If Israeli “settlers” make you uncomfortable, this post is for you.
This melifluous rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” melody – set here to the opening psalm of the Hallel prayer– was filmed during a bar mitzvah celebration in Tekoa, a Jewish-Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
A few non-normative elements of this video worth pointing out:
the use of a musical instrument during davening/while wearing tefillin;
footage of Orthodox Jewish worship, largely owing to rabbinic legal prohibitions against using electricity on Shabbat/holidays (though filming a weekday bris or bar/bat mitzvah in the YouTube era is less rare). There is an institute dedicated to technological development of Sabbath-permitted electronic devices, such as microphones; this institute is also located in the West Bank;
a second angle of this video shows a rabbi decked in a white robe and a white shtreimel (fur hat). That would be Rabbi Menachem Froman, who’s willingness to communicate with Hamas for the sake of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue has made him a controversial rabbinic figure. In 2008, I saw Rabbi Froman take the stage with Ehud Banai, famous Israeli folk-rocker who became religiously observant later in life. (Incidentally, that concert also took place at a music festival in the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin.) Last year, a family relative of mine attended a panel in Israel that addressed Orthodox Jewish homosexuality moderated by Rabbi Froman — similar to the controversial Yeshiva University panel in late 2009. Not what you might expect from a “settler rabbi.”
One should think carefully before issuing a blanket condemnation of any group of people–Palestinians, settlers, whomever. To be sure, there are a number of settlers who express blanket condemnation of “the Arabs,” and even some who call for “death to Arabs” and/or engage in violence against them. Without mincing words, this is a sad reality to stomach. To whatever extent you feel comfortable distinguishing individual Palestinian Arabs from extremist sentiments and violence in their midst, I’d hope and expect the same courtesy be extended to Jewish Israelis. If you associate all “settlers” with people stealing land and/or life from Palestinians, you’re no less prejudicial than you picture them to be.
Whatever your political views, let’s not overlook forward-thinking individuals in this dispute.