HaGashashDVDComedian Shaike Levi of Israel’s famous HaGashashim comedy group plays a critical role in Shemi Zahrin’s wonderful new film The World is Funny (my Top Pick on the 2013 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema schedule).

I must admit that HaGashashim was new to me, but after looking them up and watching The World is Funny a second time, I now see them as the Israeli version of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

So when you watch The World is Funny (and I sincerely hope that you do), anytime anyone says the words “The World is Funny,” just substitute the words “And now for something completely different,” and laugh along with all the folks onscreen!

Here is some of the background information I’ve culled from Google.

Yisrael (Poli) Poliakov met Gavriel (Gavri) Banai in the IDF. After their discharge from the army, Poli and Gavri joined the HaTarnegolim (“The Roosters”) band, where they met Yeshayahu (Shaike) Levi. Poli, Gavri and Shaike clicked, and HaGashash HaHiver was born in 1963.

Over the years, the trio put on many comedy shows (consisting of music and skits) which became classics in their own right and contributed numerous quotes to modern spoken Hebrew. They also starred in comedies which became major hits such as Givat Halfon Eina Ona (Halfon Hill Doesn’t Answer). Sadly, Poli died of a massive heart attack in 2007, ending the trio’s phenomenally popular run.

In 2000, when HaGashashim received the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the judges issued this statement:

The uniqueness of HaGashash HaHiver is in its two faces: On the one hand, it reflects the life and the culture that were created in Israel during its first 50 years and in the course of wars, immigration absorption and the struggle for its existence. On the other hand, it has taken an active role in shaping this culture, creating its language and sketching its identity…

Their language, Gashashit, and the images they created broke the walls of the inflexible Hebrew language and became standard idiomatic phrases, so much so that he who doesn’t know them doesn’t know a large part of the culture that has sprouted here. Phrases such as, ‘Drive in peace, the keys are inside,’ ‘There was an engine?’ [referring to the “Drafted Car” skit where the army returns a requisitioned car without any of its original parts], ‘Israbluff’ and many others that became part of our everyday language.

Here one version of The Drafted Car (which I found online):

The sketch opens with 2 soldiers entering the stage telling jokes and performing comic routines—thus establishing the comic atmosphere for the main part of the sketch: the dialogue between them and a reserve duty soldier who arrives to release his car.

The reserve soldier is permitted to take away his car, which is parked beneath a tree just opposite the office; but soon enough he returns complaining that this is not his car.

The two soldiers explain that the car had to be repainted in order to camouflage it, ending with the words: “Drive away in peace; the keys are inside.”

From then on, the reserve soldier keeps returning and complaining that something else is missing. The two soldiers, who always provide a humorous explanation, tell him it is only a matter of a minor expense, and repeat again and again: “Drive away in peace; the keys are inside.”

Eventually, in deepest frustration, the reserve soldier returns to say there is no engine, so how is he supposed to drive the car away?

Their answer, in unison, is: “What? You didn’t bring a tow truck?”


Click HERE for Poli Poliakov’s obituary posted by YNet in 2007.


HaGashashim performing The Drafted Car sketch. Shaike Levi is the tall guy in the middle.

A Note on Names & Pronunciation:

The name HaGashash HaHiver means “The Pale Tracker,” but the  nickname most commonly used for the trio is HaGashashim (for the plural form of “HaGashash”).  It should be pronounced “Ha Ga-Sha-Sheem,” meaning “The Trackers.”

Their language, Gashashit, should be pronounced “Ga-Sha-Sheet,” altho I’m sure many Hebrew speakers are amused by the way this word looks to English speakers 😉

Posted below: Shaike Levy on set with Shemi Zarhin (the writer/director of The World is Funny). Photo Credit: Rafi Daloya: http://www.edb.co.il/name/n0008911/


(IMPORTANT CAVEAT: I found this photo online at  http://www.edb.co.il/title/t0027482/photos/id=12864 If this photo is under copyright protection, please contact me ASAP at tzivi AT msn DOT com!!!)

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