Ha-Gashash Ha-Ḥiver

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HA-GASHASH HA-ḤIVER (Heb. הגשש החיוור), Israeli comedy trio, including shaike levi (1948– ); gavri banai (1940– ); and israel poliakov (1941– ). Ha-Gashash is the longest-running and most successful comedy team in the history of Israeli entertainment. Over the years the threesome have built up an audience from across the entire spectrum of Israeli society and all age groups. Their vast range of material, sketches, and songs has appealed to the highbrow and the lowbrow, and their language has spawned numerous expressions that have found their way into everyday speech.

Ha-Gashash was created in 1963 by promoter Avraham "Pashanel" *Desheh. Levi, Banai, and Poliakov had previously worked under Desheh as part of the Tarnegolim ("Roosters") singing troupe and when it disbanded Desheh suggested that they form a trio performing comic sketches and songs. Ha-Gashash's first show, entitled Simḥat Zekinti, premiered in 1964 with material written by actor-comedian Shaike *Ophir. The show was a great success and Levi, Banai, and Poliakov decided to keep the team together. Ophir also wrote material for the next production, Tokhnit Dalet ("Plan d"), which came out in 1966 and included songs written and arranged by Aryeh Levanon, some of which became hits.

In 1969 the threesome decided to try their luck in the mainstream music arena by entering that year's Israel Song Festival with a song called Mayim le-David ha-Melekh ("Water for King David"). True to their comic bent, Levi, Banai, and Poliakov added a comic visual effect to their singing by wearing overly short biblical-style tunics. By now Ha-Gashash ha-Ḥiver had become the most popular comedy team in the country.

In the early 1970s the group used material written by Yossi *Banai, who doubled as director, as well as sketches derived from the works of world-renowned satirist Ephraim *Kishon. The group also furthered its across-the-board musical appeal with a string of hits, such as Naomi *Shemer's Yesh Li Ḥag ("I Have A Holiday"). Ha-Gashash later released an entire album of Shemer numbers, including Lu Yehi ("If Only") and Orḥim La-Kayiẓ ("Summer Guests"), which sold well.

In 1984 the threesome contributed sketches to the Labor Party's political broadcasts for that year's general elections, some of which formed the basis of subsequent productions, such as 1985's For a Fistful of Dollars directed by Motti *Kirschenbaum. In 1990 Levi, Banai, and Poliakov decided to further their solo careers but temporarily regrouped after being awarded the 2000 Israel Prize. All three continued to work separately, both as actors and singers, but periodically appeared with new Ha-Gashash material.

[Barry Davis (2nd ed.)]