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

Oct. 10 2019

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.

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

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Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media