+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

LISTEN: The song of the 'threat' to the Zionist project

A few weeks ago, I was in south Tel Aviv on a Friday night conducting research. As I walked down Salame Street, I heard a chorus singing above me. It was coming from the second story of a low-slung, dilapidated apartment building.

I saw a few latecomers entering the building — Eritrean women draped in white; Eritrean men, also wearing white, and carrying what looked like large walking sticks. As I listened to the music, I realized the sticks were being struck against the floor for percussion. I guessed that the singing was probably some sort of prayer.

There was something deeply moving about the hope and devotion I heard in the voices. Amid the poverty and desperation of south Tel Aviv; amid the growing threats to and violence towards the refugee community; as the government incites against Africans; on the eve of the deportation of south Sudanese–still, these people had faith. No, it was more than faith. Their voices carried joy.

The singing gave me goose bumps and I stood on the street corner, transfixed. I managed at some point to get my recorder out–I’d just been conducting interviews–and took the following audio:

EritreanChurch by 972mag

When the singing ended, the clerk at the kiosk adjacent to the building told me that there is an Eritrean church there. It’s packed every Friday night and Saturday morning, he added.

A Filipino woman singing during an prayer session against the deportation (photo: Mya Guarnieri)

It reminded me of the hidden Filipino churches I’d been to in south Tel Aviv–tiny, bare bone chapels without signs. There, I watched women weep as they begged God to stop the deportation of Israeli-born children of migrant workers. I saw these same women cry out of gratitude for the life they have, no matter how difficult their circumstances.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the big threat to, as Eli Yishai calls Israel, “the Zionist project.” Men and women and children who–when faced with violence and detention and deportation–lift their voices in prayer.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. Philos

      Mya, Israeli authorities had absolutely no tolerance for the religious customs of Ethiopian Jews (keeping a handful of traditional Ethiopian rabbis around for garnish although the rabbinate would like to abolish them altogether) or, for that matter, of Reform, Conservative and Messianic Jews. Why should they they show any tolerance for gentiles?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      Indeed. That is a beautifully sad story. Let us all act to ensure that such beautiful songs one day permanently and completely replace Hebrew songs on the streets of Israel.

      I am amazed that foreign religious rituals are so inspiring to a group of people so disdainful of their own.

      Reply to Comment
    3. myaguarnieri

      kolumn9: wow, a lot of assumptions and jumping to conclusions in your comment! who said that i’m disdainful of jewish religious rituals? admiring another groups’ doesn’t mean that i am disdainful of my own. and why do other groups songs have to replace hebrew songs? why can’t they coexist? remember, we’re talking about 60,000 africans here… a small number. further, many of them, their children in particular, are happy to assimilate into israeli society.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Elisabeth

      Thank you. That was beautiful. It is natural that the songs of the suffering affect us most.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      Mya, because such pieces are usually written for the express purpose of promoting a multicultural society which in the case of Israel usually corresponds with a desire to promote other languages/cultures/religions at the expense of Hebrew/Jewish?Israeli/Judaism. You are talking about 60,000 people that were only 5,000 until five years ago, which would easily grow to a quarter million under the most basic family reunification laws which many people on 972mag would no doubtfully support given a small number of touchy feely cases. This is before taking into account the growth resulting from additional ongoing infiltration at a rate of 3,000 per month. As for the assimilation argument.. Assimilate into what precisely? Jewish society or Arab society? The assimilation argument has proven obviously naive even for Western Europe, and it is hopelessly absurd for Israel. Both the small number and the assimilation arguments are silly. The principle of the matter is that there is no choice but to stop and reverse a massive influx of people who can not be assimilated.

      I apologize for stereotyping. I have seen many liberal atheists write about how beautifully spiritual the ceremonies of foreign religions are while pouring out poison on their own.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Philos

      If someone is an atheist then they don’t have a religion

      Reply to Comment
    7. K9’s points are honest, pointing to a fundamentally zero sum view of the world. That same view thrived in the US up to and after Civil War, and that war brought the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which asserts that anyone born on land under US jurisdiction is a citizen of the US. You can delay the problem of birth, but ultimately if will force you to the same point, in reason, that the US reached. There is a kind of hysteria in the South Tel Aviv riot, trying to force the future to ever be the past. Growing old, I know it cannot be done overlong.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Niz

      لكني سأحلُم رُبَّما اتسَعَتْ بلادٌ لي، كما أَنا”
      واحداً من أَهل هذا البحر كفَّ عن السؤال الصعب : مَنْ أَنا؟” – محمود درويش

      “But I will dream, maybe a country widened for me (took me in), like I am, a member of the people of this sea who stopped asking the hard question: Who am I?”- Mahmoud Darwich

      I agree with Greg.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Palestinian

      So KOLUMN9 here is worried about those 60,000 foreigners who are “threatening” the Jewish and Hebrew character of his country ,how about hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants infiltrating your land to establish their state on top of the ruins of yours villages and cities ?! hypocrisy

      Reply to Comment