A short but stormy argument over Jewish gender politics and discrimination erupted on an unlikely venue in prime time Israeli television earlier this week, when a judge on a popular reality TV show railed against one participant's religiously-informed views on mixed male-female singing.
In order to compete on the TV show, "Rising Star," aspiring singers and musicians attempt to sway judges on a panel and the public by performing songs of thier choice.
An argument between panel judges erupted after a contestant, Yonatan Blank, responded positively when asked if singing together with a woman was a problem for him during the pre-performance chit-chat. Blank, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, said he had no issue with a female presence in the audience, but wouldn't perform with a woman.
Panelist Muki, a popular rock musician, voiced his indignance over the position, and a fellow panelist, Asaf Atdagi, rose up to defend Blank.
After a heated back-and-forth that saw the young singer's mother stand up from her place in the audience and offer her own two cents, Blank was given a chance to sing - a feat he pulled off well enough to be passed into the next stage of the competition.
Israeli music reality TV shows, it should be said, are not often graced by the presence of singers wearing tzitziot, and as such Blank's presence stood out from the very first moment.
Perhaps fittingly, Blank chose to perform a love song written by Eviatar Banai whose opening lines read: "Storms from inside and outside / Tore down the walls of the house."
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