The Shmooze

Yehoram Gaon Sparks Israeli Pop Music Culture War

By Nathan Burstein

  • Print
  • Share Share

In America, we fight our culture wars over unwed mothers and gay marriage. In Israel, they fight them over pop music.

One of the Jewish state’s veteran Ashkenazi entertainers has ignited the latest battle over Mizrahi music, the genre that arrived with Jewish immigrants from the Arab world. Traditionally disdained by the country’s Ashkenazi elite, the music has long been a symbol of Mizrahis’ outsider status in Israeli politics, education and income distribution.

So singer Yehoram Gaon should have known better when he told the student newspaper at Ariel University that Mizrahi music is “garbage” and a “natural disaster.” Referring to the music’s soaring popularity in recent years, the 71-year-old Gaon added that he was “waiting for this foul wave to pass.” (This is roughly akin to someone like Paul Simon making similar comments about rap or hip-hop, with all the corresponding identity politics.)

Gaon’s comments sparked a furious response, even in the Knesset, where a number of legislators condemned them as reviving ugly memories that had started to recede. “Yehoram Gaon is setting us back a generation,” said Ronit Tirosh, a Kadima MK who denounced the singer’s “elitism and arrogance.” She was joined in her sentiments by members of the rival Likud party, and may be joined by them later this month when she convenes a special Knesset “salute” to Mizrahi music. (Just one Knesset member, the far-rightist Aryeh Eldad, went on record in praise of Gaon’s remarks.)

While it is true that top Mizrahi singers like Eyal Golan and Sarit Hadad are not known for their profound lyrics, their emergence in the Israeli mainstream says good things about diminishing ethnic tensions in the country. And, the Shmooze will add, they’re a lot of fun to listen to at concerts and weddings.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yehoram Gaon, Sarit Hadad, Mizrahi music, Ronit Tirosh, Eyal Golan

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!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." 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.