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Need a Break From the World? Israeli Reggae's a Great Escape

Need a Break From the World? Israeli Reggae's a Great Escape

Hatikva 6 band member in concert

What do you do to process, deal with, even survive the relentless, overwhelming, often upsetting news about the world, the U.S., and Israel? I won’t dare to presume that all of you find the same issues concerning because you have different perspectives and political leanings. I am assuming, however, that most of you are feeling this news fatigue.

Regarding Israel, and without taking a political stand, we all have been rereading the same headlines about security and stalled-peace year after year. So, it’s not just the problem of how to cushion a news onslaught from the Middle East coming at us in real-time, in the information-overloaded world we live in – there’s a cumulative dampening effect acting on the Jewish well-being of those of us who care deeply for the future of the Jewish State. We have our work cut out for us as individuals, even more so in community.

Although I’m not able to provide all the answers to the questions I face, I often find myself inviting songs into my bustling headspace for some redirection and navigation.  In Israel there are some hugely popular artists across the range of contemporary genres whose music, to varying degrees, responds to social and political issues of today. I maintain a growing playlist of these artists to keep me in touch with the opinions and trends that lie beneath the surface of a typical product of the press.

My assumption is that most of you don’t listen to Israeli reggae and hip-hop. (I apologize if I am wrong about that.) So, let me introduce you to Hatikva 6 – a top group of Israeli performers – and one of their songs that speaks to the news conundrum we are facing. Although Hatikva in their name refers to a street honoring Israel’s national anthem and 6 is the house number in which two of the siblings in the group grew up, Hatikva, meaning “The Hope,” aptly describes their song, “Something Good for the Soul” (Mashahu Na’im La-neshamah), which is an empathetic musical journey for Israelis – and those of us who care about Israel – to take when we feel exasperated and beleaguered by current events.

This playful song has some helpful messages for such a serious topic. When you watch the Hebrew music video, here are the main ideas and excerpted lyrics in translation that go along with the reggae beat.

It’s natural, it’s only human to want to escape from all this noise:

“It’s hard with news here/So sometimes I take the car/and ride north of the city/before another war begins/and my knees start to tremble./It’s hard for me to stomach what I’m hearing/from that same refrain/Israel, Syria, Lebanon.”

“I have to disconnect –/it was a stimulating TV news discussion./Everything sounds to me like an alarm/I have to extinguish the noise and the commotion./I need a song to ease the pressure.”

Instead of seeing escapism as a form of denial, regard it as an opportunity for refueling:

“Put on some Arik Einstein music to calm me down/ Give me a minute to rest my head./Put on some Zohar Argov music for just a moment/Something good for the soul./Put on some Meir Ariel music, a ray of hope –/One nice refrain with a rhythmic tune/Give me a minute to rest my head.”

And after all this, you might be ready to get back into the thick of it all:

“Of course it’s really hard/but there really is no choice./While the quiet is missing,/ha-aretz (The Land, that is Israel) is wonderful./While we try to find a little corner of light,/the head may flee but the soul remains./My days move along with all the headlines/‘Money, money, love, peace, wars.’/No one succeeds to forget the troubles/We are after all just regular people with big problems.”

I hope this lively, fun song gives provide a little “ray of hope” and the same kind of boost Hatikva 6 – a 2017 reggae band – gets from Arik, Zohar, and Meir – Israeli popstars from the 1970s.  

Rabbi Reuven Greenvald is the director of Israel engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism.  His prior experience in re-thinking Israel engagement comes from work on innovative initiatives in the North American program of the Jewish Agency for Israel.  

Rabbi Reuven Greenvald
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