Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Karolina - Zohar (Special Edition)

[Notes: Posted after Shabat was over. A rare cross-post from my Entropy general purpose blog.]

For the first time since November, 2005 I wrote a product review for Amazon. Eight years ago it was a book I really enjoyed; this time it's a two CD boxed set:

If you've heard either Funset's "Pumpkin Ragga" or Habanot Nechama you probably already know that Karolina (Keren Avratz) has an amazingly flexible and expressive voice and is a very capable songwriter. When she sings in English her Israeli accent is thick enough to cut with a knife but somehow that doesn't matter.

"Zohar" (Glamor) is her second solo album. The original CD was rather short and included two different versions of Al Te'ahar (Don't Be Late), with an acoustic rendition closing the album. On this album she drops the soul and reggae influences which were so evident on her first album and with Funset and adds a little Mizrahi flavor, even though she is not from that tradition. Zohar, with the exception of her Chanson For Lebanon, has a much more contemporary feel. The words are entirely in Hebrew with the exception of "Save Me From Myself", and surprisingly that may be my favorite from this album.

The new version adds an EP of covers, three well known Israeli songs from the '60s and '70s plus a collaboration with Boom Pam on a version of Led Zeppelin's Black Dog, with a surprising amount of Middle Eastern flavor added to the instrumentation. Karolina practically channels Cilla Dagan, who sang the original version of Yom Bo Yakom, and does a beautiful rendition of Zohar Argov's Tzel Etz Tamar (Shadow of the Palm Tree).

This is an album I just keep going back to again and again. Definitely pick up the Special Edition if you're going to get a copy of Zohar. It's more than worth a little bit extra to hear Karolina rework the old songs.

Here are a couple of songs from the album:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More Reasons Why the Peace Process is a Moral and Strategic Imperative

The only alternative to war is peace. The only road to peace is negotiation. - Golda Meir

I believe however that peace is attainable regardless of the Arabs mentality, society or government.-Yitzhak Rabin

In the last piece I wrote passionately and personally about the moral imperative to seek peace from my liberal, Jewish, Israeli-American perspective. On Thursday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of a strategic imperative to pursue peace talks. He's right. While I can't help be passionate about the peace process I can lay out some practical reasons why it must go forward and why I support the prisoner release which the Israeli cabinet approved.

Before I go on let me say that my heart does go out to the families of these murderers. Not a one of them deserves to be released. I read the accounts of the attacks they perpetrated and I was sickened. It would be so very easy for me to hate the Arabs. I certainly hate things they have done like this. The easy thing is often precisely the wrong thing. As much as it may bother some of the right wingers out there I still believe Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing the right thing, even though it is both unpopular and difficult.

Israel needs to seize any opportunity to make peace for it's own interests. Even if the process fails, as we all expect it will, at least Israel is seen as making every effort for peace. That is vital for U.S. popular and government support. Indeed, this may be something President Obama needed to get the gulf states to go along (or at least not interfere) with a strike on the Iranian nuclear program. In other words, these peace talks may well be a side show for something that is more important, both to Israel and the U.S.

Then again, maybe the U.S. and Israel really have put a new peace process front and center in their thinking. This may also be the one time in history when the Arab-Israeli conflict is the easiest one in the Middle East to solve. The other conflicts in the region: the Syrian civil war, Egypt on the edge of civil war as well and, of course, the standoff with Iran are all more difficult problems.

Permit me, however, to frame this strictly in terms of the Israelis and Palestinians. If you won't even negotiate with your enemy how will you ever have peace? Must Israel be condemned to endless wars, death and destruction?

I am not "gullible" for supporting a two state (really a multi-state) solution as some people have claimed. I can see clearly enough to know it's a choice between that and the eventual destruction of Israel. The Palestinians will never become Jordanians, they can't be bought off, they will never leave Judea, Samaria and Gaza voluntarily, and, if we include Gaza, there are almost as many of them between the river and the sea as there are of us. Once again, I say us because I have so much family and so many dear friends in Israel, plus, of course, I am planning a move there myself. Whatever happens, it will affect me directly.

If Israel tries to expel or kill the Palestinians, as hardliners online, many of them Americans and Christians, insist Israel should, the U.S. will almost certainly lead the international military against Israel. The Serbs weren't permitted to expel the Albanians, a much smaller number, in Kosovo. Do you really think Israel will get away with it? Insanity!

If you didn't read my very personal blog post and don't understand where I'm coming from, read it. If you did read it and still don't understand... fine.

Let me say this again, for the last time: if you oppose even negotiating for peace you and I have very different moral values and very different beliefs. You may, unwittingly, be an agent of the destruction of Israel. Have a nice life with your delusions of greater Israel or fortress Israel or whatever you think will work. Just please don't expect me to want or to have any part of it. I will continue to pray, as Jews have for centuries, for peace in Jerusalem and all of Israel. I will also work in any way I can to make peace a reality.