Monday, November 12, 2007

Working in Construction (Or: Thinking Positively 3)

Ovadia Hamama recently put out a very interesting record, which sold very well since one of the songs, a novel rendering of a Cabalistic verse many people had never heard of, became a major hit (Ana beKoach). Well, no-one had heard of Ovadia before, either, since he seems to be all sorts of things but not a recognized singer.

The seventh song on the record has an elderly man with an Iraqi accent reading a letter which was obviously written around 1949, when he was a newly arrived immigrant dumped on a kibbutz far from his family. This is the stuff of much academic research since the 1980s: how the hegemonic ashkenazi establishment forced the poor and bewildered masses of traditional Jews from the Arab countries to come to Israel to serve as the underclass, their identity was torn from them, the hegemonic narrative was force-fed to them. Proof of all this? Well, take this letter, for example: the poor dupe tells how life at the kibbutz is good; he has volunteered to work in construction; young men are allowed to walk on the beach with young women; last week they were all bussed into Tel Aviv where they heard speeches, including one by Ben Gurion himself, and then they danced in the street until dawn, and isn't this a fabulous country?!

But then you read the small print in the enclosed booklet. The letter was written by Ovadia's father, in 1949, to his brother who was still in Iraq, and has remained as a prized possession in the family ever since; the father himself is reading it in the recording, accompanied by his grandchildren; and the whole thing is obviously a source of pride and lore.

1 comment:

Lydia McGrew said...

So the point of the song is that the father was right, it's a great country, and all this "hegemony" stuff is nonsense?