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

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria