Freak Folk Fusion: The Jaunting Martyrs

The Jaunting Martyrs

The Jaunting Martyrs

There’s a generation of young men crouched over their guitars, understanding their tigers, and entering a state of meditative transcendence as vibrations wash over their manes. This generation was rooted in a deep appreciation for a mastery of the old sound.

More often than not, fusion is just a fancy way of explicitly stealing without getting in trouble. Grabbing the exotic sounds that people like to hear and sprinkling them over a heavy bass line and cheap rhythm tricks. It’s nauseating to the folks who are truly invested in deeply understanding and researching the history behind the sounds, and getting into the mind space of those who started it.

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We hold all lives in our hearts

Dear Israelis/Palestinians

I am sick of being made to feel guilty for asking my progressive friends to express concern for all lives, rather than just Israeli ones.

This week, the daily grind is getting in the way of my life. I am frantic, obsessively sifting through the mainstream and alternative media sites for the most up-to-date on-the-ground facts. Three lives, four lives, ten lives, fifteen, twenty. The numbers keep rising, and my pulse keeps racing. The only thing keeping me going through this election war is checking facebook statuses to know that the friends and relatives I care about deeply are safe.

These same friends and relatives are pressuring me to limit my concerns for my family and the Israeli lives that are at risk. Yet I refuse to bow to the pressures of ethnocentrism. I condone no violence whatsoever, nor do I condone a “put the family above all others” attitude. All lives are vital. All lives are sacred. Read the rest of this entry »

Debuts: Tikkun Daily and JVP East Bay Chapter

I wish I could say that I’ve had some time to play catch-up after returning from my trip. Sadly, I believe that “catch-up” is a long-since neglected concept in my life, and that mulling things over is a thing of the past. I have, however, managed to complete a couple of tasks since I’ve come home:

  1. Check out  my debut post on Tikkun Daily, detailing my experiences with the Israeli center-left (and the ensuing despair).
  2. Here’s another Tikkun Daily blog post reflecting on an overwhelmingly troubling day of news blasts from Israel, and my role in healing Israel/Palestine. I’m hoping that this one might just be the catalyst for just giving in and making aliyah already.
  3. I had the honor of presenting my experiences at the Meretz Symposium at Jewish Voice for Peace’s East Bay chapter. I was a little concerned about how my project of reclaiming Zionism would be received, but the question and answers section was more than supportive, and in fact, informative.

Things I learned at the 2012 Meretz Israel Symposium

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Meretz Symposium Day 6-7: Ha Lev Sheli B’Smol

Bar-hopping on Allenby and Dizengof with Isaac and Savyonne after a long week of battling despair.

If two days ago I was starry-eyed, and yesterday I was bleary-eyed, then today I was teary-eyed.

Yesterday we went down to Be’er Sheva to visit a bilingual school called Hagar. There, they have an equal number of Arab and Jewish students. Each class has two teachers, one Jewish teacher who only speaks in Hebrew and one Arab teacher who only speaks in Arabic. All the signs are written both in Arabic and Hebrew. Downstairs, they turned the bomb shelter into a pirate ship library. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Totally mitigates the fear of being showered by missiles.

At lunch, we met Vivian Silver, the co-executive director of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, a program dedicated to creating a shared society between Palestinian Arabs and Jews in Israel. She filled us in on the situation of the Bedouins, the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev desert. I’d been to a Bedouin community before, on Birthright. Their tea was glorious, and so were their camels. Despite the fact that the Bedouin are legal citizens, the Israeli government is trying to get the “maximum amount of Bedouins in the least amount of space.” Read the rest of this entry »

Meretz Symposium Day 5: Starry-eyed

Will Stav Shaffir betray her values in order to seduce the Israeli electorate?

I’ll keep this one extremely short, since I have a pretty intense migrane tonight.

Today we met Shachar Ilan from Hiddush, a publication dedicated to promoting religious pluralism. Shachar is a numbers guy, who religiously tracks the religious media. He’s full of terrifying statistics, such as:

  • The Haredim make up about 9-10% of the Israeli Jewish population.
  • 60% of Haredi men are studying instead of working.
  • 60% of Haredi women work (mostly part-time).
  • 10-12 billion shekels (3-4 billion dollars) are given to the Haredi.

The Haredi do not serve in the IDF, have incredibly large families, and receive subsidies from the government for being religious. Shachar believes that the main problem in Israel, which leads to all the other problems (including the occupation), is that secular Israelis have failed in redefining secular Jewish Zionism. The Haredi like to call themselves a minority, but politically, they hold an inordinate amount of power. Netanyahu could leave them out of his coalition, and he knows he could because he cut the child allowance (which basically translates into the government subsidizing large families) when he was finance minister. However, this cutting of the child allowance actually only affected the Arab population, rather than the Haredi.

Even if he wanted to, it is difficult for a Haredi man to find a job because Israel is financing an education system without a core curriculum. No other Western state finances non-core curriculum schools. But the girls are learning secular subjects since they are expected to support their families. Read the rest of this entry »

Meretz Symposium Day 4: Political Tourism


An Israeli checkpoint inside Hebron.

Today was all about touring. Hagit Ofran, the director of the Settlement Watch program of Peace Now, took us into Hebron. We took the tunnels road, through each of the checkpoints. Hagit pointed out all the settlements and road blockages on the way there. Hagit was careful not to let the soldiers at the outpost of each settlement see her, because although it is illegal to prevent her from getting inside, they could make it difficult for her to enter, since they know her beautiful activist face well by now.

Once inside Hebron, I was saddened to see the lack of change since the last time I had visited the city. Some people told me that something like five or six years ago, there was some really nasty graffiti covering the Arab stores. Things like, “Arabs to Auschwitz.” Now, they have painted over the graffiti and made the place at least look somewhat presentable, because they know that they cannot prevent people from going inside.

TIPH personnel

Sy asks about the role of TIPH personnel

We were first greeted by some TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) personell. These men (mostly) come from about seven European nations in order to document illegal activity by Israel. They seem incredibly invested in truly helping, but they admit that their reports are only seen by the eyes of their own governments and the Israeli governments, and not by civillians. Therefore, not much happens as a result. Still, they do what they can.

Then, a little further in, a handful of young Palestinian residents asked us for some money. I recognized a man from the last time I visited Hebron, actually. I remember because he asked me to marry him last time. I rejected the proposal, and I’m sure his feelings weren’t hurt, since he didn’t recognize me this time. I don’t blame him, I’ve put on a couple of pounds since then. It was difficult to see the new wrinkles on his face and tears in his clothes. And it’s a difficulty I plan to sit with, and act upon. Read the rest of this entry »

Meretz Symposium Day 3: Ramallah

This morning, Ha’aretz published an especially scary news article by Gideon Levy. A recent poll shows that the majority of Israeli society support the separation of Arabs and Jews, which is, by nature, an apartheid system. This fact did not shock any of today’s speakers, nor myself.

We carried this deeply disturbing fact in our minds as we passed through the checkpoints and into Ramallah to meet with PLO Executive Committee Secretary General Yasser Abd Rabbo, head of the PLO Cultural and Media Department Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, PLO Prime Minister Salam Fayaad, and American Palestinian entrepreneur Sam Bahhour.

Wall of separation

The separation wall from the outside.

Today, my main goal was to understand the sentiment among Palestinian leadership regarding BDS. What I got repeatedly was the following: it comes from the right place, but it is ineffective, and in some cases detrimental. Message received. Time to move on. Who wants to brainstorm effective non-violent strategies to pressure the Israeli government and society to end the occupation? Read the rest of this entry »

Meretz Symposium Day 2: Ohh, I get it…!

Lilly and Theo Bikel reading the paper

Lilly and Theo read the paper before the day starts.

I found out two very important things on this, the second day of the Meretz symposium, when we infiltrated the heavily-guarded Knesset:

1. When it comes to most things, including Israel, I am a Leftist.
2. As a Leftist, my job is to facilitate a renewed effort in the two-state solution.

This morning represented the first of the truly depressing realities presented on this trip. We met with two members of Likkud to hear their perspective on the coming elections. Of course, they parroted the expected shlock in the expected patronizing tone: Israel’s security is of the utmost importance because the Palestinians do not want peace or accept a Jewish state and so the best solution is to keep the status quo.

From Bogie, we heard about the collapse of the nation-state system in the Middle East. Democracy by elections will fail because it is a concept that was imposed upon the Middle East by the West. To think differently is ignorant and naive. The solution is education and encouragement of liberal thinkers.

And then there was Begin, the son of Menachem Begin, who ordered the bombing of the King David Hotel. I must admit, I had a good cry after that one. He opened with the statement, “Israel is what we claimed it to be for many years. It is a beacon of stability and democracy.” After that, to be honest, I have tried to block from my memory. It’s not worth the ink. Read the rest of this entry »

Meretz Symposium Day 1: Elections, elections, elections

I’m not even going to try to give a proper run-down of the wisdoms I gained today. We’re waking up at the (pardon the expression) crack of the cock’s ass tomorrow morning because we’re going to the Knesset. So forgive me if this blog post seems a little lacking. Suffice it to say that my mission to listen, learn, and hopefully change my perspective on Israeli politics has been fulfilled and exceeded many times over.

As most of today’s speakers pointed out, our trip falls in a very interesting period. Bibi Netanyahu recently called an election, which will be on January 22nd, and so the focus is now on the campaigns. Being affiliated with an extremely small, fringe party on the center-left gave me the ability to see the following things:

1. Doesn’t matter where you are, if it’s election season, no one will want to talk about anything else but the campaigns.
2. I didn’t think it was possible to exceed the deep despair embedded in the American Left, but the Israeli Left really takes the cake (which is a shame and a mistake).
3. 50% of the kids in schools are born to ultra-Orthodox families, which scares many people.
4. Obama’s reelection would hurt Bibi’s campaign. But if Obama visits Israel before the Israeli elections, such a move would hand the election over to Bibi on a silver platter, since Bibi has been begging Obama to visit for ages.
5. The editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz is a hipster, albeit an extremely knowledgable one. Read the rest of this entry »


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