Reviving Traditional Sephardi Music in Turkey

Riding a wave of local interest in the music of Turkish minority groups, the Istanbul-based band Sefarad began performing updated versions of Ladino folk songs—some in the original language and some translated into Turkish—achieving no small degree of commercial success. But the moment did not last, and in 2007 Sefarad broke up, only four years after it released its first album. Ezgi Üstündağ provides some historical context:

[Following its esablishment in 1924, the Republic of Turkey] set out to build a national culture, to which music was critical. The state banned Ottoman and religious music, while, [in the words of one historian], limiting conservatories to teaching government-controlled “Westernized” and “Turkified” folk music. Radio stations exclusively played Western and government-approved folk music in these early decades. . . .

Sephardi Jews . . . were still made to feel like guests rather than natural-born citizens in the early years of the republic; often, when a Jew appealed the denial of his request to serve in the military or bureaucracy, the authorities would remind him that his kin “owed a debt” to the Turkish people. . . .

Language became another serious point of contention. While the constitution allowed Jews to educate their children in Hebrew and Ladino, Hebrew [continued to be used for ritual and scholarly purposes] and Ladino was rarely encountered outside the home. . . . . [In practice], Jewish community leaders [began] to educate their children in Turkish for the first time in nearly 500 years. . . . By the 1960s, Turkish had become the mother tongue of most of the nation’s Jews.

Read more at Reorient

More about: Arts & Culture, Jewish music, Ladino, Sephardim, Turkish Jewry

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict