Mitch Albom, author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, once wrote, “There’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking.” Mishy Harman, the high-spirited, curly-haired host and co-founder of the hit radio show, Israel Story, says these stories matter.
Modeled after NPR’s This American Life, Israel Story sets out to change the way people relate to each other through sharing their stories. “At Israel Story, we try to take complicated realities and complicate them further,” says Harman, who explains that when people see others on the street, it is natural to assign labels and make judgments about who they must be. But, with no visuals on the radio, instant judgments disappear, allowing audiences to listen to the stories of people they might never speak with.
This is especially true in Israel, a nation so small, yet so complicated, so diverse, and, as the joke goes, where impatience has its own vocabulary. Israel Story provides listeners the opportunity to hear the stories of Israel’s people, whether an Orthodox couple, a Jordanian Palestinian, a refugee, or, to quote Harman, “even an Ex-IDF general who became a singing buffalo farmer in rural Wisconsin.”
Last month, during his 48 hours in Tidewater, in addition to speaking at the Simon Family JCC as part of the Community Relations Council’s Israel Today series, Harman spoke to two Entrepreneurial groups, to students at Green Run High School, and to United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Young Adult Division, and he appeared on WHRV’s The Cathy Lewis Show and on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Harman shared his story of how he fell into radio, almost by accident, and the tremendous impact that his podcast has had on Israel, as well as on the global community. He also offered a taste of the show.
In keeping with the week’s Valentine’s Day theme, Harman shared three captivating stories of love that spanned over the course of a century and three generations. Using audio clips and photos, he shared the story of two Holocaust survivors who found love in the swamps of British Mandate Palestine, of an American mother living in Tzfat who adopted four special needs children so that they could each have a partner that understood their challenges, and a tale of the 46-year friendship between the wife of the famous Israeli general, Moshe Dayan, and the mother-in-law of Yassir Arafat.
Rabbi Alexander Haber of B’nai Israel Congregation stunned his family and acquaintances when he shared his personal connection to Harman’s story. “When Mishy was halfway through his story about the couple in Tzfat who had adopted special needs children, I had a sudden flash of realization. I turned to my wife and said, ‘I stayed at their house 20 years ago! This was exactly Mishy’s point. We interact with people every day, but we don’t stop to consider the story they have to tell.’”
Harman’s performance reminded everyone that when experiences are shared, hearts are opened and people realize that more similarities exist than differences. No one is alone in the journey of life, and in the end, each person is comprised of thousands of stories. Why not share them?
For information on the Israel Today series, including upcoming events and a full list of community partners, visit www.JewishVa.org/IsraelToday or call 965-6107.
- Raizy Cook