This week’s United with Israel choice is a woman who uses comedy to tell Israel’s story.

While discussions about Israel can get heated and filled with misinformation, Israeli stand-up comedienne Odelia Yakir has her own method of teaching – and laughing – about her country.

Yakir’s stand-up comedy show – “Israel vs. America” – is designed for an international audience and helps break down preconceived notions about Israel through the harmless technique of comic entertainment.

“I consider myself very Zionist,” Yakir explains. “I see the news and I’ve traveled a lot around the world…. I try to think what I can do [for Israel advocacy] that’s different and interesting, and funny as well.”

Her performances are attended mostly by tourists and new olim (immigrants to Israel), but in January she will take her show to New York, and she hopes to continue with more tours abroad, carrying the message: “We’re not perfect, but I think we are mostly good.”

Her goal is not to be just another comic entertainer, but to teach people about Israel as well and to help them understand the Israeli mentality. After each show, she opens a discussion with the audience, a forum where people can ask questions and gain deeper knowledge about the Jewish state.

“We don’t ride camels, people aren’t just dying everywhere, there is a big high-tech empire, people are creative [and] people have ambition. It’s a democracy, people discuss equal rights…. It’s a really Western country in a lot of aspects,” she says.

Like most Israelis, Yakir, 35, completed mandatory army service, and she even served an extra year – for a total of three years – as a fitness lieutenant, training soldiers. After completing her military service, she found herself constantly meeting foreigners at work and teaching them about Israel. During summer vacations throughout college, she held various positions with the Jewish Agency, which familiarized her with the American-Jewish mentality. After finishing her degree, she worked for El Al Airlines, again deepening her already-strong connection to Diaspora Jews.

“My point is to let people understand what it’s like to be the average Israeli person,” says Yakir. “Instead of just standing with a map of Israel, I will laugh about the Dead Sea or Eilat and speak about those places in a fun way.”

At 27, Yakir decided to follow her dream of becoming an actress and a comedian, and she studied acting, first in New York and then in her home country. During her second year of studies in Israel, she started doing stand-up comedy and wrote a show in Hebrew, titled, “Odelia in the Big City,” dealing with everything that involves being a 30-something single lady in Tel Aviv. Then she decided to begin performing in English as well.

Although Israelis have their unique quirks, such as refusing to wait in line, she humorously explains the root of this behavior and counteracts negative impressions with positive facts about Israelis.

Through laughter, “I’m trying to do positive advocacy for Israel,” she states, adding that the political situation is much more complicated that it seems from afar.

“We want to have peace; we just don’t always feel that we have the right partner…. We cannot have peace with terrorist organizations.”

“But I don’t really care, I just want to marry a rich guy,” she jokes.

Author: Miriam Young
Dec. 19, 2013