Shalom Sesame is a co-production between Sesame Street and its Israeli counterpart, Rechov Sumsum. The series was conceived as an attempt to bring Israeli life and Jewish culture to American audiences, and had a long gestation period.
The series starred porcupine Kippi Ben Kippod, and Moishe Oofnik, the Israeli counterparts, respectively, to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Benz, Arik, and Kermit Tzefarde, the Hebrew versions of Bert, Ernie and Kermit the Frog, were also highlighted and classic Bert and Ernie skits appeared in nearly every episode, but Jim Henson and Frank Oz never appeared as their characters in newly filmed material for the series. Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Grundgetta were the only American Muppets to appear in new material for Shalom Sesame. Violinist Itzhak Perlman was a frequent guest star. Other guest stars included American actors Sarah Jessica Parker, Jerry Stiller, Jeremy Miller, and Bonnie Franklin.
Both Hebrew and English were spoken on the program, and it was common to see American, as well as Israeli, material alternate between Hebrew and English.
The brainchild of Lewis Bernstein, who had been instrumental in developing Rechov Sumsum, the series began with a 20 minute pilot, funded by a Revson Foundation grant. The pilot featured Mandy Patinkin and Mary Tyler Moore, contrasting their different levels of awareness about the culture, as they explored the language and customs of Israel with Jewish and non-Jewish children. Later installments would feature location shooting dominating over studio skits, and more exploration of the physical geography of Israel as well as its social and linguistic map. The first and to date only adaptation of an international co-production for English-speaking audiences, the series was targeted at an older age group than either Rechov Sumsum or Sesame Street, approximately 6 to 12.
First wave (1985)
Initially, 26 episodes were planned in 1985, but only 5 full episodes were produced at that time. Although conceived for television, the initial episodes received video distributorship first. Unlike the My Sesame Street Home Video series that ran concurrently with Shalom Sesame, the videos were not released to retail. The original tapes were produced by and could be ordered directly from the Children's Television Workshop offices. The five episodes later made their TV debut in April 1988 in most markets.
Second and third wave (1990 - 1991)
A second season of episodes was filmed in 1990 and debuted that year during Hanukkah, with video sales following. Video sales began in retail around this time, CTW opting to license the series out to Jedaica entertainment companies such as SISU Home Entertainment rather than distribute the series through then-distributor of Sesame titles Random House Home Video. At this time, only three shows were produced.
Several months later, a second half of episodes aired in 1991 around the Passover season. Due to safety concerns for the American and Israeli performers at the height of the Gulf War, these final three shows were filmed at Sesame Street's New York production facilities, rather than using the Rechov Sumsum facilities in Tel Aviv.
Fourth wave (2010 - 2011)
- Jeremy, an American boy who's an on site reporter and game show host.
- Yoav, Jeremy's best friend who's a sports anchor and a contestant on Jeremy's game shows.
- Daphna, a friend of Jeremy and Yoav who is also a sports anchor with Yoav.
2010 - 2011 shows
The fourth season of shows were produced in 2009 and the first two episodes were released on DVD on October 5, 2010. Eric Jacobson performed Grover in this new set of shows and feature the Muppets from the 2006 revival of Rechov Sumsum. Anneliese van der Pol played the regular human co-star, with guests Christina Applegate, Jake Gyllenhaal, Debra Messing, Greg Kinnear, Cedric the Entertainer, Debi Mazar, and Eva Longoria. Each DVD features a bonus feature, "Grover's Video Player." The shows are available in the United Kingdom by Wienerworld Ltd. in 2012.
- Anneliese, visiting from the United States
- Kobi, the antique shop owner
- Shoshana, owner of "Shoshana's Place", a coffee house
- Lemlem, a vegetable gardener
- Boris, who organizes sports and games