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Farhud, 1941: Iraqi Jews remember a massacre

On the holiday of Shavuot in 1941, Iraq’s Jews experienced a pogrom that claimed over 180 lives and ended in mass looting. But there’s another story from the Farhud that often goes undiscussed: the bravery of Muslims during the crisis.

“The Farhud” / Foreword By Orit Bashkin (translated by Asaf Shalev)

Silently but not without some noise, a blessed thing is happening in Israel right now. The general category of “Mizrahiness” is falling apart into the stories of specific communities, cities, places, languages and memories: Iraq and Morocco, Aleppo and Oran, Ladino and Aramaic. All of them are asking to tell the stories of their Jewish communities. As part of this beautiful centrifugal process – which is being led by novelists, poets, historians, folklorists, literary and musical artists – the history of the Jewish community of Iraq is also crystallizing. This magnificent community has sprouted an amazing literature written by Jews in Arabic. In Iraq, the European education of community members did not prevent them from falling in love with Arab literature and culture, which were taught in the Jewish schools (both public and private). The love was preserved here in Israel as well. In Iraq, they also used the term Arab Jews, at times politically (to express support for the Palestinians) and at times culturally to connote Jews that love Arabic and Arab culture.

This love and the desire to integrate into modern Iraqi society were challenged starting in 1939. Part of the nationalistic Arab elites – and I stress, only part – sought to cooperate with Germany, as an enemy of England (as did anti-British forces in the liberation movements of India, in the Irish liberation army, and even in the Lehi, or Stern Gang). In April and May of 1941, Iraq experienced a military coup, led by Rashid Ali al-Gaylani. When the British forces were about to enter Baghdad (on the first and second of June), with the defeat of Rashid Ali’s forces, a terrible slaughter against the Jews of Iraq took place. A mob of discharged soldiers, military youth groups, corrupt cops, city dwellers – and on the second day, poor robbers and looters – took the lives of at least 180 Jews. The British forces could have entered the city earlier and saved the Jews but they decided to not get involved. The Farhud is at the center of a number of studies, but...

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Now trending: Orientalism for babies

Most of the world is not familiar with post-colonial theory, and this album’s success is due to the audience’s naiveté. But forget politics; let me hug a baby and sing songs of nostalgia, anew.

By Ilana Shazur

Whoever chose the name “Baby Oriental 2″ likely never heard of the term Orientalism. Had they heard of it, they would never have dared choose that name. Perhaps the opposite would be true, since they would be well versed in the discourse on Orientalism in academia and among the radical left. In any case, one of the most successful albums in Israel today is full of “world music” renditions of classic children’s songs. It might just be the format for international success.

Upon first listening to the album, I couldn’t help but shudder. On the one hand, the renditions are lovely and refreshing. On the other, it is a mixture that does not differentiate between cultures and nations. Let’s start with “Pizmon L’Yakinton” (“A Chorus for the Hyacinth”) by Liora Yitzhak, the most Indian singer in Israel today. The combination of Hindi with Hebrew sounds exotic and acceptable ever since she accompanied Israeli singers like Idan Raichel, Yoav Itzhak, Ahuva Ozeri, HaDag Nachash and Sholomo Bar with the protest song “Ritalin.” Pizmon L’Yakinton is the first song Liora Yitzhak recorded in Israel, and became a hit within a month. Is it because Israel’s Army Radio included it in its playlist? (And is it not absurd that that power is held by a few people in the army?) Is it because these well-known songs have been worn and played out, and here comes this international style to revive them? The small ensemble that is responsible for the music is moving and sweeps you away. The tune “Etze Li Hashuka” (“To the Market I Go”) is danceable and will certainly suit intimate moments between parents and children. Morin Nehedar’s lovely waltz makes me move, and the gentle simplicity of “Danny Gibor” (“Danny the Hero”) reawakened my compassion for the sad child of my youth. Touching.

Pizmon L’Yakinton – Liora Yitzhak

The album is a record-breaker in terms of sales. Parents who bought it did not feel reservations about the musical mixtures, since the Israeli ear is accustomed to such combinations. In fact, Israeli music is one big mix of styles and influences. I...

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LISTEN: Classic Lebanese sounds, from jazz to Fairouz

Jeries Murkus Ballan is a 25-year-old musician and performer who lives between Nazareth and Haifa. Ballan, who teaches music, plays the bouzouki and works in dance and theater, brings us a mixtape of classic Lebanese songs, including everything from classical to jazz. 

By Khen Elmaleh

Tell us a bit about the mixtape

The mixtape is made up of Lebanese music, from folklore to the contemporary.

What was your first encounter with music?

I don’t exactly remember when I started becoming interested in music. Since I was young I was interested in everything from theater and acting to playing music. I mostly grew up in my grandparents’ home in Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, where I was exposed to cultures from across the world, especially music. From Tchaikovsky and Mozart to Joan Baez and Fairouz. We listened to a lot of South American music, Lebanese music, classical operas and protest songs from the 60s.

Thanks to their home I now draw on all of these influences when I make music.

What came next?

As a child I listened to a lot of Fairouz, as well as her son, Ziad Rahbani. When I began studying music professionally at 13, jazz became a central part of my life and began blending in with the Lebanese music I had been listening to my whole life. When I started studying composition at Haifa University, contemporary music, or as it’s called – classical-modern music – caught my attention and began changing the way I understood the composition process.

Jeries Murkus Ballan. (photo: Adi Ofer)

Jeries Murkus Ballan. (photo: Adi Ofer)

Our identity as Arabs or Jews in this land is very eclectic, and it’s reflected in my musical influences and preferences. Mahler and Stravinsky were also eclectic.

Where do you buy your music?

Over the last few years I’ve been traveling to Jordan to buy albums and recordings of live performances that you just can’t find in Israel. I also share pirated songs, especially Lebanese music that isn’t found in record stores today.

Before we press play?

The music I chose was made through a real compositional process of writing, as well as culling together musicians from several countries to perform the music itself. I am especially fond of the pieces by the composer Ziad Rahbani,...

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Neither Russian nor Israeli: Lessons from a journey to the homeland

After years of denying her Russian identity, Osnat Ita Skoblinski finally made peace with the cultural world of her friends and family. However, she never expected her first trip back ‘home’ to bring out feelings of hate and revulsion.

By Osnat Ita Skoblinski

My parents, who immigrated to Israel in the 70s, refused to have a decorated Christmas tree in our home. “We’re Jews,” they said, as they set out for a Novy God party on December 31st with Santa hats on their heads. Born in Israel to parents from the Soviet Union, I found New Year’s Eve celebrations especially confusing. I wanted a tree like they had in American films, but the trees I saw in Russian homes went along with characters like Snegurochka, and with wishing each other a “happy new year.”

Yulia Keslow’s post on Novi God (Hebrew) helped me delineate my outsider experience of being Russian in Israel. I recognized many of the traditions from home, yet had never heard of others. I was exposed to Russian culture almost only through the familial spectrum: the holidays, food, language. I related to life under dictatorship through my parents’ trauma and television. My meager knowledge of Russian popular music and literature was filtered through my parents’ cultural world.

The identity of a daughter of immigrants is interesting, because it is composed of nostalgia for something that I never really had – a kind of simulacra of nostalgia. This merely heightens the feeling that something was stolen from me when I was made to feel ashamed of being Russian. My identity was formed by a deep connection with Russian culture, along with an attraction to, and curiosity about, a culture that is actually foreign. This identity is not unique, but rather shared by many of my friends, sons and daughters of Russian immigrants from the 70s – a wave of immigration that changed the demographics and culture of Israel forever. It was an immigration of dissidents, diehard Zionists who were persecuted for their beliefs and torn from their families with no way back. Those circumstances created a group of 163,000 former residents of the USSR in Israel, who experienced assimilation and erasure, largely by choice, out of a strong desire to fulfill the Zionist fantasy and erase their connection with the detested Soviet Union.

This early wave gave birth to some very confused Sabras (Israeli-born citizens). In...

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Outside the jukebox: Female sounds of the Middle East

To mark International Women’s Day, Café Gibraltar is proud to present ‘Bat HaMakom/Bint al-Balad,’ (Local Woman), a compilation of songs – some of them debuted here for the very first time – by the most innovative female artists making music in Israel today.

You can download the album for free, courtesy of the artists.

Click here to download the full album

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Ester Rada – Nano Ney

One can recognize the melody of “Nano Ney” from Rada’s rather marginal role in Idan Reichel’s song “Mima’amakim.” In her version, Ester Rada gives the song its proper dues, with lots of energy, a groove that gets stuck in your head and an excellent rock out outro. The song, off of her debut album, is also the first ever song in Amharic to make it to Galgalatz’s (Israeli Radio) playlist.

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Natalie Peretz – Ti Rashrash

Natali Peretz, one of the contestants on the first season of “Eyal Golan is Callng You,” breathes new life to one of Lebanon’s biggest hits in the last years. Peretz’s version takes Rami Hussein’s Debka and turns it into contemporary Mizrahi dance. Before Peretz, Hanin Zoabi’s Balad party used the song for one of its hilarious election campaign commercials.

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Neta Elkayam – Bint L’Mnam*

Bint L’Mnam, or “daughter of dreams” in Moroccan Arabic, is the theme song from Hanna Azoulay Hasfari’s new film “Anashim Ktumim” (“Orange People”). Amit Hai Cohen brought his personal touch to the traditional-sounding production, and Elkayam’s voice works perfectly with the lyrics, which she wrote along with social activist Reuven Abergil.

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Ilana Eliya – Eshet Hayil

In an interview with Café Gibraltar, Ilana Eliya said that all the melodies to the classic “Eshet Hail” were always so sad – she wanted to create an uplifting melody from a woman’s point of view. But behind it all lies something else: the fact that a woman sings it, perhaps about herself and to herself, overturns existing power dynamics: instead of men thanking women of taking over traditional roles in the home, it becomes a song about recognizing one’s self-worth, pride, creativity and power.

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Yael Horwitz – Hasta el Final

This week we lost...

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Letter of support for the ultra-Orthodox struggle against draft law

Over 70 Israeli activists publish an open letter in support of the ultra-Orthodox community, as it struggles against a new law that would draft its young men into the army or national civil service.

(Translated from Hebrew by Asaf Shalev)

About 30,000 Ultra-Orthodox came to anti-draft rally (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

About 30,000 Ultra-Orthodox came to anti-draft rally (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

We, civilians and activists – religious, masorti (tradition-committed) and secular – wish to express our support for the struggle of the ultra-Orthodox community against forced military enlistment.

There must be an end to the empty rhetoric employed by the Israeli government and its constituent parties that are calling for the “sharing of the burden” of military service, by which they are deceiving the public. Such rhetoric is designed to divert public attention from real inequality in Israel:

Inequality among various segments of the population (including the ultra-Orthodox, whose members suffer from dire poverty);

Inequality in educational and employment opportunities in Israel;

Inequality in the moving of certain groups to the country’s periphery as opposed to the concentration of other segments of the population in the geographic center (the economic and cultural center of Israel);

Inequality in the budget allocation for Western cultural activity in Tel Aviv, as opposed to the lack of allocation for Arab, Mizrahi and Ethiopian cultural activity or for cultural activity outside of Tel Aviv in general;

Inequality in the surplus of Jewish Ashkenazi secular men in government, academia, the justice system, and in the economic elite, and in the surplus of Mizrahis, Arabs, Ethiopians and Russians in boarding schools for youth at risk and prisons, in the employment of independent contractors, and in the lower economic classes.

It appears that there is glaring inequality in every area. However, centering the debate on “equality” around the question of military service makes a mockery of the very concept of equality. This process is smokescreen to conceal the truth about severe inequality in economic opportunity, education, employment, funding for arts and culture, and other areas – inequality that does not affect the members of Knesset who spearheaded the very issue of “sharing the burden.”

It is clear to us that conscripting the ultra-Orthodox in Israel would severely compromise their ability to uphold their religious values, while forcing upon them a militaristic Zionist nationalism, which...

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Meet the man who won't let Israel's musical past die

At first glance, 26-year-old Dudi Petimer may seem like just another guy with a penchant for oldies and a throwback Elvis hairdo. Equipped with an 18,000-strong vinyl collection and endless knowledge of Israeli musical history, Petimer has taken responsibility for preserving the remnants of a culture that never quite made it into the mainstream.

By Khen Elmaleh

Dudi Petimer and his unrivaled record collection.

Dudi Petimer and his unrivaled record collection.

It’s difficult for me to remember the first time I encountered the name Dudi Petimer during my wanderings on YouTube. What is certain is that since then, I’ve seen the name many times, to the point that it has become an inseparable part of my search for nostalgic pieces of music. I actually remember the first version of his YouTube page, in which his name appeared as Dudi “Elvis” Petimer. The nickname, along with the songs he uploaded, left no room for doubt: we were talking about a middle-aged man, a romantic, who mainly deals with longing for the past, and who maybe even grows a small, nostalgic pompadour – one that recalls a time in which he jammed all the new rhythm and blues hits with his friends while dancing in the discotheques of Ramle to the sounds of the “rhythm bands.” Those were the days, when the bands brought the rhythm. A big surprise awaited me.

Although he dons a pompadour, and could easily pass for the imaginary fourth member of the Eskimo Limon crew (a famous Israeli film series from the 1970s), it turns out that Dudi Petimer is a young man who, surprisingly, decided to turn his love for the sounds of the past into an enterprise of cultural preservation. He owns an astonishing 18,000 records, including rarities and one-of-a-kinds, which he shares with the world on his YouTube channel (which is updated on a daily basis).

When we decided to hold an interview and put together a mix tape, we went over Petimer’s huge song collection in an attempt to find the rarest and most interesting tracks that he had collected over the years. Throughout that time, we began noticing that each of them had something in common – they all came from the margins. Aside from the music, we found a story of a society – one built from a diversity of...

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Reviving the spirit of Yemen's Jewish goldsmiths

Although goldsmithing among the Jewish community in Yemen goes back generations, most Yemenites were stripped of their ability to continue their work upon their arrival in Israel. The few who remained in the profession watched as their work lost its meaning in Israeli-tzabar culture.

By Tom Fogel

My family from my mother’s side is a family of goldsmiths. It’s a bit strange to write that out, since none of the grandchildren bore witness to our family’s profession. Like many who came from Yemen, the patriarchs of the family were not allowed to bring their tools to Israel, and the women’s jewelry was buried in the sands of Aden. And those who did bring their tools and jewelry did not get them back upon stepping off the plane. Many Yemenite immigrants say the lack of those tools led to their desperate situation upon arriving in Israel. They were used to the social mobility that accompanied a profession such as goldsmithing. In Israel, in the ma’abarot (transit camps for Jewish immigrants) and afterward in permanent towns, they were pushed into working in agriculture and construction. Many weren’t able to break from the route planned for them, and never returned to goldsmithing.

A new book by Yael Gilat brings the stories of Jewish goldsmiths who were able to break through this barrier and continue their work in Israel. Some of them insisted or lied in order to bring their tools along with them, while others were integrated into hegemonic institutions that allows them to work in goldsmithing. But whether they were independent or employed, these goldsmiths were resigned to adapt to the reality and fit themselves into the way the hegemony views them on the one hand, and the way it views their jewelry on the other hand. Their personal stories tell the history of Yemenite art as it encounters Israel’s hegemony.

Yemenite goldsmith Yosef Araqi.

Mizrahi authenticity, Hebrew antiquity

In the beginning of the 20th century, the study of Eastern culture sought to locate the ancient and untainted source for contemporary Mizrahi culture, which is seen as inferior. Zionism and Israeliness sought the Bible in the Middle East, specifically in Yemen. The biblical branding had two functions: it allowed a burgeoning Israeli-tzabar culture to adopt Mizrahi motifs (folk dancing and music, embroidery) while...

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Mixtape: Sounds from the 'other' Israel 1967-1978

Maor Anava is a 28-year-old DJ and record collector from Tel Aviv. He helped found the Fortuna record label, which specializes in reissuing rare, 60s and 70s Middle Eastern psychedelic music on vinyl. Anava sat down with Café Gibraltar to talk about the high demand for Middle Eastern music among record collectors, and how his biggest customers don’t even live in Israel.

By Khen Elmaleh

DJ Maor Anava.

Tell us a bit about the mixtape

I put together some of the rarer things I’ve collected over the years. What unites them is that they were recorded in Israel between the years 1967-1978 and somehow were relegated to the margins and did not receive their dues during those years. These are the songs I’ve been playing for over the past year and are potentially going to be reissued under Fortuna, expect for the Tsvia Abarbanel song, which was reissued last year.

What was your first encounter with music?

At home. My father is of Syrian descent (from Aleppo) and we always listened to Egyptian music like Farid al-Atrash and Mohammed Abdel Wahab. We also listened to Samira Tawfik and Sabah, two Lebanese singers that he loved and was always played at our house. I also got a lot from my Moroccan side – one day I found a pile of records at my grandmother’s house who lived in Haifa’s Makhane David neighborhood. When she saw that I was becoming interested in music, she began talking about and showing me photos from the musical gatherings that took place in the neighborhood, which were organized by her neighbor at the time, Suleiman Almaghrabi, a phenomenal Moroccan singer.

What came next?

Black music. Mostly reggae, calypso, rocksteady – everything that comes from the Caribbean. Hip hop, funk and Latin groove.

Plastic or digital?

Obviously, I have a special place for vinyl. Taking care of plastic, together with the packaging, the design, the credits – I see it as an added value. However, we’re in 2013 and I’m not trying to knock the digital format. Half of the things I love most and play come exclusively from digital.

Where do you buy your music? 

A website owned by a French guy named Victor, he’s a vinyl collector who sells his stuff through his site. We...

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Umm Kulthum in Vogue: Manipulations in visual media

‘Manipulation,’ an exhibit that opened this past Thursday as part of the annual Jerusalem Design Week, brings together the country’s top graphic designers to examine whether the field of visual communications is itself nothing more than that – a manipulation.

By Eitam Toubul and Shira Glick

Designer Daniel Mouktel, who is known for his previous graphic work for the “Arisa” line, criticizes the fashion world using his work “Fashion Force” to show how the world is “dictated by trends that decide what is right and what is out of fashion.” At the head of the pyramid sits Vogue, which serves as a bridge between fashion corporations and consumers. The magazine dictates what is considered fashionable, though it often ignores whole cultures, populations and figures whom it views as not worth its time.

We must ask: why is it that Umm Kulthum, one of the most well-known singers and a fashion icon in the Arab world, cannot appear in the magazine along with other singers? And for that matter, what counts as superior and what counts as inferior? The exhibit takes headlines from actual Vogue covers, replacing the images with new ones in order to raise questions about the superior-inferior binary. Moukatel critiques the edicts of the fashion world using cover photos, and the alternative he presents leaves the responsibility in the hands of the editor, who ensures that the manipulation permeates the designer in charge of the front page.

Studio Zifim, on the other hand, offers an alternative for a different cover, a musical cover, if you will, and broadens the question. The studio will present three “limited edition” albums of three artists – Avi Biter, Moshe Cohen and Tamir Gal. According to the artists, the project will make use of original visual elements from movies that tend to be considered “inferior.” The 90s were the height of what is known as “Musikat Dikaon” (“Depression Music”). The giants of the genre – Ofer Levi, Avi Biter, Tamir Gal, Moshe Cohen, Liat Banai and Reuven Hamalach – sold hundreds of thousands of records with almost no exposure in the mainstream media, which generally ignored them. The albums were released independently, thus their covers, similar to the music, relate to their audience at eye level. Presenting...

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Black humor: These Mizrahi comedians will make fun of you too

By Rafael Balulu

The Mizrahi discourse has its own set of eloquent speakers. Although varied, one can say that it seems that in 2013 there are many voices who are speaking in the name of this complex identity. Comedy has always been a subversive tool that made it possible to get away with poking fun of the holiest of holies. Galit Hoogi and Tom Aharon are two new, sharp stand up comedians who are challenging everything we know about stand up that deals with Israeli culture and Mizrahi identity.

Comedians Galit Hoogi and Tom Aharon. (photo: Rafael Balulu)

From the days of Avner Dan’s imitations of different ethnic groups to Shalom Asayag’s caricatured grandmother, Mizrahim and other cultural minorities were always ridiculed. Aharon, a computer programmer who grew up in Ra’anana and lives in Tel Aviv, enjoys taking jabs at the Israeli mainstream cultural and economic conversation, with no boundaries nor a shred of political correctness. Hoogi, on the other hand, is a film researcher and graduate of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School whose stand up comes from a personal place. Mostly, she tries her best to make fun of herself. In this way, she is able to connect with her audience while planting the seeds of social critique. Both of them are hilarious, talented and vastly different from the world of Israeli stand up comedy. I met up wit them for a short discussion in the days leading up to an evening dedicated to Mizrahi humor in Tel Aviv.

Tom: I enjoy telling jokes in a specific context because my identity or origin allows me to do so. When I talk about Ashkenazim, it’s different than Ashkenazim talking about Ashkenazim. It’s a tension I really enjoy. I try to look at it from a new angle, since the topic has been talked about to no end. The world of standup only has room for new angles, the kind that no one has ever paid attention to. Lets just say that it’s not academia and we also want to laugh at those who are part of this discourse.

Galit: What does it mean to laugh at them? I’m not trying to do something new – that’s less interesting to me. I feel like an...

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Mixtape: DJs make music to break down borders

DJs Ophir Toubul and Gal Kadan are in the business of making music to break down borders. Culling sounds from all corners of the world, the duo (known as Laissez-Passer) strings together everything from Mizrahi music to Jamaican dancehall to Kanye West. Most of all, they just want you to dance.

By Ophir Toubul and Gal Kadan

Playlist:

Diblo Dibala – Laissez-Passer (Excerpt)
Stromae – Papaoutai
Major Lazer – Watch Out for This (Bumaye)
Eyal Golan – Hazak Mimeni
Mahendra Kapoor & Suresh Wadekar – Sada Vasda Raje Punjab (Uproot Andy RMX)
Rima – Sidi Mansour (feat. Rayan)
M.I.A. – Y.A.L.A.
TYP feat Omer Adam – Meshuga
Kanye West – New Slaves (Brenmar Club Edit)
Fnaïre – Z’Waq
Omer Adam ft. Arisa – Tel Aviv

Tell us a little bit about the mixtape

Ophir: This is the fifth mixtape to be put out by Laissez-Passer (not to be confused with the blog that deals with issues surrounding asylum seekers, foreign workers and refugees). The idea behind our mixes is to combine all kinds of different music from around the world. We chose to include ten new songs that we both love and think that represent the spirit of what is happening in the world right now. We put together a mix which includes M.I.A. from London by way of Sri Lanka, Major Lazer with a Jamaican tune, Stromae with a song about missing his Rwandan father, the Moroccan hip hop ensemble Fnaire, Kanye West and his brilliant song “New Slaves,” and of course the two most interesting artists around in Israel today – Omer Adam and Eyal Golan.

What was your first encounter with non-mainstream music?

Gal: It’s 2004. A friend puts on a Gogol Bordello album in the car, and my world just explodes. Gogol Bordello, at that point, was the epitome of “immigrant music” – political, heavy, ass kicking.

What kind of music did you grow up on?

Gal: I grew up on all kinds of rock music. From poppy things like Aerosmith to metal. Afterwards I moved toward electronic stuff – today it’s much more fluid. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of synth pop and new wave from the 80s. Last week I happened across Etnix’s “Kiturna Masalla” and fell in love. I look...









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Longing for Zion, dreaming of Kurdistan

More than 80 years after first immigrating to Israel, Kurdish Jews still maintain ties to their traditions and culture, as well as to their non-Jewish ethnic kin. The Israeli government has ignored efforts to preserve their language and music; but now, the younger generation is taking matters into its own hands. 

By Hagar Shezaf

All liberty-deprived nations share one common feeling: a longing for home. The Kurdish nation, which lives primarily in the region situated between northwest Iran, northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and the northern corner of eastern Syria, is one of those same nations striving for independence and waging a lengthy war for the right to self-determination in its historical homeland. Their struggle comes in many forms – from hip hop songs which describe the longing for freedom to armed struggle, which has taken the lives of countless Kurds and others.

The Kurdish struggle began at the end of the First World War, when the Kurds were promised that they would be able to establish an independent state on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. But because the areas populated by Kurds were rich in oil, they were quickly conquered by the new Turkish ruler, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, and the land was divided between the new Turkish state, Iraq and Syria. The promise to grant the Kurds self-determination was forgotten among the thicket of political and economic interests.

Today, most Kurds are Muslim and live in the Kurdistan region. In the past, however, there were approximately 150,000 Jewish Kurds who lived in the area. They were considered the oldest diaspora community. According to several holy Jewish literary sources, the first Jews arrived in the mountains of Kurdistan during the days of the First Temple.

The majority of the Kurdish community in Kurdistan lived in Iraq and Iran and spoke various dialects of Aramaic. The synagogues were the center of the community’s spiritual life. The Kurdish piyutim (ancient Jewish liturgical poems) – which were cornerstones of Kurdish-Jewish culture – are mostly based on well-known Jewish texts, but their music melodies are based on maqams (Arabic musical scale) and often on popular Kurdish music. The saz and the baglama (stringed instruments), the zonra (from the oboe family) and the dahol (bass drum) are the main instruments found in Kurdish music. It is the singer, however, who gets to shine – as he/she is traditionally in charge of writing the music...

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