Archives for posts with tag: zionism

Today we began to assess our topic by looking at how Hollywood has portrayed Israel, and its music. We took a god look at Otto Preminger’s Exodus (1960):

And we examined its main (often involuntarily hilarious, but always revealing) musical traits/moments:

Exodus (USA 1960): List of relevant musical scenes

Then we discussed how the movie obliterated one of the most musical scenes in the original novel, by Leon Uris (1958), since it also involves sex, and gives a rather different view of the “Jewish musical soul” of the early citizens of Israel. For everyone’s convenience, here are Uris’ pages:

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These pages, and the juicy “cultural confusion” that they inevitably generate, served as a good introduction to our (VERY QUICK) overview of the ca. 2000 years of Jewish Diaspora that preceded modern Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel.

map of jewish diaspora

The Jewish Diaspora: Migrations and Expulsions (source LDS)

map03-jewish expulsions 1000-1500

Jewish Expulsions, 1000-1500 (source, Encyclopaedia Judaica)

Finally, we analyzed an inspiring TedTalk by documentarian Julia Bacha, which helped us in articulating one of the key topics for this semester: the “power of attention.” We specifically discussed how difficult it may become to listen when all around us there are many disturbing, distracting, confusing, conflicting, and altogether unintelligible sounds…


Sometimes, an old Israeli television clip (this is Lul, or “Chicken Coop,” starring Arik Einstein) is worth a thousand words…


Directly from Classified Palestine Songs (which have nothing to do with any secret services, in spite of the title), here is a song for the festival that falls on the 15th of the month of Shvat in the Hebrew calendar, which this year happens to be this week. It’s the “new year of trees,” a semi-holiday with strong agricultural connections (planting new trees). Its celebration was first the object of a 16th-century revival on the part of Jewish mystics (kabbalists), who devised a complex (and delicious) ritual involving eating (rather than planting) a wide variety of fruits; in the early 20th century, it was at the center of a Zionist revival, which focused on the agricultural activities of the yishuv.

The song 15th Shevat, with the incipit, “ha-sheqediyah porachat,” which remains popular to this day, was written to underscore the political, rather than religious, or mystical, value of the traditional celebration.

Hasheqediah porachat

T”U bi-svhat – 15th Shevat
Words by Y. Dushman, Music by M. Rabinowitz
from Classified Palestine Songs, Volume 4 (Chage ha-teva’ – Nature Songs), rotaprinted in Jerusalem, Palestine (before 1948) by the Overseas Youth Department of the Jewish National Fund. n.d.

Originally meant for communal singing (shirah be-tzibur), it has retained its performative quality into the present. See for example it inclusion in the website and in the YouTube channel, of Zemereshet, a project devoted to the revival of early Hebrew songs (unfortunately, a Hebrew-only site).

There are some excellent resources available online.

The National Sound Archives of the National Library of Israel have published a playlist of early sound recordings, streaming online, including among other things two recordings of the boys choir conducted by Abraham Zvi Idelsohn in Jerusalem, recorded in 1922. You can listen to it here.

The Spielberg Film Archive of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has an excellent YouTube channel, which includes seventy film clips documenting life in pre-1948 Palestine (for a total of almost 28 hours of online video).

From Settlement to Statehood: Music and Cultural Politics in Palestine Before 1948.

The listening assignments for Week 4 are here. We are now getting into the thick of our course, and exploring the hybrid musical repertoires sung by the chalutzim, or Zionist pioneers who established the early Jewish settlements in Ottoman and British mandatory Palestine in the early decades of the 20th century.

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