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Cafe Gibraltar

  • Ten things you didn't know about Mimouna

    Mimouna, the traditional festival celebrated by North African Jews on the last day of Passover, is often overlooked when discussing the Jewish holiday of liberation. Here are 10 things you might not know about the celebration that once brought Jews and Muslims together.  By Ophir Toubul 1. The name of the holiday, "Mimouna," has several different, fascinating meanings. The most famous of them attribute the name to the Hebrew word "emuna" (belief), the death of the preeminent medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, Rambam ("Maimonides") or the name of the Berber goddess of luck ("Mimouna"). A less popular explanation ascribes the name…

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  • The Israel-Palestine Lorde diaries, chapter 13: Overwhelmed

    In this country, looking at things differently can really get your head spinning. Part 13 of 15. To read the rest of the series, click here. And so the project took a real conceptual shift. There was no denying it: this was the same shift my own political views took in recent years. Once I strongly believed in the dichotomy, and consequently in a two-state solution. Here is how I saw the map: west of the Green line, folks should sing Lorde in Hebrew. East of it: in Arabic. By now, however, and due to more developments and learning than I…

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  • WATCH: Shas' stunning election ad is a challenge to both Right and Left

    The ultra-Orthodox party, which has drifted far to the right over the past several years, reaches out to the all the Israelis who are not middle-class - which is to say, the majority.  Shas, the party founded by the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and today led by Rabbi Aryeh Deri, is usually seen as the narrowly-sectorial party of the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox. Even the kingmaker status it had enjoyed for nearly two decades is usually (and rather haughtily) ascribed by commentators to their ability to march a docile and obedient religious minority to the polling stations, rather than to broad popular…

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  • Can a Mizrahi girl fit into Israel's national story?

    I grew up in a place where my first name was nothing more than a word on my identification card. Where the Holocaust was something that didn't belong to me. Where my story had no place. All because of my ethnicity.  By Adi Sadaka Ever since I was a young girl and through my years growing up in Kiryat Tiv'on, I found myself trying my best to conceal my last name. In the small town where I lived in Israel's north, the heartland of Ashkenazi identity, I felt, without even understanding what I was feeling at the time, that it was better…

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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…

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  • Yearning for Iran: An elegy for my other homeland

    A homeland is not a piece of cultivated land, nor the object of a war for pride. Homeland is not nationalism. Love has no place where land is a tool for control. Homeland is an idea through which we mold our hopes and our most secret fears. It is an unconditional love. By Avraham H. Muthada I often find myself yearning for Iran. Despite the fact that my feet have never stepped there, my mouth has never tasted its water, my lips have not sipped from its goblet. There, in the diaspora, where the dream of the promised land still…

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  • From Umm Kulthum to Woody Guthrie: Thoughts on cultural sovereignty

    For an Israeli who has only known occupied, subdued and desperate Middle Eastern cities, there is something exciting about rediscovering the cultural world of a confident, proud Levant, cognizant of its traditions and histories. By Amos Noy (translated by Matan Kaminer) To 'Amar, with fond remembrance. Between the demand for "authenticity," which, while conscious of itself, is impossible (and has something petty and repressive about it), and the option of assimilation, or "self-effacing imitation" - one form of cultural oppression (which is, of course, a form of political oppression) - there is also third option: cultural sovereignty. I imagine that many…

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  • Mizrahi culture was suppressed, Ashkenazi culture is simply forgotten

    Since the founding of the State of Israel, the Ashkenazi elite has suppressed the Mizrahi culture Jews from Arab countries brought with them. But almost without us noticing, those who led the Zionist project also erased whatever was left of the Ashkenazi traditions from Eastern Europe. By Edan Ring Family Day was no different from any other holiday. On this day, too, we received an assignment from our daughter's kindergarten teacher. Only this time, we were slightly embarrassed. As part of the Family Day (formerly known as the Israeli version of Mother's Day) celebrations, the kindergarten hosted a big meal,…

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  • Finding a place in the Middle East through music

    Although the racism and hatred between Israel and its neighbors seems as entrenched as ever, many Mizrahi artists are connecting to their Arab roots. Does this trend portend a brighter future for the Middle East? By Mati Shemoelof and Ophir Toubul In an interview with Al Arabiya several years ago, popular Israeli singer Zehava Ben stated that she was interested in performing throughout the Arab world, and especially in Beirut and Gaza. Israel's security system forbade her entrance into the Strip, due to the fact that Hamas rules the territory. In a later interview, she said that her dream is…

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  • The Mizrahi canon: Top classics from the margins of Israeli society

    Although Mizrahi artists have become household names that can sell out amphitheaters, their music is still missing from the Israeli musical canon. The culture that Mizrahi Jews never forgot, along with the attachment to their roots and faith, are excellent tools for creating new Mizrahi classics. By Avi H. Muthada Classics, like good wine, must be preserved in wooden barrels in dark basements for years upon years. Only every so often do we open the treasure, have a taste and fondly remember the memories of the past. When it comes to Israeli classics, the association is clear and one-dimensional: the…

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  • Between Ashkenazim and Sephardim: A guide to Passover piyutim

    Jewish liturgical poetry dates back to the Bible and the rabbinical sages that came after. In honor of Passover, Café Gibraltar presents a primer to traditional Jewish religious singing for the holiday and the Jewish month of Nisan. By Patia Hana The holiday of Passover summons a plethora of piyutim (Jewish liturgical poetry usually sung, chanted or recited during religious services). Not just on the night of the seder, but also throughout the Jewish month of Nisan, on the last night of Passover. Of course, piyyutim are designated for the Shalosh Regalim (the three Jewish Pilgrimage festivals), the Hallel (a prayer used for…

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  • The Ofra Haza enigma: How Israel's greatest pop star is remembered

    What does it say about Israeli society when 13 years after her death, Ofra Haza is best remembered for succumbing to AIDS and for a Mizrahi accent that Israelis just can't help but mock? By Adi Keissar Some time in the 1980s, the world became divided into two camps. Either you loved Yardena Arazi or you loved Ofra Haza. In 1983, Haza defeated Arazi in a competition to represent Israel in the Eurovision competition by just one point - an outcome that further inflamed both camps. As a member of the Yemenite community, I am embarrassed to say that I…

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  • 'Revivo's Project' brings Mizrahi pop back to its Arab roots

    The Revivo Project's debut album is a rare homage to the forefathers of Mediterranean pop and provides an educational introduction to the history of Mizrahi music -- or at least the Yemenite part. By Ophir Toubul Israeli-Mizrahi music has, from time immemorial, been divided into two main, often competing groups. The first is comprised of Moroccan singers, including Ofer Levi, Zehava Ben or Kobi Peretz, who gave the music a strong Turkish-Arabic flavor that was often depressing and full of protest. The second group was comprised of Yemenite Jews. What started in the 70s in Tel Aviv's Kerem HaTeimanim ("Yemenite…

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