Mishy Harman returns to Tidewater to launch latest Israel Story tour

Mixtape: The Stories Behind Israel’s Ultimate Playlist
Sunday, April 15, 7:30 pm, Harbor Club at Waterside

I first met Mishy Harman a year ago at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was there to speak to my daughter’s group of Nachshon Fellows and I sat in on the session. Sitting in one of the classroom chair/ desks like the rest of us, Harman captivated the college students (and this parent) with his story of the genesis of Israel Story. One of Harman’s many charismatic traits is that he is quickly ‘Mishy’ to everyone. For a big time-celebrity, he’s a big-time kind, engaging, enthusiastic guy.

Next month, Harman and his Israel Story or Sipur Israeli—an award-winning radio show and podcast filled with everyday stories told by “regular Israelis”—will perform Mixtape—The Stories Behind Israel’s Ultimate Playlist at Norfolk’s Waterside. The event is presented by Virginia Arts Festival and United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. While on a recent road trip between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Harman called to talk about his upcoming show and Israel Story.

Israel Story—five years of successes.
Originally a creative way for friends to spend time together, in Israel Story’s five short years, it has, in founder and host’s Harman’s words, “had an impact beyond our imagination.” Compared to American Public Radio’s This American Life, Israel Story reaches audiences in Australia, South Africa, Europe, the United States, and, of course, Israel. The once spark of an idea now employs 15 people—including musicians, producers, and editors.

“We never expected it to become a radio show, then we never expected it to become a national radio show, then after starting an English show, never expected it to be a podcast along side such notables as those so well-produced from NPR, among others. We never imagined we’d be able to make a living from Israel Story. And, yet, here we are!” Harman says.

Harman notes that Israel Story doesn’t really tour in Israel, because of the nation’s tiny size, “No matter where we go, we can always sleep in our own bed.” It does perform, however.

For one live show, for example, it was particularly easy for Harman to sleep in his own bed as Israel Story took place on his apartment’s balcony. “It was a return to the kind of story-telling events occurring here 60 to 70 years ago when people gathered to hear stories,” he says.

Mixtape: music, stories, and art
The show planned for Tidewater, however, certainly would not fit on his balcony. Mixtape: The Stories Behind Israel’s Ultimate Playlist is a multimedia event. It “has the largest band (five people) we’ve ever assembled for a tour. And, we’re working with an amazing visual artist, which is a dream come true.

“Israeli music offers such fertile ground for stories. The challenge has been to bring it down to one and a half hours,” says Harman.

Even through his car’s road noise and 6,000 miles, Harman’s smile and excitement is infectious as he talks about preparing for this show. “We got to spend time with and talk to Israel’s most iconic musicians.”

An example he cites is sitting in the living room of Shuly Nathan whose heartfelt rendition of Yerushalayim, Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold in 1967 is legendary. She sang the famed song right there in her apartment for the crew of Israel Story.

Mixtape launches in Tidewater.
“We usually start our U.S. tours at the Manhattan JCC, but this time we thought it would be great to do something different,” says Harman.

“I came to Virginia Beach last February. Then, I spoke to the community, visited schools, and such. Robin (Mancoll, UJFT’s CRC director) came to a live show at AJC’s Global Forum in Washington, DC and wanted me to bring one to Tidewater. And, so, we’re doing it.

“It (Tidewater) is an exciting place to start and we’re looking forward to kicking off the tour at Norfolk’s Waterside.”

The tour includes stops in Toronto, Seattle, New York, Amherst and others. “We’re zigzagging around the county,” he laughs.

What’s next for Israel Story?
In addition to starting work on the next season, Harman says the Israel Story crew continuously tries to “up our own game,” pointing out that now 95 percent of the music for each episode is original—composed specifically for each segment.

“We are constantly thinking of new ideas and new ways of doing things,” says Harman, mentioning two recent episodes where the main characters were not humans: an electric car in one and a place in another. “We like challenges,” he says.

Plus, Harman notes, “We’re hoping to get to new audiences and new communities.”

For more information, contact Melissa Eichelbaum at MEichelbaum@ujft.org or 757-321-2304.

For tickets visit VAFest.org.

Tickets are: Adults, $35; Seniors and Military., $31.50; and students under 25, $26.25.

Terri Denison