Jewish Rock, Israeli-Style

In recent years, Israeli popular music—once avowedly secular—has drawn increasingly on Jewish tradition for inspiration, as Yossi Klein Halevi writes:

In 2007, rocker Meir Banai’s stunning album Hear My Cry offered soft, almost reluctant rock versions of Yom Kippur prayers of Jews from Muslim countries, using traditional melodies as the starting point for his own compositions—and won the equivalent of Israel’s Grammy award for the best composer. In 2009, the hard-rocker Berry Sakharof released a groundbreaking album called Red Lips, a meditation on mortality whose complex Hebrew lyrics were written by the 11th-century Spanish-Jewish poet Solomon ibn Gabirol. The themes of vulnerability and judgment resonated in a country under siege, and both albums became runaway hits.

Since then, this trend—fusing devotional music with rock—has become perhaps the most creative force in Israeli music. In recent months, collaborations among leading musicians have produced albums featuring the songs of East European Jewish mysticism, the prayer poems of Libyan Jews, religious hymns sung by European Jews during the Holocaust, and several versions of Yemenite prayers.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Arts & Culture, Israeli culture, Israeli music, Jewish music, Judaism in Israel, Mizrahi Jewry

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship