Benji Lovitt
Because the Middle East is Funny
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Top 10 Jews who live on my block

The competition was fierce this year, but one-eyed Sonya was a slam dunk for first place

Recently, the Jerusalem Post named their 50 most influential Jews in the world and Newsweek ranked America’s top 50 rabbis. But who really is a “top Jew”? Is it defined by religious piousness or civil service? Does it require a lengthy commitment to one’s community or are “flashes-in-the-pan” eligible? As Jeffrey Goldberg posed, are these lists even a good idea? (He says no.)

If it is truly part of the Jewish nature to debate and question, we would be remiss if we did not make our own effort to contribute an additional perspective to the conversation. Without further ado, I present the “Top 10 Jews Who Live on My Block”.

10. Gershon, the manager of the neighborhood kiosk:

Known for calling everyone under the age of seventy-five “kapara”, Gershon has been admittedly upcharging customers by 300% since 1993. Gershon regales his customers with alleged tales of being Ehud Barak’s commanding officer on the raid at Entebbe, despite his obscene myopia and sunflower seed-covered beer gut. He has maintained his status as a stalwart member of the community by being the sole merchandiser of Krembo in July and the only one who still closes his store from 2-4 PM on weekdays for his traditional afternoon nap.

9. Jason, Masa program participant:

Barely six weeks into his nine-month Masa Israel Journey program, 22 year-old Jason Fishcloud from Five Towns, Long Island rockets into the top 10 for the first time based on his unbridled enthusiasm for everything Israel and penchant for answering all questions with the word “sababa”. Frequently spotted wearing his “Guns and Moses” t-shirt, Fishcloud claims to be “the biggest Israel-lover this side of the Jordan River” and is quick to mention that he doesn’t know too many on the other side. Fishcloud claims to not know his future plans about aliyah but just wants to enjoy his time here as he volunteers, learns Hebrew, and “chillaxes” on the beach with his Goldstar and Bissli (his peanut allergy makes him allergic to Bamba) while his parents cover his expenses.


8. Shuki Azoulay, male hairdresser:

Shuki Azoulay gained notoriety as the inspiration for Adam Sandler’s Zohan character in 2007. Easily recognized by his tight pleather pants, sleeveless Ed Hardy V-neck, and graying perm, Shuki has decorated his store with printed Facebook photos of his 23 year-old girlfriend, conveniently the same age as his daughter. Shuki first attracted attention from Hollywood due to his revolutionary use of the glamorous mauve colored hair dye popularized by Tel Aviv savtas.

7. Leora Weinberg, political activist:

Though not actually a registered party member, Leora Weinberg holds the unofficial record for most consecutive days — 2,294 –with an Ale Yarok banner hanging outside her window. Rain or shine, election year or not, the banner with its cannabis leaf insignia remains loosely tied to her trisim by two frayed ropes and has outlasted three roommates, moves to two apartments, and an ex-fiance whom Weinberg dumped over his vote for Bibi Netanyahu in the 2009 national election.

6. Tal Cohen, high-tech mogul

Falling from #1 in 2012, this 30-year-old whiz kid made millions when he sold his start-up, Converjify, to Google last year. Cohen developed Converjify using 10,000 shekels of seed money he saved while working the cash register at Roladin before his post-army Thailand trip. Leveraging his security expertise from his intelligence work in the army, Cohen developed the first-ever platform for synergizing IP telecommunication protocols over a social network. Since his sale, Cohen has spent every day at his favorite coffee shop typing feverishly on his laptop while nursing a single espresso for four hours.

tech mogul

5. Mazal Ben-Gal, senior citizen

Celebrating her 27th consecutive year on the top ten list, Mazal Ben-Gal is an undeniable institution of the kehila. Thrice married and thrice widowed, 93 year-old Mazal can be found every day on her balcony, wearing a floral nightgown and smoking Broadway Slim 120s. Ms. Ben-Gal garners fame by her unprecedented ability to rain down words of wisdom from her porch to any passerby on the street below, such as “Nobody is going to marry you if you dress like a tramp”, “You’re not holding your baby the right way”, and the time-honored classic, “You look like Arafat with all that scruff on your face.” Mazal has had her hair colored by Shuki Azoulay since 1989.

4. Yael Kohani, tattoo-covered woman

Rocketing into the top 10 for the first time, Yael Kohani made this year’s list by virtue of having over 75% of the right side of her body tattooed. Kohani, an eye-turning yoga instructor, received her first tattoo at an ashram in Goa in 2005 and has celebrated every birthday since with a new body art design. An unnamed friend of hers claims that in a translation gone awry, Yael’s intention to tattoo the Chinese symbol for love had accidentally been mistranslated onto her clavicle as “General Tso’s chicken”. Kohani works at the local coffee shop, where her mesmerizing dreadlocks compensate for her horrible customer service.

3. Benji Lovitt, biggest freier in Tel Aviv

Benji Lovitt made aliyah in 2006 and has been an upstanding member of his community ever since. Benji spends his time updating his Facebook page, drinking café hafuch, and refreshing his Facebook page to see how many people have liked his most recent status (never enough). His friends attest that his Hebrew has increased at least 3% every single year since 2007 and he prides himself on not having gotten ripped off in over a week. He works hard to improve the lives of his fellow countrymen by bringing back goods from America such as iPads, beef jerky, and the entire Healthy & Beauty aisle at Target. Hard as it is for his mother to believe, Benji is single.

Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.50.07 PM

2. Roee and Royi, the metropolitan gay power couple:

By day, HE is a corporate lawyer and he works in PR. By night, Roee and Royi are co-hosts of the popular late-night radio show “Sababa LaPanim BeTa’am Egozim”. With chemistry as smooth as Astroglide, the trendy hosts entertain listeners with juicy stories of their extra-marital dalliances, mixed in with live tracks from Lady Gaga and Ivri Lider. The show has become so popular that Roee and Royi earned the coveted spots of “Raver Boy Number 4” and “Raver Boy Number 5” on this year’s Red Bull float at the Tel Aviv Pride Parade. You can tune in to the pair every Monday night from two forty-five to three-fifteen in the morning on Radio Tel Aviv.

1. Sonya the cat

If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night to the disgusting sounds of an overly amorous cat, there is one party responsible: Sonya the One-Eyed Neighborhood Cat. The Afghan mix first launched her career on the corner of Shlomo Hamelech and Frishman and has since migrated to Reines and Gordon. While Sonya’s caterwauling has garnered much acclaim and countless imitators, she remains the unparalleled queen of rousing agitated Tel Aviv residents at four-thirty in the morning. In addition to her unrivaled wailing, Sonya is personally responsible for the birth and (possible) weaning of forty-three neighborhood kittens, mostly notably Morris the tabby of Tsomet Poleg.

one-eyed cat

Photo © 2013 Matt Brooker”

Co-written by Yoav Fisher

About the Author
Since making aliyah in 2006, Benji Lovitt has performed stand-up comedy and educational programs for groups including Jewish Federations, Chabads, synagogues, Masa Israel Journey, and Birthright Israel. His perspectives on aliyah and Israeli society have been featured on Israeli TV and radio and in publications such as USA Today, Time Magazine, the BBC, and more. Benji has worked as a cross-cultural trainer with groups including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Masa Israel and is a popular presenter on the Limmud International circuit. During 2014's Operation Protective Edge, his humorous observations on the war led to his being called in Israel "the only reason to go on Facebook.”
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