Departures / Arrivals: A Jewish-Arab Ensemble Gets Ready for a Concert - and a Prayer

Indigo child comes to help Israelis find their path.

Left to right: Udi Ben Kna’an, 42, from Tel Aviv; Itzhak Ventura, 33, from Arsuf; Eyal Luman, 41, from Tel Aviv; Rani Lorentz, 42, from Yodfat; Tzipora El-Rei, 31, from Tekoa; Saead Tarbiah, 29, from Sakhnin; David Menachem, 33, from Jerusalem; Yohai Barak, 38, from Yodfat; and Aviv Bahar, 28, from Tel Aviv; flying to Tallinn, Estonia

Hello, who are you guys?

Yohai: We’re called Diwan Saz.

What does that mean?

“Diwan” means a musical sitting, gathering or coming together. “Saz” is a musical instrument, which I play. Saz has more than one meaning in Turkish − it refers to musical instruments in general.

Where did you learn to play the saz?

In Turkey and Greece.

You’ll have to elaborate a little, because I’ve never met a saz player.

Saz is a folk-style stringed instrument used by storytellers in East Asia. The instrument I play is the Turkish version and is a source of pride to the Turks. It has distinctive rhythms and is played in some Sufi orders, usually in large groups. You might even see 40 sazes being played together, because what’s important is the diwan, the coming together.

How many years has your group been together?

Something like 10 years. The concept keeps changing. Someone occasionally joins, someone else leaves, but overall it’s the same group.

How did you come to form a group?

David: From heaven.

Yohai: It’s really good you came.

Do you play original material?

We play Turkish material, and Kurdish and Persian piyyutim [Jewish liturgical poems].

David: The texts we sing include many songs of passion and love for God, but not only. We sing in Turkish and Arabic; Saead and I sing in Hebrew and Arabic alternately. Our music is filled with ecstasy.

It looks like there’s an interesting mix here in human terms, too.

David: Definitely!

Eyal: David is actually a rabbi.

Really?

David: The real story is the Jewish-Arab aspect. This is a culture that the Jews from the Arab lands brought with them to this country, and now it is being given a respectful interpretation, albeit new. For example, there is a song that people sang in Iraq − my grandmother sang it − which is called “At the Midnight Hour,” and we juxtapose it to a Kurdish song. In the middle of the song Saead comes in with a section from a Bedouin song.

Wait a minute − again, you’re a rabbi?

David: I am the rabbi of a congregation − what the Sephardim call a hakham. And I am a paytan [writer of piyyutim].

How did you come to join the band?

David: I officiated at Yohai’s wedding. His wife attended one Shabbat when I sang − that’s how I met them. I saw a performance by the band and I joined.

Does that jibe with religion and belief? Performing onstage with women, for example?

Wherever there is love, we embrace it.

And singing in Arabic? In an Arabic society?

That is quite common in the Sephardic religious world. Most of my performances take place in Arab communities. I sing Umm Kulthum. I used to play for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef [the late spiritual leader of Shas], and what do you think I played for him? Umm Kulthum and “Bab al-Wad.” That’s music that strengthens people. Yohai mentioned Sufi music, and I am a Sufi in my essence.

Isn’t that a religion?

Judaism, too, is not a religion, but a national story. A Sufi can be a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian. A Sufi is one who loves God and wants to love all his creatures.
Yohai: Ask him to tell you about the concert in Krakow.

What happened in Krakow?

Besides the concert, which was dignified and lovely, there was an all-night jam session that went on until 6 A.M. We had a central stage with 20,000 people, and we had them dancing.

David: I taught them to sing “El Eliyahu” in Arabic. They sat like a class and learned it. And then we sang and everyone jumped up, and Saead and I danced on the stage. It was really special. You can see part of the concert at www.diwansaz.com.

Where are you going now?

Yohai: To the Ariel Festival of Jewish Culture in Estonia. I was there once before, but I don’t know exactly how it will go this time − we have a concert of one and a half to two hours. Our shows are big − I think it’s more like prayer than a concert.

Sorra Sokolin, 19, from New York; arriving from New York

Hi, can we help you?

Maybe I’m supposed to help you.

Maybe, if you agree to be interviewed.

Gladly. But first I have to leave a message on Facebook for the person who is supposed to be meeting me.

Do you want to use my phone?

Maybe I’ll leave her a message with your number, but I’m sure it’ll work out. In the meantime we can talk.

Okay. What are you doing here?

I am going to find my soul.

Did you lose it?

No. I am an indigo girl [someone supposedly possessing special traits]. My purpose in this life is to help people walk on their right path, the path that is meant for them, maybe to find God, and also to find my own mission; to receive and to live within my body, my soul and my spirit.

Why did you choose to come here?

Because here in Israel there is more energy than in the whole world. This is my first time in Israel, and I came alone. I am going to stay with a woman friend of my mother’s, for about a month. I am happy to be here, even though the way to getting here was far from simple.

What happened?

I had an unpleasant experience at the airport.

Let me guess: a security check.

They took everything from me. Absolutely everything. It went on for three hours. And in the end I was almost stripped bare. It was extremely irritating.

You’re traveling alone and look like a goth; they thought you were a dealer.

I think it’s because I have a new passport, and also because I looked nuts to them. I was the only passenger on the plane that they took aside. At first I sat and waited for an hour. They took all my stuff, opened all the bags and wanted to see my underpants. It was very uncomfortable and very irritating. But I understand that everything happens for a particular reason. And it could be that this is how it is: for every good thing there is also a bad side.

Is the visit here a good thing?

Yes. Unfortunately, I grew up in New York and I can’t stand the life there. Everyone is very judgmental and I can’t feel their aura. I am trying to find lost people, to change them and help them, but I can’t help everyone.

When did you discover that you’re an indigo child?

When I was 14. I read about it, and when I told my mother she said she’d known since I was 7. My mother is a witch. I get my intuition from her. She was born in Russia and she had dreams that came true and all kinds of intuitions, but she didn’t want to use that. She thought it was bad. I am an improved version of her.

Who are indigo children, actually?

Children who have special powers. We are the next stage.

Meaning?

In another 130 years the world will change. Maybe there will be an apocalypse. The indigo children will become crystal children, the crystal children will have rainbow children and the rainbow children will lead the world in the critical period I mentioned, in another 130 years.

They will be the leaders of the world?

Not exactly, because there will be no one leader. There will be no sins. No evil. Possibly the world will end at that future point in time, and possibly the world will change. If there are enough rainbow children for the world to change for the good, everything will be better. In the meantime, the indigo children can help people around them and have children and keep them isolated, or at least protected and guarded from society in some way.

Why do they need to be protected?

For their good. I know, I have tried everything − every drug in the world.

Even heroin?

Even heroin, unfortunately. Once. And stronger things too.

What is stronger than heroin?

I did DMT.

What’s that?

A psychedelic substance that’s found in a small quantity in plants and also in the human body. It is what’s released in the brain seven minutes before death.

How is it taken?

There are all kinds of ways. I inhaled it. It was a vapor. One minute is enough. I tried that substance in the temple of the god Amun in Egypt. There was a lot of smoke and then it was like I fell backward.

What effect does it have?

I actually left my body and saw it again below me. I saw my soul.

What did it look like?

Guy wearing a skullcap arrives: Sorra!

Here’s my lift. Sorry, I have to go.

Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum