What Makes Israeli Jazz Unique

Barak Weiss, a Tel Aviv jazz impresario, gives a brief account of how this quintessentially American style of music came to the Jewish state, and how Israelis made it their own. (Interview by Noah Phillips.)

The first jazz band [in the land of Israel] was the Police Orchestra during the British mandate. In the 1950s and early 1960s we had some musicians who used to play jazz, but it was all American jazz, the standards. I think the first Israeli jazz album was recorded in the early 1970s. . . .

The distinct difference [that later developed] between the mainstream American sound and the Israeli sound is that we use odd meters. The great American songbook, all the songs by George Gershwin and Cole Porter, etc., which is the basis of American jazz, is all done in 4/4 [time]. But in Israel, because we have klezmer music from Eastern Europe, and the music from Morocco and Yemen, and [many other] types of music, we have all of these odd forms, like 7/4s, and 9/4s, and 11/4s, all these strange and unusual beats.

Another thing is the melodies—you have Middle Eastern melodies, Arab melodies, melodies that come from all over the Diaspora. Every one of the musicians is delving deep into his own heritage, the music that he heard at the Shabbat table, or in the shul, or in the Israeli folk music that we all sing, and mixing his own heritage into jazz.

Read more at Moment

More about: Arts & Culture, Israeli culture, Israeli music, Klezmer, Mandate Palestine


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