Israel’s Religious-Music Revolution Can Bring It Closer to the Diaspora

Last week, the annual piyyut festival took place at the National Library in Jerusalem, drawing a large crowd and some of the country’s most popular musical acts. Originally meaning “liturgical poem,” piyyut has come to refer to musical performances of these poems, or variations of them, which have now become an element of the Israeli popular-music scene. Yossi Klein Halevi explains the significance of this genre’s success:

Piyyut has become not just part of the Israeli musical mainstream but the basis for the most creative and original expressions of indigenous Israeli music—the meeting point of East and West, religious and secular, even Jewish and Muslim.

That ingathering was on full display on stage—beginning with the extraordinary Firqat Alnoor Orchestra, led by a ḥaredi Jew and bringing together men and women from across different faiths to play Jewish and Muslim devotional music. [It] performed an Arabic-style version of the “Sticker Song,” [by Israel’s best-known hip-hop group, Hadag Naḥash].

Shaanan Street of Hadag Naḥash [then] sang a hip-hop version of an Ashkenazi melody to the prayer, “Who is like You, Adonai?” which led effortlessly into the closing prayer of the Mizraḥi Yom Kippur Service, El Nora Alilah: “God of awe, God of might/ Pardon us in this final hour/ Before the closing of the gate.”

Pre-state Zionist music, followed by popular Israeli music in its formative years, was the carrier of the ethos of the “new Hebrew man,” divorced from 2,000 years of Diaspora life. By contrast, the new Israeli music, inspired by piyyut, is the carrier of the re-Judaization of Israeli culture. The implicit message of the old Israeli music to Diaspora Jews was: this does not belong to you, only to those who live here. The message of the new Israeli music is exactly the opposite.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel and the Diaspora, Israeli music, Jewish music


Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation