Friday, November 13, 2009

A blurring of lines?

Only in Israel story 683:

You randomly find yourself watching Channel 24, Israel's version of MTV.

The country's leading music critic, a secular and openly gay man, is interviewing a "born again" Breslov Hassid, clad in full hassidic garb, about his new album, the style of which is clearly influenced by the Hebrew version of Bob Dylan.

These two men represent in many ways opposite poles of Israeli society, Jerusalem versus Tel Aviv, but their conversation is polite, warm, about the interviewee's 7 kids, grandchildren, pilgrimage to Uman, musical inspiration, current movie project...

I think it's happening more, this meeting across the chasm, people who've crossed the line in either direction from religious to secular, from secular to religious. Look at journalist Dov Elboim who left the Haredi lifestyle but has focused his work on bringing a Jewish religion and culture to mass media. Likewise the many popular musicians who've become closer to their Jewish roots and in so doing have brought about the current trend for recording albums based in some way on traditional Jewish sources, be it Bari Sakharov's rock songs whose lyrics are taken from religious poetry or Ehud Banai's full on lovingly recreated recordings of authentic Jewish liturgy.

I don't entirely know what this all means, how deep it all is, how much is simply a Jewish veneer to pop culture or a trendy veneer layered over traditional practices. I'm not sure it really matters. I believe though that it's good, a correction of sorts for the anti-religious, in many ways anti-Jewish, atmosphere of the '50s and '60s, or even the fashion for corny pseudo-parody of Hassidic music and stories in the '70s.

Where will it lead? I never claimed to be a prophet, but anything that is making even a limited percentage of young Israelis look again at their rich heritage is good in my book.

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