Should Mizrahi Jews, like Israel’s highly-successful A-wa Yemenite music trio, become cultural ambassadors to the Arab world? Maybe not, says Leeron Houry in The Forward – but they should become more politically-engaged if they want a real ‘Mizrahi revival’. Begging the question whether Mizrahi culture in Israel needs a revival, this is another article trying to portray Mizrahim as a bridge to the Arab world, without regard for their painful history there.
(…) The recent international attention directed at these bands raises
new questions. Media coverage outside Israel tends to envision these
Arabic-singing Israeli musicians as a potential bridge between Israeli
Jews and the Arab world.
highlighted how “Habibi Galbi” was widely popular in Yemen, a political
paradox.) At first, this conclusion seems logical: If more Israelis can
appreciate the fact that their heritage is rooted in the Middle East,
maybe this can serve as a bridge to understanding how “the Arab is the
enemy” has been used not only against Mizrahim, but also against
But what does it really mean to be a singer in Arabic today? Do these
musicians have any political responsibility based on the language they
choose to sing in? Or is it possible for them to make music in Arabic
and then remain relatively separate from the larger conversation about
These questions are complicated because Mizrahi musicians sing in
Arabic mostly as a way to return to their heritage. This does not
automatically make them cultural ambassadors between Israel and the Arab
world — and that seems to be how the media wants to portray them.