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This semester we will be exploring a set of complex cultural realities. As one of our textbooks states in its opening sentence:

The study of Israeli culture is one of the most challenging fields of inquiry among those relating to the investigation of nation-states that arose during the 20th century.

And yet, reality is always even more complex than how we posit it, even academically. This is why we will continue to read news from the Middle East every week.

Yesterday, the Israeli press reported on a “scandal” that happened in the Palestinian city of Hebron (Southern West Bank). Two Israeli soldiers on patrol joined a wedding party. In full military gear, they danced with the crown, to the sound of Gangnam Style. Here’s a link to the Jerusalem Post article, where I first read this news (which since last night has spread to news sources worldwide).

There’s a lot to deconstruct here, trust me…

..enjoy Riff Cohen’s video/song, A Paris.

Riff Cohen (born in 1984 in Tel Aviv) is an Israeli singer, songwriter, actress, and musician who performs songs in Hebrew and French. She grew up in the Ramat Aviv Gimmel neighborhood of Tel Aviv, but moved to Paris after winning an artistic scholarship. In 2012, she performed as the opening act for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ I’m with You World Tour in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Inspired by the recent FB love stories between Israeli and Iranian youth (which were brought to my attention by a student in the class, who sent me a link to this article) I went back to researching the fate of the music of Iranian Jews in Israel.

Instead of lingering on how this very important group of musical traditions is often a misrepresented topic (especially in the US) – including the fact that there are virtually no examples from this region in the online playlists of the National Sound Archives of the National Library of Israel – I went down a little YouTube path.

This included a required stop by the many songs of Iranian-born Israeli pop singer, Rita (Rita Yahan-Farouz), from shvil habrichah (“Escape Route”: lyrics found here), the song that, presented at the Israeli pre-Eurovision contest, brought her to fame in 1986:

And to Rita’s more recent ethnic tinge:

And a live video of her latest Persian single, Shaneh:

But this search also led me back to my favorite interpreter among the younger generation of Israeli-Iranians, Morin Nehedar. (I met Morin when we were both students at the Hebrew University).

You can find several of her live performances, and those of many other artists, on the Youtube channel of the Persian TV in Israel. Looking up Morin on YouTube, in turn, brought me to watch a couple of samples from a program entitled Ibudim (“settings”), subtitled “new lives for forgotten texts.” Here she is, performing an original setting of echad ohev et ha-zahav (One Loves Gold, text here), a poem by Ya’aqov Steinberg (1887–1947), Yiddish and Hebrew poet, short-story writer, essayist, critic, and translator, who moved from Warsaw to Palestine in 1914 and stopped writing in Yiddish in favor of Hebrew (full bio in the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe).

The program, which was organized by Bet Avi Chai, included another setting of the same poem, by Shlomi Saban:

A great website documenting the life – and the sound, and the thriving music scene – of Machaneh Yehudah, aka “the shuk,” a large outdoor marketplace in West Jerusalem, recently became available in English.

Here’s a link to its video page, which features some very interesting examples of how this thriving Jerusalem site (which was also the target of several suicide bombings between 1997 and 2002) serves not only as a resource for stocking up on (yummy) groceries, but as an aggregator of primarily Middle Eastern soundscapes:


And, of course, here’s the related Facebook page.

Incidentally, I learned from Wikipedia that the neighborhood in which the market is located was named after Yehudah Navon by his brother, Yosef Navon (1858-1934), an entrepreneur in Ottoman Jerusalem who co-founded the neighborhood itself in the 1880’s, and whose photographic portrait is currently on display at The Magnes. Students walk by it (and by Mr. Navon’s sword…) each time the come to class:

Photograph [93.29]: Portrait of Yosef Navon (Jerusalem, c. 1932)

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