Life & Culture

She's rude, lewd and wants you to rethink Israel

Interview: Aviva Zimmerman


Aviva Zimmerman, a graduate film student at Tel Aviv University, has created a monster - on purpose.

Her screen persona, Avi, presents YouTube comedy series Avi Does The Holy Land, which brutally satirises North American Jews' enthusiasm for Israel.

In character, she explained to the JC that "Israel is a magical place filled with hot guys and beaches". And in her last Instagram post, Avi informed followers that "Israel is perfect" and "anyone who disagrees is an antisemite".

Her videos have attracted more than 60,000 views since she uploaded the first in January, called "10 tips to SUPPORT ISRAEL," which advised viewers to "plant a tree" before abruptly telling them to "socially isolate a person in your Jewish community who is critical of Israel until they cave".

Ms Zimmerman learned satire at Toronto University from master clown Phillipe Gaulier, who also taught Sasha Baron Cohen, and that like his character Ali G, "Avi is a buffoon who pokes fun at societal ills - sometimes only the jester can speak the truth."

She said that after living in Tel Aviv for five years, she had become worried after observing "more racist elements. Israeli society is becoming more extreme, especially within the Jewish community."

Along with co-creator and fellow olim Danielle Angel, the Canadian "wanted to create a satirical web series that poked fun at the way some North Americans look at Israel with starry eyes.

"I think it becomes really hard for North American Jews to feel like they can be critical, for instance of the occupation. If you want a safe country for Israeli citizens, we need to come up with a solution for the situation, and not just look on blindly at discrimination of Palestinians." And by interviewing Israel-critics, such as journalist Peter Beinart, she gives these views a platform.

"We wanted to spark dialogue about diaspora relations with Israel in our generation. This is showing that it's possible to be critical of Israel, but in a humorous way."

But she admits that not everyone understands her jokes. In one video, she tells a refugee activist that "literally, blacks are like, the opposite of Jews"; in another she calls herslf "your favourite Jewish slut".

"We're very active on social media, and many of our fans definitely think Avi is real, no matter how many racist statements she makes." For those who get it though, she said there had been "an outpouring of support from people saying that we're bringing up issues which are really relevant to the next generation of diaspora Jews".

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