Well, I felt I had to write something in connection with Israel’s 64th birthday, so this is what came out. It’s the first blog post I’ve placed on the new The Times of Israel site. Any comments on this post will be welcome. [Part of it follows.]
In honor of Israel’s 64th birthday, I decided to create a new genre – musical stream of consciousness. As Hebrew University philosophy professor Meir Buzaglo recently noted, music is “the soul of the nation.” …
…. back to the summer of 1970, in the midst of the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt, the most popular song that year was Shir Lashalom (Song for Peace), lyrics by Ya’acov Rotblitt who lost a leg in 1967 during the Six Day War, and music by Ya’ir Rosenbloom (להקת הנחל – שיר לשלום – YouTube). The most powerful anti-war song ever written in Israel, it was sung by Lehakat Hanachal (singing troupe of the army’s Fighting Pioneering Youth unit associated with the kibbutz movement):
He whose candle has gone out/and has been buried in the dust/bitter tears won’t waken him/or bring him back again/ so sing a song of peace/don’t whisper a prayer/sing a song of peace/with a great loud shout!….
The song infuriated another former member of Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev. General Rahavam Ze’evi, nicknamed Ghandi because of his dark complexion and not because of his politics, was one of the Israelis who turned right after the Six Day
War, becoming a supporter of Greater Israel and no territorial compromises with the Palestinians. Ze’evi was Head of the Central Command, the West Bank, and forbade the singing of the song in the area under his command.
That was the year that I did my basic training, partly in Gush Etzion and partly in Hebron, both in the West Bank. We were 27 year old recruits, and our officers were 19 years old, fresh out of officers’ training school. The traditional technique of “break them down and then build them up into soldiers” didn’t work with us. We were too experienced and worldly, with families, etc. So the lieutenant had to use other techniques. He ordered me to help raise the morale of the unit whenever we had long marches or other challenging training maneuvers by leading them in song. So I took special pleasure in singing the forbidden “subversive” lyrics of Shir Lashalom, and all the other soldiers joined me in the chorus – including our commander.
Shir Lashalom, led by the original soloist Miri Aloni, was the song that concluded the rally in Tel Aviv against violence and for peace on November 4th, 1995, a few minutes before Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot by right-wing Jewish terrorist Yigal Amir, in an attempt to stop the peace process with the Palestinians.
The Summer Protest of 2011
Fast-forwarding once again to the magical summer of 2011, the mass social protest erupted in Tel Aviv, the Israeli summer echo of the Arab Spring, and spread throughout the country. As Emma Goldman once said – “If you can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.” Well, there was much music, in the tent encampments, and at the mass demonstrations. But to my mind, the song that most typifies the protest movement, which will soon be renewed as the summer of 2012 approaches, is a song that wasn’t sung by its author and original performer. The stage shy Arik Einstein hasn’t performed in public for decades, but he wrote the song, music by Micky Gabrielov, that typifies the spirit – Ani V’atah Neshaneh Et Haolam (You and I will change the world). אריק אינשטיין – אני ואתה
When I’m 64
So here we are, celebrating Israel’s 64th birthday. It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Beatles, so it’s natural to think about “Will you still need me/will you still feed me/when I’m 64?” (The Beatles When I’m 64 – YouTube).
That’s the question that Peter Beinart is asking in his new book “The Crisis of Zionism”. It’s the same question that many Israelis are asking as well. Hopefully the renewal of the mass protest movement this summer will help to provide answers.
It’s hard to do an Israeli musical odyssey without recalling the late Abie Nathan and his Voice of Peace radio station, broadcasting from “somewhere in the Mediterranean”, who provided so many uplifting musical moments even in the darkest hours. He used to play an hour of peace songs every afternoon, and there are many I could choose from to remember him by. The one I choose here is by the O’Jays. No, not “Back Stabbers”, which might be so fitting for Middle Eastern politics, but rather “Love Train”, which urges all of us to not miss the train of peace, before it’s too late, including “all the folks in Egypt and Israel too.” (Love Train – The O’ Jays – YouTube). And probably a bit of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” wouldn’t hurt as well. Abie himself is mentioned in the lyrics. (John Lennon – Give Peace A Chance – YouTube)….
Click here for this entire post at The Times of Israel website.