Anti-Lapid Anthem Takes Israeli Social Protests to YouTube

'He Extinguished the Torch,' a protest song, is attracting a major following.

In his first music video, Maor Mizrahi’s song “Kiba Et Halapid” (“He Extinguished the Torch”) features the character of Finance Minister Yair Lapid - whose last name means torch in Hebrew - wearing a grotesque mask as he strolls Tel Aviv’s plush Rothschild Boulevard in the company of two personal assistants.

In the course of the video, the lampooned version of Lapid demonstrates hostility toward a homeless person, leaves a young blind man without help in the middle of the street and lets his hair down in a strip club only to later make a getaway without paying his bill.

Mizrahi, 26, comes from the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, and is described on his YouTube page as an “exemplary Israeli,” an outstanding high school student who then did his army service in a special combat unit. He released his first song on the Internet last week and it had already registered more than 20,000 views by Monday evening (the song was temporarily removed Monday night from YouTube for "violating the terms of service," but was live again Tuesday morning).

“Like a wheel that’s turning, everything goes back to its owner,” Mizrahi sings in the shrill chorus to the song. “And with everything that is happening, wouldn’t want to be in the position of the ruler who extinguishes the torch.”

Mizrahi says that even though the video is comedic, he wrote it out of major frustration. “The situation in the country is not right, and we don’t like people who talk and make promises, but only make our situation worse. Things need to change and they just get worse from one day to the next,” he told Haaretz.

“I’m not hearing anybody who isn’t saying that he’s had enough. You can’t live in this country, at least not easily. There are stories about how the price of cream is being cut, and that may be so, but when it comes to everything else, Lapid has made things worse for us. The crazy taxes we’re paying; it’s very hard to bear it. And when it comes to everything other than cream, it’s hard to [support] a family today in Israel; it's hard to make ends meet. Most of the people in the country are in this situation.”

Maor says what prompted him to make the video is “as clear and understandable as possible” and it cries out for attention. He's referring to the gap between what Lapid promised when he ran for Knesset and what he's delivered since being elected. “There’s the scene in the video with the blind man. All of us feel that way. All of us feel like the blind, who followed him and were ultimately hurt in the process.”

When asked about the small number of protest songs in Mizrahi music - a genre associated with Jews of Middle Eastern origin - and the absence of songs in general identified with the social justice protests of 2011, Mizrahi said he couldn’t explain it.

“Too few singers get play in Israel today and they are the leaders,” he said. “They sing very beautiful songs that I listen to all day. Why aren’t any of them protest songs? I have no idea. I am sure that it’s important to others to the same extent. The goal here is very important. It’s possible that there were songs like that but no one released them the way [I did]. It’s tedious work. I want everyone to have access to this song. Everyone deserves to see it, and maybe it will spark something from within the people, from within us.”

“I’ve gotten reactions from people identifying [with the song] and that were positive,” Mizrahi said, “which only encourages me from one day to the next to say what I really think. The sympathy that the public had for Lapid at the beginning almost no longer exists, and I’m one of those people who has decided to open my mouth about it. I can’t sit doing nothing. Something has to get moving and change.”

Mizrahi’s song is not the only one protesting Yair Lapid. The hip hop duo Tedrus and Judea, originally from Netanya, released a protest song about the finance minister's policies within a few days of Mizrahi’s. Together they are known as Axum and their song is called “Yair, Al Timrah Otanu,” which tranlates roughly as “Yair, don’t hoodwink us." It has also attracted a following on YouTube.

“Yair, we’re not cheese [spread]. Don’t spread us around,” the lyrics to the song produced by Ronen Sabo go, referring to Hebrew slang for cheating. The video samples Lapid’s famous campaign refrain in the finance minister’s own voice, asking, “Where’s the money?” The track describes economic difficulties faced by young couples, university students and Holocaust survivors in contrast to moneyed interests represented by the politicians.