Upon their arrival in Israel, Mizrahi Jews found themselves under a regime that demanded obedience, even in cultural matters. All were required to conform to an idealized pioneer figure who sang classical, militaristic 'Hebrew' songs. That is, before the 'Kasetot' era propelled Mizrahi artists into the spotlight, paving the way for today's musical stars. Part two of a musical journey beginning in Israel’s Mizrahi neighborhoods of the 1950s and leading up to Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf. Read part one here. By Shoshana Gabay (Translated from Hebrew by Yoav Kleinfeld) Our early encounter with Zionist music takes place in kindergarten, then later in…Read More... | 2 Comments
As the death of legendary Israeli singer and actor Arik Einstein became a nationwide event, it became clear that some of his mourners were more interested in lamenting what they saw as the end of Ashkenazi rule in Israel. Tom Pessah talks about the role that someone as great as Einstein can play in creating real change. By Tom Pessah I spent yesterday working on my dissertation at Tel Aviv University. Israeli students can be noisy, even in libraries, but the Sourasky Central Library is generally very quiet. I have my own corner on the first floor where I can…Read More... | 8 Comments
As an Israeli who was born and raised in the United States, few things were more important to me than formulating an Israeli identity. It was a strange complex, which, at its core, always strived to be "the most Israeli" possible (and always more Israeli than those who surrounded me). In our expat community, Israeliness was demonstrated in all sorts of way - there was (and still is) an Israeli scouts chapter, Israeli Remembrance Day and Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies, lectures on Israeli culture and history and a plethora of Zionist organizations that worked tirelessly to bring us a culture…Read More... | 1 Comment
Israeli singer and actor Arik Einstein died last night at 74. More than any other in the previous two decades, the moment of his death resembled that of Rabin’s – the face of the TV anchorman, the reactions of my friends (this time on social media), the people gathering in front of Tel Aviv City Hall. I was listening to a pop show on the radio when the music stopped; Einstein’s version of “Hachnisini” by Israeli national poet Haim Nachman Bialik was played, and we all knew. In the hours that followed, some crowned Einstein the "Israeli Sinatra." This is…Read More... | 2 Comments
A successful indie band whose radical lyrics dealt with Israeli taboos - from the Nakba to militarism - is making a comeback. Photographs by Goni Riskin The basic rules for political engagement in Israel: Yearning for peace is welcomed, criticism of the occupation is tolerated but not really liked, and mentions of the Nakba and refugees are completely taboo. These guidelines are adhered to even in the cultural world: Army Radio will gladly play the Song for Peace, but a tune by a mainstream artist based on soldiers' experiences in occupied Hebron might be banned, and songs about the Nakba…Read More... | 6 Comments
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