November 8, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Israeli Arabs with an increasingly Israeli -- or even Jewish -- identity

More blurring of lines (The Head Heeb)
Last week, I mentioned Bassam Beromi, an emerging Israeli Arab rock musician whose band recently released its first album. Today, Sagi Bin Nun profiles Hilal Zaher, another Israeli Arab musician now affiliated with the Pow Ensemble in the Netherlands. In contrast to Beromi, whose music is entirely Western, Zaher has incorporated traditional Arab musical forms and instruments into the ensemble's electronic fusion style. His personal background, though, mixes East and West in a way that Beromi can't match; Beromi may have become a figurative "Ashkenazi," but Zaher is at least partly the real thing.

Zaher's maternal grandfather was the brother of Tawfik Toubi, a lifelong communist who was one of the three Arabs in the First Knesset, while his grandmother Tzipora was a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Poland. This makes him halachically Jewish, and his childhood included exposure to Jewish culture as well as Passover seders and Rosh Hashanah meals at his grandmother's house. His mother is registered as an Arab, while her brothers are registered as Jews.

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