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What is it like to experience Israel as an outsider?
The new podcast "Homeland: Ten Stories, One Israel" leverages an entirely new format to creatively portray the everyday faces of Zionism.
In short: Homeland: Ten Stories, One Israel is a new narrative-style podcast which creatively portrays the rich and complex history of Zionism.
As Rivky Stern sat down with her team at OpenDor Media to ponder a new podcast, they knew they wanted it to be about Zionism, and they also knew they didn’t want to tell the same old stories in the same old ways.
“We were looking to build something deeper,” said Rivky, who is OpenDor Media’s Head of Podcasts. “We wanted to take the deep thought of Zionism, the contrasts and complements of Zionism’s amazing ways, and turn it into an amazing product.”
The first question was the podcast’s format — fiction or non-fiction — and they decided to go with the former. Then they contemplated the podcast’s setting, and someone threw out the idea of an ulpan (a Hebrew school).
“Someone was like, Everyone who sat at this desk scratched their name into the desk,” Rivky recalled. “And we were like, Okay, but that’s a little hard historically because, if we do this ulpan, it only existed for the past 60 years.”
So they wondered: What if the desk moved? And this notion of movement sparked another idea: a bus.
Ding, ding, ding!
“We used that as a jumping-off point,” Rivky said. “It was like, you could see lights. And it felt like we know we have something here.”
Emily in … Israel?
Homeland: Ten Stories, One Israel is new narrative-style podcast, headlined by a fictional character named Emily Cohen, an American college student, majoring in journalism, who takes a semester off school, purchases a one-way ticket to Israel, and rents an apartment in Jerusalem, “the most contested city in the world.”
Over-inundated with the mainstream media’s generally one-sided narrative about Israel, as well as the overwhelmingly anti-Zionism sentiment on U.S. college campuses, Emily arrives in Israel eager to “talk to anyone who would talk to me” — on buses and in cafés and taxies, at beaches and markets and holy sites.
“As long as there was an Israeli ready to talk, I tried to listen,” Emily says in the introductory episode. “I met immigrants who came to Israel during the birth of the State, refugees fleeing hostile governments, people whose family has lived here for tens of generations, Jews of all colors and backgrounds and levels of observance.”
The result is refreshingly curious conversations with Israelis from across the political, ethnic, religious, and economic spectrums, all explaining in their own ways “what it means to be Israeli.”
Across 10 weeks, OpenDor Media is releasing 10 episodes — including four which have already been released at the time of writing — each one taking you inside the world of different characters, who are based on real-life people, shared by real-life people. From Morocco to Russia, all roads leads to Israel, of course. And along each road, you’ll learn a few fun Hebrew words to boot.
But there’s another side to this podcast that is equally as captivating as Israel’s rich tapestry, which Homeland: Ten Stories, One Israel creatively portrays so well. We, the listeners, through the lens of Emily’s character, are confronted with the question:
What is it like to experience Israel as an outsider?
“And Emily, in that way, represents us, the listeners, who love Israel, who care about Israel,” Rivky said. “Maybe we don’t know as much as we want to know, but we feel it, we feel the connection. It’s something that’s very important to us. We just don’t exactly understand what it is. And Emily speaks to our voice.”
It’s this imaginative blend of an outsider’s foaming curiosity, met with deeply personal and fascinating stories, that makes Homeland: Ten Stories, One Israel a truly unique listening experience, something that ought to be appreciated (no less, enjoyed) in the otherwise overly saturated world of podcasts.
‘The Complexity and the Beauty’ of Long-Form Storytelling
Since heading up OpenDor Media’s podcast division for 18 months now, Rivky and her team have created six seasons across different shows, including Unpacking Israeli History, their flagship podcast, which just completed its third season.
“The thing that’s important to us at OpenDor Media is, we don’t want sound bites,” Rivky said. “We want you to understand the complexity and the beauty of a story.”
As opposed to YouTube and other types of digital and social media, Rivky says that people are willing to lend significantly more of their time and attention to podcasts, which allows her and her team to dive much deeper into an assortment of topics.
“And we’re not saying how you should feel or not feel, but let’s talk about it,” Rivky said. “Let’s talk about the history of it. Let’s talk about the meaning of it. Let’s talk about what that looks like on our day-to-day basis.”
This article was a paid promotion.
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