The Schmooze

Yehoram Gaon Sparks Israeli Pop Music Culture War

In America, we fight our culture wars over unwed mothers and gay marriage. In Israel, they fight them over pop music.

One of the Jewish state’s veteran Ashkenazi entertainers has ignited the latest battle over Mizrahi music, the genre that arrived with Jewish immigrants from the Arab world. Traditionally disdained by the country’s Ashkenazi elite, the music has long been a symbol of Mizrahis’ outsider status in Israeli politics, education and income distribution.

So singer Yehoram Gaon should have known better when he told the student newspaper at Ariel University that Mizrahi music is “garbage” and a “natural disaster.” Referring to the music’s soaring popularity in recent years, the 71-year-old Gaon added that he was “waiting for this foul wave to pass.” (This is roughly akin to someone like Paul Simon making similar comments about rap or hip-hop, with all the corresponding identity politics.)

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Yehoram Gaon Sparks Israeli Pop Music Culture War

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