Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'll bring my guitar and a pile of CD's.

60 Bloggers logo on multi-color guitars
This post is cross-posted at the 60 Bloggers project, a co-production of and the Let My People Sing Festival. The 60 Bloggers project is published daily for 60 days to celebrate Israel’s 60 birthday.

I'm listening to the Avishai Cohen Trio's 'Gently Disturbed' right now, letting the muffled tocking of the drum kit give texture to the pulsing, rising bass. I'm also catching up on Julie's myspace blog. Her picture on the page shows her hunched over a guitar, but the most recent blog post says

"-why i said that i'm never doing this again.
-why i say vidui and shma at the end of the labour (yes, i am thoroughly convinced that i will die if i have to go through another contraction.)
-why i said i'm never giving birth in a hospital again. (thank G-d!)
-how all the pain stops when i look at that little face...."

Before sitting down, I put my little ones to bed and now I'm thinking about Julie's new little one. A welcome addition to her brood. A blessing. I hope someday to meet her and her gang face to face, in her home in Israel. That would be another blessing.

When I sat down at this keyboard 15 months ago to start writing Teruah Jewish Music, my plan was to learn and write about every aspect of Jewish music I could find. But, I noted, it would take more than being Israeli music to qualify. Why? Because being an Israeli musician didn't make your music Jewish (whatever that means) and I wasn't going to get caught up in the big ontological game of Israel the Jewish State (whatever that means). But I listened.

And wrote, a bit at a time about about Free Hugs in Tel Aviv, the rockers Boom Pam and Yood, Matti Caspi and Balkan Beat Box. I found Israeli albums and songbooks on eBay. And I corresponded with Julie and Liz, read Israeli blogs and Haaretz articles and listened to Ben Bresky's Israel Beat. All research, mind you.

And somewhere along the way I shed the blue and white propaganda image I've had of Israel since Hebrew school and have had reinforced every time Israel is in the news. Israel of the partition and the Six Day War, a place to send trees (on Tu B'Shvat) and prayers (the Wailing Wall). Israel of the heavenly ideals and very mundane politics.

What I found instead were people who also loved music. And art. And their children. And Judaism (some of them, Islam for others, and nothing for lots). And people who celebrated (and feared) and loved (and hated) and all of the rest of it. For me, learning the stories of the pop bands Poogy and the Diaspora Yeshiva Band resonated in a way learning the Hatikvah anthem never did. I still don't know if Avishai Cohen's Trio counts as Jewish music but I don't much care anymore. I've fallen in love with the people of Israel in all of their messy complexity and contradictions (so similar to ours, so familiar).

So tonight, on Erev Pesach, when I say "Next year in Jerusalem" I mean it. Not just in the time of the moshiach, but maybe soon, so my kids and Julie's can get to know each other. I'll bring my guitar and a pile of CD's.

Happy Birthday, Israel.


Julie said...

thanks for the sweet comment on my blog! glad you liked the entry. i wrote it just to see if my brain was still able to string more than two syllables together lol.

"so my kids and Julie's can get to know each other. I'll bring my guitar and a pile of CD's."

Ay-men! you're on. jam session at my place. we'll have a punk fest (cd's) and then a carlebach kumsitz (guitars) - deal?

Jack said...

Punk CD's and Carelbach on guitar sound perfect!

It was a really profound moment when my wife and I went from "as Jews we should visit Isreal" to "we could visit Julie..and Elyon...and Liz...and"

That's right..there are people there. How strange.

Jack said...

And major congrats on your new little one. That's as good as it gets.