Suggested Podcasts to listen to
The Promised Podcast
Few podcasts model the ideal of “hugging and wrestling” with Israel as well as The Promised Podcast. An insider view of how this country can warm your heart and make your blood boil, it’s a show by three folks who live in and love Israel even though it drives them crazy, and who each week discuss the latest in Israeli politics, culture, and society.
Even though all the panelists are from the left or political centre of the Israeli political spectrum, there is also a great deal of nuance in the opinions shared, with enough difference between the guests each week to ensure there will always be disagreements that will enlighten rather than infuriate most diaspora liberal zionists (although that happens sometimes too).
One of the most special aspects of this podcast is the “vat a country” segment at the end of each episode where each panelist shares a unique moment from their past week. Unlike the “Only in Israel” lists we often see on hasbara sites, the way this segment is done is often deeply affecting where each reflection shares the authentic highs and lows that olim experience when they choose to make Israel their home.
The Tikvah Podcast
The Tikvah Fund describes itself as “politically Zionist, economically free-market oriented, culturally traditional, and theologically open-minded.” Yet in all issues and subjects, they welcome vigorous debate and big arguments.
One reviewer wrote of this podcast, “Don’t miss this if you are looking for the best in Jewish intellectual contemporary thought. The interviewer does his research and is not afraid to ask challenging questions. The guests are world-renowned and inspiring in their genuine passion for moving the Jewish Story forward.”
In an in-depth episode about the Russian Aliyah with the eloquent Matti Friedman, listeners learned why Shimon Peres initially opposed the creation of a Russian-speaking theatre. A fascinating quote shared by Matti Friedman in that episode was from Natan Sharansky, who once said of the struggle to maintain Russian identity in Israel, “If I didn’t give up my culture in a KGB interrogation room, I’m not going to give it up in Israel.” The whole conversation is a real eye-opener.
Journalist Ami Kaufman sees the purpose of this podcast as “talking to anyone and everyone between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”
In explaining why he started it, the former editor of the prominent Israeli financial daily Calcalist explained, “I want to hear the stories of anyone and everyone – regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation – between the River and the Sea. I want to understand what makes these people tick, how they formed their views, what they see for the future, and hope that somewhere deep down that knowledge, about all of us here, can bring us closer.”
Previous episodes include everyone from right-wing Jerusalem Post columnist Ruthie Blum to Zehava Galon, who is one of Israel’s most well-known former leaders of Israel’s political left. The first 16 episodes had 10 women and 6 men, with an even split between Jews and non-Jews featured.
For Heaven’s Sake
Launched in summer 2020, For Heaven’s Sake is a bi-weekly podcast from the Shalom Hartman Institute’s iEngage Project that seeks to “revive the lost art of Jewish debate for the sake of illuminating a topic, not sowing division.” The podcast draws its name from the concept of Machloket l’shem shamayim, “Disagreeing for the sake of heaven.”
One episode explores the question “What Makes a Politician “Pro-Israel?” Given how often the term “Pro-Israel” is used in diaspora Jewish circles without defining what this phrase means, the conversation here makes a valuable contribution to public debate.
A recent episode called ‘The Two Israels” explores how the Jewish State is on track to become one of the first immunized countries, and its public health system is among the best in the world, yet has also entered its third lockdown amidst skyrocketing COVID rates. In their conversation, Donniel Hartman, Yossi Klein Halevi, and Elana Stein Hain explore how the pandemic is bringing out the best and worst of Israel and discuss the cultural shifts required to establish a sustainable social contract.
Understanding the Causes of War and Peace
Created by Israel Story Producer Skyler Inman, Intractable combines history, news, personal narratives, expert interviews, and audio artifacts to tell one of the most complex narratives of our time.
Jumping between historical and present-day stories, Intractable explains the complex realities of today, tackles difficult topics with empathy and tact, and in the process, weaves a tale that speaks to the human capacity for triumph, betrayal, cooperation, transformation, pride, self-preservation, and resilience.
Featuring interviews with Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn, Ohad Hemo, Yuval Benziman, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, Hillel Cohen, Dr. Ronit Levine-Schnur, Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, Issa Amro, and more, the effort Inman goes to tell the story of this place without bias and so much empathy makes listening to this podcast both a tragic and hopeful experience.
Israeli Settlements 360
In recent years, Dahlia Scheindlin has become one of Israel’s most prolific English-language podcasters. In her latest project, created in partnership with the Israel Office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Scheindlin brings her knowledge and experience from years of reporting about the conflict to the topic of Settlements.
The seven-part series begins with Gershom Gorenberg, author of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977, who discusses the historic ideology of Israeli settlements, and the role of the state – led by Labor – in settling the land conquered in 1967.
Some of the more insightful episodes include topics such as, ‘Palestinian life in the shadow of settlements’ with Abir Joubran-Dakwar,’ Why are we here? A Jewish Israeli settler makes the case’ with Yishai Fleischer and ‘The future – are settlements an obstacle to peace?’ with Lara Friedman.
Journalist Dina Kraft has been writing and reporting, interviewing and capturing stories from Israel for more than 20 years. In The Branch podcast, Kraft offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of Jews and Arabs forging meaningful relationships, because of, and despite, their different national identities. In one episode, Kraft takes us into the lives of Mohammed and Yael.
For three years, Yael has been driving Mohammed and his son, Dia — who live in Hebron — to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem for the 5-year-old’s cancer treatments. Over many rides, arranged by Humans without Borders, the two have formed a “very human connection.”
Another episode tells the stories of tour guides Yuval Ben-Ami, son of an Israeli army spokesman, and Husam Jubran, who spent a year as a teen in a wheelchair after being shot by Israeli soldiers. The podcast shares how the two friends give tourists a powerful experience – learning Israeli and Palestinian perspectives by crisscrossing the conflict by land and history. If you no longer believe Israelis and Palestinians can live together in their ancestral homeland, this podcast will give you hope that peace is indeed possible.
Israeli Identities and Struggles
Also known as the “This American Life” of Israel, this exceptionally well-produced and intimate podcast will take you to corners of Israel that even the best tour guides could never discover.
Hosted by Mishy Harman, Israel Story delves into different facets of life in Israel. Previous episodes have introduced listeners to the man who made buying weed as easy as ordering pizza, Losing my Religion about those who discover atheism, and my personal favourite that crisscrossed the country knocking on doors at every Herzl 48 they could reach and collecting stories from whomever they encountered.
There are also two four-part series that are magnificent. The first called ‘Mix-Tape’ shares the stories behind the songs that are the soundtrack of modern Israel, with the second called “The Wall” telling the story of four walls that divide and unite Israel like no others.
2020 has also seen the creation of several intimate portraits of how Israelis have married, fallen in love, died, and drifted apart in response to the coronavirus.