Archives for posts with tag: politics

Shas Spiritual Leader Calls Israel National Anthem ‘Stupid’ (Haaretz)


Yasmin Levy and the Politics of Performing Sephardic Identity

Christina Azahar

Inventing Sephardic Traditions from 1492 to the Early Twentieth Century

  • Expulsion of Jews from Spain during the Inquisition leads to formation of Sephardic cultural identity through experiences of transnationalism and diaspora
  • Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) popular songs surrounded by myth and often falsely thought to have origins in Medieval Spain
  • Scholars begin to collect oral musical traditions at the beginning of the twentieth century, categorizing them into romances, life cycle songs, and calendar cycle songs – often adding changes when transcribed

Isaac Levy and the Sephardic Song Revival

  • Collects Sephardic popular songs from 1950s and 1970s and publishes several collections of transcriptions and recordings that become the basis for late productions of Sephardic popular music
  • Work at Jewish national radio influences orientalist tendency to want to Mediterraneanize Israeli national culture

Yasmin Levy: Performing Sephardic Traditions for the World

  • Grew up in Jerusalem and was exposed to a wide variety of cultures and musical practices which she incorporates into her interpretations of her father’s repertoire as well as her original compositions
  • Eclectic performance style makes her music easily communicable across cultures and languages, but her blurring of cultural and linguistic distinction removes her output from the nationalist project of her father’s work by framing Sephardic popular music as a tradition intended for all people


Una pastora – Combined Recording of Isaac and Yasmin Levy

A new publication on Israel’s Army Radio just came out that reflects some of the topics discussed in class was just announced in the Israel Studies Bulletin Board:

Soffer, Oren. “The Anomaly of Galei Tzahal: Israel’s Army Radio as a Cultural Vanguard and Force for Pluralism.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 32.2 (2012): 225-243.

URL: (full access via UCB connection)


Israel’s Army Radio (Galei Tzahal) has been broadcasting for sixty years. Unlike military stations around the world, Galei Tzahal has always transmitted from the centre of the country, with programming aimed at the civilian population. This article examines how Galei Tzahal became a leading force in Israeli broadcasting and news coverage. Among other points, the article explores how military broadcasts, which are ostensibly foreign to the democratic experience, have become a symbol of pluralism, journalistic freedom, and the social and cultural avant-garde in Israel.

Author biography

Oren Soffer is a Senior Lecturer and the Head of Communication Studies at The Open University of Israel. He is currently a visiting scholar at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. He is author of There Is No Place for Pilpul! Hatzefira Journal and the Modernization of Sociopolitical Discourse (Jerusalem, Mossad Bialik Press, 2007) and Mass Communication in Israel (Raanana, The Open University of Israel, 2011). His articles have been published in journals such as Communication Theory (2010; 2005); Journal of Israeli History (2010); Journalism (2009); Media History (2009); and Media Culture & Society (2008).

Available online: 20 Apr 2012


One date in Oakland (March 1st). Here’s HaDag Nachash‘ most celebrated hit, The Sticker Song (2004), written by Israeli novelist David Grossman, here with English supertitles:

More information on the band’s upcoming Bay Area appearance here.

The Sticker Song and the video that comes with it are an interesting complement to what we watched together at the beginning of the semester: 500 people in 100 seconds. It strikingly reminds of the clash of immigrant cultures we saw at play last week, as well as, in a similar vein, Spike Lee’s harsh “love song” to New York City in the 25th Hour (2002).

Because this too is a love song for a war-torn place, after all (originally by David Benioff).

PS: Of course, some may see the scene from Spike Lee’s film as an answer to Woody Allen’s other love song to New York City (well, Manhattan, actually):

Perhaps it it that, as well. Instead, I’d prefer seeing it as a (not so) gentle reminder that this week we discuss war.

The new assignments are here:

View this document on Scribd

We have discussed several times the connections between music and politics.

Check out who the recipients of the presidential award of distinction given out by the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, this week, are. They include former U.S. Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Henry Kissinger, attorney Uri Slonim, human rights activist Judy Feld Carr and celebrated conductor Zubin Mehta. The recipients were selected by a special advisory committee chaired by former Chief Justice Meir Shamgar and former Israeli President Yitzhak Navon.

The committee selected Kissinger because of his long and influential political career, citing him for being a man of foresight, creativity and vision. As an academic, political scientist and diplomat, Kissinger was praised for his unique contributions to Israel and for his efforts to achieve Middle Eastern peace during his time as U.S. national security advisor and U.S. secretary of state.

Zubin Mehta, the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, was selected because of his unique contribution to the world of Israeli music. Mehta received the Israel Prize in 1991 and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006.

Uri Slonim was awarded the order for his charitable causes and his role as the president of Variety Israel, a nonprofit organization geared towards aiding children with special needs. Slonim was also cited for his ongoing role on behalf of Israel in negotiations aimed at releasing Israeli prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

Canadian-born Feld Carr was selected for her human rights initiatives and for helping the escape of Jews out of Syria. Since she began her humanitarian efforts in 1973, Feld Carr has been successful in smuggling roughly 4,000 Jews out of Syria. Feld Carr is also a recipient of the Order of Canada, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and a humanitarian award of merit from the University of Haifa.

The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, wrote a poem about the Ethiopian Jewish (Beta Israel) citizens of Israel, who have been protesting against racism in Israeli society (a recent news story about an agreement not to rent or sell real estate to Ethiopian Jewish Israelis sparked other reports of similarly severe incidents). Musician Idan Reichel set it to music.

The song has been covered in the Israeli press and the Jewish press abroad. See for example: Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom and Kef Israel (French).

Kef Israel, has a particularly interesting take on the story, which evokes the tribal roots of Judaism (the translation is mine):

After a visit to the Bereshit school, advocating tolerance among all communities and tribes of Israel, the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, wrote a text for the Beta Israel, Israel’s Ethiopian community, which is sadly the victim of racism. Within two days, singer Idan Reichel set it to music and sang it in public last night at Binyiane Ha-Umah in Jerusalem. Here’s this wonderful love song: The Eyes of Beta Israel.
This news furthers our insights in the co-implications among music (all music? “popular” music? is music referencing the Bible “popular”?), politics, and national identity.
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