Monday, April 5, 2010

First Banned Shir

1954. No-one knew Israel would be fighting wars for generations; it was reasonable to believe the one recently won had sufficed, even if the borders were not peaceful and the neighbors were anything but welcoming. Given this state of the matter, some folks went elsewhere to look for kicks.

Petra, for example. The unique Nabatian town carved into the red rock in southern Jordan, not that far east of Israel's border. You start at the border, cross the desert, climb a canyon, see the wonder of Petra and scurry back. The whole things takes, what, two days?

Eventually the Jordanians figured out what was going on, and its troops began ambushing the adventurers. I don't know how many young Israelis were killed, but some were. What had started out as an extreme lark was turning into a deadly stupid game.

At which point Arik Lavi came out with a haunting shir called Hasela Haadom, The Red Rock, about three young Israelis who made it to Petra but didn't make it back.

The authorities were horrified. It seemed to them the song was more likely than not to encourage additional daredevils. So they banned it. Being a democracy they couldn't make it illegal or anything, but since in those days all two radio channels (three?) were government controlled, the order went out that the song was not to be broadcast. (No, the was no television in Israel in the 1950s).

I don't know if it worked. Israelis apparently stopped going to Petra, for whatever reason: maybe their Jewish mothers read them the riot act. On the other hand, I can remember, some years later, the awe with which we kids talked about the mysterious banned song (by the time we were old enough to have entertained thought of going there, the world was a different place and it never occurred to us). After a while the ban faded, and anyway, long before You-tube, no-one would have dreamed of asking the government what they thought about a song anyway.

Though in the meantime there was one other attempt to ban a song; that story was more dramatic and complex. Perhaps some other day...

Across mountains and the desert
the stories say, there's a place
that a living person has not yet returned from,
and it's called the red rock.
Oh, the red - red - rock.

Three went on the way with the sunset,
against the the mountains' red scorching,
an old dream, a map and a water-bottle
they did take to the red rock.
Oh, the red - red - rock.

The first went (as) navigator, lifting his face,
looking at the stars up high,
but the view that his eyes saw -
was the view of the red rock
Oh, the red - red - rock.

Surely, they encamped some time
between stones,
one said, like smiting a dream:
I see - its face is white.
His mates answered: the red rock.
Oh, the red - red - rock.

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