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How Musician Meir Banai Reflected Israeli Culture's Recent Return to Jewish ...

Israel News
Meir Banai : How Musician Meir Banai Reflected Israeli Culture's Recent Return to Jewish ...

Banai, who died yesterday at age 55, was part of a wave of Israeli artists who derived the meaning and inspiration of religious texts that his secular Zionist ancestors had rejected Banai, who died yesterday at age 55. For the time being, the fact that Meir Banai released an album called Shema Koli ("Listen to my voice"), words taken since the opening of the liturgy for Yom Kippur, it seems absolutely nothing special. And that is only an indication of the omnipresence of the revolution of which he was a part. Banai, who died in Israel yesterday at age 55 after a long but private battle with cancer, was part of the "first family" of Israeli music. Like his uncle, Yossi Banai, and his brother, Evyatar (among others in the family), was a household name in Israel. And as members of his family and other well-known Israeli musicians, Banai's lasting contribution to Israeli music may reside less in the songs he wrote and performed than in the song he helped legitimize. Meir Banai was, like many other Israeli musicians, an interpreter whose inner search for meaning took him not far from Jewish tradition but back to it. That may sound inconsistent or natural, but the founding generation of Israel had sought meaning precisely by leaving tradition behind. Haim Nachman Bialik, David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres, Eliezer Ben-Yehudah and dozens of others from the giants of early Zionism were raised in orthodox houses and-to one degree or another-abandoned the rigors of that way of life. They sought sanctity not in the synagogue, but in their ancestral homeland. They substituted the prayer for work. They did not hurt because of ritual purity, but because of the dirtiness of the Land of Israel and the disorder of state-building. Early Zionism was, in many ways, a rebellion against Judaism. And poems like Bialik "City of Slaughter " were the declaration of war. Thus, in the fifties and sixties, the caricature of the Israeli was the completely secular man in shorts, sandals and a tembel kova driving a tractor. That man had no use for the attire of religion, which was the vestige of Europe, where God had not been able to redeem the Jews. Now, the founding generations of Israel said, the Jews would redeem themselves and the only thing they did not need was the passivity and weakness born of the religion of their ancestors. Somewhere along the line, however, the infatuation of the Israelis

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