Israel Recap Part III: The Music
Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold)
I remember singing this song back in Hebrew school, including during my Aleph Consecration. As our bus was riding through the West Bank en route to Jerusalem, our tour guide put on a CD of the song and I started to feel a little choked up. When we got through a tunnel and all of a sudden Jerusalem was there in front of me to the left, I shed a few tears. It brought back memories of the first time I was in Israel, when my mom cried upon looking out our hotel window and seeing the Old City. The best explanation I can give for this emotional outburst is that after saying, "Next year in Jerusalem," every year at Passover and talking up the Holy City so much throughout your lifetime, all of a sudden you look out the window and it's right there. At our trip's talent show, I was part of an air band that played Yidcore's punk version of "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav," much to the delight of the crowd. On Shabbat, we all sang the song together at an observation point overlooking the Old City. I just read a Jerusalem Post article that noted that during Thursday's Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, both marchers and haredi counterprotesters chose "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" as their anthem: "For a moment, the two groups looked at one another confused, but then each began to sing even louder to claim the song as their own." If only they could've sung together!
Od Yavo Shalom
We were a "Peace, Pluralism, and Social Justice" trip, and by golly, we sung "Od Yavo Shalom" a few times. The song is sung in Hebrew and Arabic and translates to "Peace will come upon us and everyone. Peace on us and on everyone." I have to admit that I only know this song because of Yidcore, but it felt wonderful to sing it as a group. Here's a video of when Yidcore played it at Berkeley's legendary 924 Gilman Street in December 2006 for a tour I covered for the Forward; I was standing right by the camera. As was later written on the band's blog, "Yes folks, skank and pogo for world peace." Here is a brief clip of our group singing "Od Yavo Shalom" together in the Old City of Jerusalem as we said good bye to the eight Israelis who were with us for half the trip.
We were all sitting on a grassy patch in Tel Aviv, just next to Rabin Square and very close to where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1994. While Rabin's legacy is complex and varied, he is often remembered for working toward peace at the end of his life. It's pretty depressing to think that this was so unacceptable to some people on the far right in Israel that one person would kill him over it. Our tour guide told us we'd sing a song together, passed out lyric sheets, and put on a CD. I was expecting "Od Yavo Shalom," and I was shocked that it was John Lennon's "Imagine." I'm pretty sure I've sung this song at peace rallies in the U.S., and it always triggers tears for me because I always cry during the scene where it plays in Bowling for Columbine, the scene that recounts the massacre. There was something other-worldly about being together with dozens of "peaceniks" at Rabin Square, dreaming of peaceful coexistence, and singing, "You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
In Jaffa, the eight Israeli soldiers on our trip "taught" us to sing the Israeli song "Yachad." Some of the lyrics translate to "Together, heart to heart we’ll open, and we’ll see the light in the sky. Together, heart to heart we’ll open, with hope for love." I never really learned more than the first few words, but the song had a special meaning to all of us because we had learned it together, and it reminded us of the Israelis who were only with us for half the trip. The talent show featured a wonderful interpretive dance to "Yachad." On the bus ride to the airport, "Yachad" was played repeatedly as an emotional farewell dance party erupted in the aisle of the bus.
Bus Full of Buber, Box Full of Breakfast
I mentioned this in my previous post, but it deserves to be written about twice. We woke up at 3 a.m. to climb Mt. Masada one day, and in a "sleepless delirium," M.C. Spigs (Michelle from the Vegetarian Choir) wrote this hilarious rap ditty. She performed it both at the talent show and on the bus ride to the airport. As funny as it is, there are some really moving parts in it that I can't get enough of. The chorus says it all: "Bus full of Jews, with our different views / How do we know what's right? How do we choose?" Click here to watch M.C. Spigs' talent show performance on YouTube. And I have just learned that there is special footage in which M.C. Spigs performs a draft of the song while on top of Mt. Masada!