy.”
“The times are so tense. I ran out to the shelter naked. There wasn’t even a siren.”
“It’s difficult being gay in this situation. Everyone’s running to the shelter and my mom is screaming, ‘Go in the closet! Go in the closet!'”
Teaneck-bred standup comic Ari Teman brought a suitcase of jokes like this one when he flew to Israel late last week to headline a series of comedy shows in regular venues as well as bomb shelters and army bases.
With fellow American standup Danny Cohen and Texan-Israeli comedian Benji Lovitt, Mr. Teman’s Rocket Shelter Comedy (http://RocketShelterComedy.com) shows took place from this week in cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheva, and Modi’in. All proceeds are to be donated to the Friends of the IDF Lone Soldier Fund.
When asked how he got the idea for the comedy mission, Mr. Teman – a graduate of the Torah Academy of Bergen County – explained that it resulted from a memo from his attorneys at the Israeli law firm GKH.
“I have startup based in Israel – still in stealth mode – and GKH sent me a message saying one of their associates got called to the army so they needed a few extra days to get me the paperwork. I thought that was the most badass thing to say: ‘Just let us crush the terrorists first and then we’ll get to your paperwork.’ How am I sitting in New York when even my attorneys are in uniform?”
Being a seasoned social activist who founded the Jewish volunteering movement JCorps in 2008, and having appeared often on prime-time television doing standup comedy, Mr. Teman is more comfortable grabbing a microphone than a rifle.
“You don’t want me fighting for you,” he joked. “But here’s what I did: I messaged my friend Danny [Cohen], who was planning on heading to Israel later this summer anyway, and I said, ‘Let’s go now and tour around and tell people jokes and then they’ll know what real misery is.’ So we moved everything up and arranged to go now.”
How does one put together a tour on short notice, in wartime no less? “We know some Jews,” he quipped. “We got a lot of help from Rami Cohen, CEO of Telesofia Medical,” an Israeli-American healthcare video company.
“Finding venues with the security situation was a bit of a mess, but we said ‘yiheye tov,’ it will all be good.”
The duo added Mr. Lovitt to the mix as well. “He and I have known each other for years. He’s very funny, speaks English, he’s a great guy, and he’s been committing genocide in the likes-for-war-jokes department on Facebook.”
The Manhattan resident said he and Mr. Cohen started the initiative out of pocket, then received a grant from a foundation to cover one venue, and got further individual donations. “There is still time for a Jew to stick their name on this,” he said.
He posted on his Facebook page that the taxi driver who picked them up at Ben-Gurion International Airport on June 25 had both hands free to gesticulate while talking about Hamas, thanks to his hands-free devices. “I’m going to die from the conflict being discussed,” the comedian noted drily.
But he also noticed how many people in Israel are smiling. “A row of cars drives past you at a light and everyone in them is smiling and chatting. They worry for their children, 20-year-old boys and girls defending them in the South, our cousins and siblings, but they smile. Israel’s anthem, Hatikva, is about hope. Israel accomplishes so much because despite challenges, its people continue to hope, dream, and create. Even in darkness Israel seeks and creates light.”
Mr. Teman’s ultimate goal is this: “We want to bring laughter to people here in Israel but also show the thousands of comedians we know on Facebook that Israel is not just brown people throwing sand and rocks at each other. We’ll be showing the shopping malls and startups and health care companies, the space program, the cafÃ©s, beaches, and restaurants, the people walking around and going to work. They may have to duck every few hours for an incoming rocket, but then they go back to work to make the world a better place.”