The Dream of a Single Nation in Israel Is Possible

On Tuesday, while blood flowed in the streets outside, singer Ziv Yehezkel proved that the dream is still possible.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
The singer Ziv Yehezkel
Screenshot from a Channel 10 interview with the singer Ziv Yehezkel: "I am a Jewish Arab who wears a skullcap. I really live on the seamline." Credit: Channel 10
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The single nation was born on Tuesday, in Tel Aviv.

It was in Basel that the nation-state of the Jews was founded; and it was at the Tzavta club in Tel Aviv that “a nation of all its peoples” was established, without anybody actually saying anything. In a single evening, all the elements of which were subversive or outlandish, its feasibility was proven.

Maybe it was a fleeting illusion, but it happened. The majority hadn’t heard of the new national contract and would have surely rebuffed the pretension, but on Tuesday, the singer Ziv Yehezkelproved that the dream is possible.

While blood flowed in Jaffa, a miracle took place at Tzavta. There were six musicians in the band – five Arabs (Muslims, Christians and a Druze from the Golan Heights) and one ultra-Orthodox Jew, who sported a beard and black skullcap and played darbukas (goblet drums). Their repertoire: the best of Arabic classical music. Only Arabic. The audience: yeshiva students, supporters of the Shas party, shababniks (former ultra-Orthodox people), left-wingers, artists, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, observant and non-observant Jews, and a few Arabs too.

In the row behind me sat a couple from Samaria, with all the markings thereof. In the row in front of me sat the parents and aunt of Tair Kaminer, a conscientious objector currently in jail. Next to me sat a Bedouin computer programmer from Shibli, who had graduated the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, is an expert on data security and cyber war and works at Check Point Software Technologies. In front of us was the rock singer Berry Sakharof. Four men who had run late sat on the side – defense establishment workers.

Yes, it sounds like especially cheesy type-casting. Only Yehezkel could have brought these people together.

He is a tremendous singer, brimming with charisma, talent and style, and he raised the roof. It was tremendous. He didn’t say a word about politics but it was one of the most political evenings experienced here. No words, just Umm Kulthum’s moving song “I hid my tears and pain from the world.” It was an evening of release and hope. Suddenly it became clear that half the audience knew the words of Mohammed Abdel Wahab and half knew Umm Kulthum.

Where did they pop up from? They were all those who turned down the radio volume when Arabic was being broadcast so the neighbors wouldn’t hear, for shame, they and their offspring celebrating the freedom and release. Forbidden, eliminated language and culture shed off their shackles, for one night. Sami Shalom Chetrit recently wrote in Haaretz: “Ziv Yehezkel is my messiah.”

Prophet Yehezkel. Ezekiel in English. Zvi Yehezkeli, the head of the Arab desk at Channel 10 news, can mock the Arabs night after night and whip up sentiment against them, but Ziv Yehezkel puts him and his contribution in their place. Yehezkeli features marginal, grotesque sermonizers; Yehezkel presents magnificent art. To sing in Arabic, in Tel Aviv, on a night marked by terrorism, without lip service, without apologizing, without “balancing,” all perfectly natural, and to be awarded with enthusiastic cheers – could there be anything more courageous? More encouraging?

Yehezkel says he didn’t choose Arabic, it chose him. When he tells of his performance at the village Masadeh in the Golan Heights, he says it’s “an hour and a half from Beirut.” That is how to position oneself in space, without clichés.

He is probably not left-wing but he’s more a man of peace than most of the left wing. He is the son of an Iraqi family whose father found religion and became a rabbi. He is not pleased that his son sings in Arabic. His natural environment would prefer that he croon in Jewish, but he follows his own star. In an interview to the Ramallah TV station Palestine 48, Yehezkel said one has to stop listening to politicians. One of his concerts can wipe out the toxic impression left by a thousand speeches of incitement and hate. He is applauded in Ramallah. The prophet Yehezkel.

At the end of the concert, as the settler whistled in appreciation and the Shasniks danced in the aisles, the family of the conscientious objector clapped and Yehezkel sang Inta Omri, then I knew that the dream of the single nation is possible. One just has to write the right music and give it to Yehezkel to sing.

Then I went out into the street and the ambulances continued to wail.

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