The Old-Country Roots of Zionist Music

Jan. 17 2022

In a new book on the development of Israeli songs, the historian David Assaf explains the East European, and often ḥasidic, origin of many classic tunes of the kibbutz and of secular pioneers. Allan Arkush, in a glowing review, notes that the book “is mainly about Hebrew songs, but Yiddish is rarely very far away,” and it contains a history of one of the most popular Yiddish songs of all time. Titled “Oyfn pripitshek”—a pripitshek being an old-fashioned stove used for heating as well as cooking—the tune owes its existence to one of the great Yiddish writers:

Sholem Aleichem was a friend and enormous booster of the composer of “Oyfn pripetshik,” Mark Warshafsky (1848–1907). But how, Assaf wonders, could the great Yiddish author write a realistic story like “Boaz the Melamed,” in which a hard-hearted ḥeder teacher brutalizes his pupils, while being an enthusiastic promoter of a nostalgic song featuring a melamed [traditional elementary-school instructor] who lovingly teaches his kids the “alef-beys”? The apparent contradiction, Assaf explains, expresses the ambivalence of many early 20th-century secularists who had a traditional ḥeder education.

At that time, many of the writers and intellectuals who had already left the small town and religious tradition behind them and moved to big cities had a deep feeling in their hearts that the decline of the shtetl in which they had been raised was almost a fait accompli. They also felt a certain longing for some old-world institutions, which they had come to perceive as bulwarks against assimilation despite all their failings.

This is the heart of the matter, but it’s only a part of the story. Assaf tells us where “Oyfn pripitshek” comes from—not just fond memories but a mid-19th-century French song that depicts a teacher sitting on a stump in a glade, teaching his pupils the alphabet—and where it very quickly went: Tel Aviv, where a Hebrew version likewise takes the children outdoors and focuses more on planting trees than learning one’s letters.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Israeli music, Jewish music, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank