Topic: Exercise 1Ingathering of European, Middle Eastern and North African Jews to the newly formed Israeli nation (Yemenite, Moroccan, Polish, Russian, Syrian, Greek, Turkish Kiddush, Umm Kulthum’s Enta Omri, rural folk songs from Iran, Russia, Afghanistan) 1948- 1960
The creation of the Israeli nation in 1948 led to mass immigrations from Europe, Asia, and Africa. With the staggering influx of immigrants, Israel’s Jewish population grew from 650,000 in 1948 to 1,484,000 in 1953. This period witnessed not only an explosion in numbers but also an increase in the complexity of ethnic and ideological relationships. Against the backdrop of recent independence, international censure, economic crisis, and a state of war, the new Israeli nation,comprised of mainly European Jews and remnants of Palestinian communities, absorbed over 700,000 immigrants, divided equally between Holocaust survivors and Jews from Muslim countries. The new immigrants arrived traumatized by Nazi genocide on the one hand and by dislocation and culture shock on the other. Few European, Asian or African newcomers possessed vernacular Hebrew language proficiency or agricultural skills that might have prepared them for life in the new nation.
Zehava Ben’s parents arrived from Morocco during the mass immigrations of the 1950s. Jewish musicians from North African and the Middle East, like her father, Simon Benista, had participated fully for hundreds of years in urban and rural ensembles throughout Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt and other countries. With their immigration to the newly formed Israeli nation, they found themselves on the other side of the enemy line, outsiders to both the European-Israeli music industry and former music networks in their Islamic homelands.
Rural and urban, classical and folk, varying blends of liturgical and secular, immigrants to the newly formed Israeli nation carried with them diverse musical styles. In North African and Middle Eastern neighborhoods and development towns that grew from the original transit camps of the 1950s, their transplanted and varied music styles survived despite the rejection they experienced from the mainstream music industry.
Consider the following European, Middle Eastern and North African maps and the story they tell about the mass immigration of diverse Jewish communities to Israel between 1948–1955. Think about the diverse musical styles that were suddenly in less than a decade’s time being practiced in the relatively small geographic space of the new Israeli nation. Click on Morroco and Yemen to listen to two distinct local variants of the same well known Jewish prayer, the Kiddush, recited on Sabbath and at Holidays before drinking wine of grape juice. Then click on Egypt to hear an excerpt from a 33 minute renditions of a song, Enta Omri (You are my Beloved) by the renowned singer, Umm Kulthum. This song was well known to Jewish communities living in the Middle East and North African in the 1930s and 1940s prior to immigration.
numbers of immigrants that arrived in the maps showing the number from a musical perspective. and click on Morocco, Yemen, and Egypt to hear three music samples familiar to Jewish communities in the 1940s and 1950s.
New musical innovations emerged as North African and Middle Eastern musics were reshaped through intensified interaction. Weddings, births, Bar Mitzvahs, and religious holidays became occasions for musical transformation as well as community celebration. Renowned Iraqi qanun and oud players performed at Iranian, Libyan, Egyptian, and other Mizrahi community events. Yemenite singers became fluent in Iraqi and Kurdish folk song.
Alongside these Middle Eastern and North African regional musical dialogues, new immigrants encountered the dominant national soundtrack, Ha Shir Ha Eretz Yisraeli (the song of the land of Israel) a popular genre that emerged during the large waves of Eastern European immigration from the 1880s – 1940s. The Shirey Eretz genre features a western structure, Eastern European or Mediterranean ethos along with selected Middle Eastern motifs and tunes. The songs are most often characterized by romantic nationalistic Hebrew lyrics idealizing worker, land, and communal mission and most often to set to Eastern European tunes although some Yemenite, Bedouin, Mediterranean, and even local Palestinian melodies are employed.