In our BackyardMarch 3, 2011
Israeli writer and composer Naomi Shemer (1930-2004) is probably best known for her moving “Yerushalayim shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold). But Shemer wrote many more popular songs which made their way into everyday Israeli culture. One of them, “Orchim LaKayitz,” (though more commonly know as “Etzlenu Ne’chatzer“), which translates to “Summer Guests,” brings greetings from children around the world. If you listen carefully you’ll hear ohayo, aloha, kalimera, ahalan and many more, as everybody gathers in “our backyard” to wish each other shalom, peace.
This song written in 1979 by a poet who was considered much more right than left (Naomi Shemer is associated with Gush Emunim), has been recently used in a unique project of the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv. This school found itself in the midst of a heart wrenching challenge: the need to reach out, to teach, and more often, give a home to children of illegal immigrants in Israel, many of whom expected to be deported.
The story has come to the public’s attention now that the documentary “Strangers No More” which depicts the story of the school, and with it, the painful story of the people caught in the drama, has just won an Oscar.
We, who grew up with Hollywood and mostly happy endings after 90-120 minutes, want neat solutions that come in small, easy to digest packages: a right, a wrong, bad guy, good guy, winners, losers. But once again, Israel offers us none of that. The Oscar goes to a touching and inspiring movie about an unresolvable tragedy. Illegal foreign workers’ children harmonize a multicultural peace song written by a right wing poet.
Rak BeYisrael (Only in Israel)!
- by Michal Kohane, Israel Center Director