We recently reviewed Regev and Seroussi’s Short introduction to Israeli popular culture, which describes different modalities of “Israeliness,” or Israeli cultural identity.

To summarize:
1. Hebrewism
The work of early Israeli writers (in Hebrew) was a “realism without vernacular” (Robert Alter, UC Berkeley), leading to the creation of a “tradition of the new” that is musically expressed in the shire eretz yisrael, or Songs of the Land of Israel (SLI).
2. Globalized Israeliness
A paradox of Israeli culture: in creating a “Jewish state,” Zionism has had to reject Diaspora Jewish culture, and to normalize Jewish life by adopting global cultural traits. Musical expressions: rock and world pop.
3. Mizrachiyut
Or: location, location, location! A reaction to the “orientalization” of non-European Jewish culture that highlights Israeli culture on the basis of its geographic origins (the Middle East and the Lands of Islam). Primary musical expression: musiqah mizrachit.
4. Religious Israeliness
A wide cultural network that encompasses all Israelis who primarily identify themselves, as individuals and groups, through religion and religious practices. A wide variety of ubiquitous musical expressions, ranging from the revival of piyyut (Hebrew liturgical poetry) to rock.
5. Palestinian Israeliness
A hybrid and complex cultural identity fostered by ca. 20% of Israeli citizens seeking representation within the broader Israeli society.

But in class we also had the opportunity to speak directly with dr. Edwin Seroussi, the co-author of our textbook and a Professor of musicology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (The class is not sponsored by Skype, but we do use Skype a lot…). Seroussi reminded us that the five modalities listed above were intended as a summary, and are neither a complete overview of the Israeli soundscape, nor mutually exclusive.

Eviyatar Banai‘s song is an example of the commutative power of musical cultural identity. We hear (and see) several of the modes listed above. Could you guess which ones? (I counted at least three…).