So, Shifra Cornfeld (the Dead Friedmans) Won

The first season of Big Brother in Israel ended last night. This show was by far the most popular in Israel. Highest viewing rating on Israeli TV. Ever.

In a sense, what made this show such a huge hit and got people to send over 2 million votes on the last week alone, was the brilliant casting of Yossi Boublil (Booblil?) and Shifra Cornfeld.

These two “arch-enemies” of the show resurrected the old demon of Israeli society of Mizrahim (Sepharadi) vs. Ashkenazim.  Boublil’s daughter, also a participant, was the one who brought it up to begin with. It was her father, with his heavy Lybian accent and unique mannerism took on the role of the ultimate Mizrahi. On the other hand, Shifra Cornfeld, with her looks, language and body language (not to mention the family name), was Ashkenazi personified, as much as that even exists in Israel today.

For the “Hafaka” – Hebrew for producers and the local term used when referring to the show’s management team – this was literally a goldmine. Evoking the old demons had people glued to the TV. Will the “Mizrahim” finally take over? In the last week or so, with Cornfeld becoming almost a minority in the group, it almost looked like she is taunted for being Ashkenazi.

The general feeling was that Boublil is going to win – big time. That Mizrahim will be voting for him, en mass; that Shifra’s audience, the Dead Friedmans (a term introduced into Israeli cultural discourse by Boublil’s daughter), are too elitist to send SMS messages for a reality show; that Israeli culture has been taken over by herds of shallow supporters of what “Friendmans” see as a vulgar loud man.

Huge surprise: Shifra Cornfeld won, and by a huge margin too. I can’t really explain why – not sure who can. The Dead Friedman are alive again?

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5 Responses to So, Shifra Cornfeld (the Dead Friedmans) Won

  1. Ever since I made Aliya 4 years ago, I still hear about Ashkenazim versus Mizrachim. I hear about the Israeli Ars, and his BMW etc.

    Every character in האח הגדול was very special for me, and I really lke each one for who/he is.

    After 60 years this country has in some ways become a melting pot, with Ashkenazim and Mizrachim intermarrying and having producing very handsome, healthy children.

    Some day we will see a Mizrachi Prime Minister, just as my land of birth, has finally elected a man of color as president. I really would like to think that we are moving on and leaving this Ashkenazi – Mizrachi thing behind. I remender about 30 years ago when they called us AshkeNAZIm.

    In closing, I voted for Shifra because in my opinion she deserved to win. She is smart, lovely, charming gorgeous, and most importantly, she is so good to her family. Shifra has won my heart and I wish her nothing but happiness, good health and everything wonderful which our short time on earth can offe.

  2. Israeli Mom says:

    I hear you about the melting pot. I am a mudblood myself ;) half Tunisian and half Polish. I consider myself full Israel, neither Ashkenazi nor Mizrahi, or both, if you like.

    I actually don’t think this divide is about the actual ethnic origins of a person. I think this is a cultural thing. Actually, Einav Boublil said as much last night when asked about the meaning of “Dead Friedmans”. She mentioned that her best friend is “a Russian” and is not a Friedman.

    I blogged about it being a cultural rather than a purely ethnic divide in my previous big brother post here:
    http://www.israelimom.org/general/214/booblil-and-the-israeli-arab-conflict-big-brother-thoughts.html

    I don’t know how blacks in the US view Obama, but in Israel, it’s very possible to be Mizrahi by birth and Ashkenazi by cultural association. The Mizrahis we’ve had at top positions in the military and government were hardly Boublils ;)

  3. Steve says:

    Wow, the subtleties of Israeli culture! There does indeed seem to be many subtle variations – and some not so subtle, I guess – in that interesting country. As far as the racial divide in the US where I live, one hopes with the same spirit Mark writes that someday the differences will simply result in your standard average blend. Already, in my lifetime, the movement in that direction is truly amazing. And heart-warming. First tolerance, then understanding, then unconditional acceptance. Not a bad goal.

  4. Harry Kallmann says:

    My faith in humanity has been recreated by the decision to vote for Shifra by a large margin.
    There was no doubt in my mind that she should be the winner and by a big margin. Unfortunately this does not always materialise, when the chips are down. How could anyone compare the way she came across to the public sensitive, learned, pretty and all other assets one could expect facing the crude uneducated comments of her rivals with calm and educated reasonings which could not possible be refuted. More strength to her and lots of luck in all her future undertakings. I am 85 years old and am in love with her.

  5. I always visualized Israel as very different than the picture you have above.