The Arty Semite

Israeli Singer Proves Surprise Hit In Yemen

By Yoav Appel

  • Print
  • Share Share

(Reuters) — An Israeli singer has become an unlikely star in Yemen, an Arab country where his hit songs blare from cafes and taxis.

Zion Golan’s parents were born in Yemen, but like other Israelis, he is banned from traveling to the conservative Muslim nation, which has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Known in Yemen as Ziyan Joulan, his songs — whose Arabic lyrics are written by his mother-in-law — are distributed on bootleg CDs and downloaded from the Internet.

“Yemeni music is in my heart and in my soul,” Golan told Reuters.

“My big dream is to go to Yemen. My parents told me many stories about Yemen, about Sanaa, about Aden, all about Yemen, so I felt it was right to write, to perform songs in a Yemeni style, which I feel is part of me.”

In Sanaa, Waddah Othman, a doctor, grinned as he displayed an array of Golan’s songs on his mobile phone.

“I adore this singer,” he said.

Abdullah al-Haj, who owns a video and music shop in Sanaa, said music of Yemeni Jewish singers was in high demand by local youngsters, who increasingly are getting music off the Internet.

Golan said he receives no royalties for his music in Yemen, where the late Israeli singer Ofra Haza, who was also of Yemeni Jewish descent, was once popular.

“Ziyan Joulan is the greatest Yemeni singer,” said Sanaa resident Ali al-Kinei, 43. “Jewish singers have kept the Yemeni musical traditions and developed them by introducing modern instruments … I follow his songs on YouTube.”

Between 1949 and 1959, most of Yemen’s 50,000 Jews were flown to the newly founded Israel in a secret operation dubbed “Magic Carpet”. Today, fewer than 200 still live in the Arabian peninsula state.

Golan, who learned Yemeni Arabic as a boy, is one of about 140,000 of Israelis descended fromYemen’s ancient Jewish community, and he said that he was pleased his popularity there provided a bridge between two peoples.

“I enjoy that they are enjoying my songs, it makes me feel good,” he said. “I wish there will be peace and then we could connect, that would be the best dream for all of Israel.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zion Golan, Music

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.