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Daliyat al-Carmel: Yalla, yalla, raise your hands!”, Israeli Druze singer Mike Sharif shouts in Arabic to a crowd of Palestinians, who dance to one of his Hebrew hits, which they sing, during a wedding in the West Bank. Busy.

The scene, even more unusual as it happened a few months earlier in Yatta, a Palestinian village located near Hebron, an area of ​​constant friction between the military, Israeli settlers, and Palestinians, has taken to social media and locals. discussed. Media.

“I only prepared a three-hour performance in Arabic. After half an hour, everyone – the bride and groom’s families, the guests – asked me to sing in Hebrew”, the Druze singer told Dalet al-Carmel in northern Israel. .

The Druze, an Arabic-speaking minority who profess a belief derived from heretical Islam, number about 140,000 in Israel and the occupied Golan Heights.

Nicknamed “The Druze Prodigy” after winning a TV contest at age 12, Mike Sharif, now in his 40s, rose to fame in Israel in the 1990s with his Mizrahi (Eastern) pop songs , but also in the West Bank. Gaza and Arab countries.

“I have always been everyone’s,” says the self-proclaimed “messenger of peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Hebron in Hebrew, Tel-Aviv in Arabic”

By the introduction of Mizrahi pop, influenced by the Jewish cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, a play of reciprocal influences was established with the music of neighboring Arab regions.

Today, singers such as Eyal Golan or Eden Ben Zaken, most popular in Israel, have fans among Palestinians. In contrast, the big names in Arabic music – Oum Kaltoum, Fayrouz or Farid al-Atrache – have long been popular among Israelis.

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A musical closeness, which, according to Mike Sharif, should make it possible to “unify all” and contribute to the end of conflicts. “I sing in Hebrew in Hebron, in Arabic in Tel Aviv. I sing in both languages ​​and everyone sings on both sides. Music can contribute to peace. Politics doesn’t bring people together like this”, They believe.

But his performance in Yetta was criticized, even after threats from both sides, with some Palestinians and Israelis calling him a “traitor”, the first to be sung in Hebrew in the West Bank – the territory occupied by Israel – The second one to perform is a Palestinian wedding.

And after saying he wanted to be “the first Israeli singer to perform in the Gaza Strip”, an area under the control of the Islamic movement Hamas and banned from entering Israel, he dropped the idea “due to tension”. Gave, he said, without giving details.

“emotional experience”

For Oded Erez, a specialist in popular music at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, music as a bridge between Israel and the Palestinians is related to the “Oslo Years” after the signing of interim agreements on autonomy in the 90s. It was in the early days of occupied territories, when Jewish singers such as Jehawa Ben or Sarit Hadad performed in Arabic with the songs of Om Kaltoum in Palestinian cities.

But, today, according to the musicologist, “a shared investment in music, a musical style, a common sound is not in itself a platform for political change or reconciliation (…) it is explicitly mobilized at the political level. should go” .

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And the musical closeness between Palestinians and Israelis has been reduced to “a physical and emotional experience” and not a political one, he says.

He said the request of the Palestinian public during Mike Sharif’s performance was “not such a request for Hebrew, but for his hits from the 90s, sung in Hebrew, and entered the wedding repertoire. Palestinians,” he said.

The same title goes for “The Sound of Gunpowder”, created in 2018 in honor of a gang leader from a refugee camp near Nablus in the West Bank, which was repeated in Arabic at Israeli weddings, says musician .

“When there is music, people are separated from all wars, from politics, from differences of opinion”, concluded Mike Sharif. “They forget everything, they just focus on the music”.

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About the Author: Rusty Kemp

Tv ninja. Lifelong analyst. Award-winning music evangelist. Professional beer buff. Incurable zombie specialist.

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