Idol Chatter

Israel is turning 60 next summer, and along with all of its beauty and religious resonance, it has also become known as a place of conflict, of heavy headlines, and unfortunately more than occasional violence. But apparently, within popular culture on both sides, there’s always been music to be found in the Middle East…WestBankStory.jpg

In 1979, a film called “Ha-Lahaka” (“The Troupe”) featured several of Israel’s most popular musicians: Gidi Gov and Meir Fenigstein of the cult band Kaveret/Poogy, and Gali Atari, who won the Eurovision music competition in 1979 with the song “Halleluyah” (you can see that video–and all the unintentional comedy of late 70s fashion–here). The film centered on an entertainment unit of the Israeli army, which traveled all around performing for the soldiers and trying to find moments of lightness amid war’s gravity.
Last February, a young filmmaker named Ari Sandel accepted an Academy Award for his short film, “West Bank Story,” a musical tale of love and hummus in the West Bank. The satire drew accolades and criticism for its irreverent treatment of “the situation,” as the locals call it. Israelis and Palestinians alternately loved and hated the film, which pointed out a gastronomic similarity that could be the figurative (and if you make the hummus wrong, possibly the literal) glue between two nations.
There’s obviously much more, especially within the canon of Israeli popular music and cinema, but today I read a story about Hamas’s singing policemen. That’s right: Hamas, the terrorist organization, has their own real version of “Cop Rock.” Their own musical troupe, known as “Protectors of the Homeland” (catchy name…) is also about raising morale:

The policemen shun the bump-and-grind dancing and sugary love songs favored by boy bands around the world. They sing about heroic fighters, Islamic values and love of the homeland, all recorded over backing tracks played from a laptop computer. “O Jerusalem, rest assured we are the sacrifice,” goes one song. “I will not retreat from my Jihad, I will not back down.”

(That is from the hit song, “Our Apologies to Tom Petty.”)
The article notes that they perform for police units in Gaza and at public functions such as police graduation ceremonies. They also sing and perform short anti-crime skits in jails to “entertain and educate” prisoners.
I’m pretty sure they don’t do bar mitzvahs. But you can ask.

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