The restaurant and dance club Selam has all the hallmarks of an inspiring Israeli success story. Selam is owned and operated by Yaacov, an Eritrean refugee who trekked across the Sinai desert and risked his life to reach the Jewish state. Now in the country three years, Yaacov — who would give only his first name because of his unclear legal status — prefers to speak English, but emphasizes his hope to stay in Israel “Be-ezrat Hashem,” with God’s help.
Largely unknown abroad, Amir Benayoun is one of the most talented musicians in Israel. Composing and performing a complex blend of traditional North African, classical Western and Israeli rock music, the 35-year-old Benayoun has earned the acclaim of critics and the adoration of fans across musical and social divides. His voice, at once powerful and undulating, rapturous and guttural, refines an aesthetic elegance out of the popular Mizrahi genre.