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Gilles Ben-David

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Gilles Ben-David with Moishe Oofnik

Gilles Ben-David (b. October 25, 1955), sometimes credited as Gil Ben-David, is an Israeli actor and puppeteer who performs Moishe Oofnik, Israel's answer to Oscar the Grouch. Fluent in English and French, as well as Hebrew, Ben-David first played the role on Rechov Sumsum in 1982. He reprised the part on Shalom Sesame, Sesame Street Stays Up Late, the 1997 Rechov Sumsum — Shara'a Simsim co-production with Palestine, live appearances, and most recently, the 2006 revival of Rechov Sumsum. He also performed Noah on Sippuray Sumsum and trained puppeteers for the new season of Rechov Sumsum.

As Ben-David recalled in an interview, "Like all good things in life, I got the part of Moishe Oofnik by accident." He was just out of acting school, and a friend was working as a production assistant on Rechov Sumsum. Ben-David asked if an audition could be arranged:

Just to know what an audition is like. I didn't even know what the show was about. So he tells me, 'listen, this is an audition for a puppet.' I didn't even know what a puppet was, I never held one in my hand. I said, 'I pay taxes, I deserve an audition.' [1]
He auditioned with actor Nathan Dattner. Operating the grouch, he said, "Come on, I'll fix your pencil," and broke Dattner's prop without hesitation. He won the part.

The puppeteer also spoke positively of the brief attempt at collaboration with Palestinian performers and crew:

Talk about cooperation. Take for example five people jammed among wires and monitors, sweating together, and someone says, 'Could you move your leg so I can see the monitor?' You're working with human beings, that's it. It's teamwork. [2]

Outside of Oofnik, Ben-David's career as a performer has encompassed the Spitting Image-style political puppet series Hartzufim (puppeteering Israel's Foreign Minister David Levy and other figures), as well as stage acting, and reciting Jules Verne in French and Hebrew at the Institut Francais 2005 Science and Imagination conference. On camera, he has appeared in various live-action films, in either English or Hebrew, including the thrillers The Ambassador and The Human Shield and the short film Pepe's Choice, plus episodes of the Israeli TV prison drama Zinzana.

Sources

  1. Ynet. August 2006 interview/profile, in Hebrew.
  2. Greenberg, Joel. "A Peaceful Crew Puts Muppets Where Its Mouth Is." Tel Aviv Journal. June 17, 1997

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