MembersRahamim: A New Song Challenging Israeli identity

As Israel continues to grapple with an identity crisis over what it means to be a Jew, influential voices speak out

By Tsvi Sadan |
Eviatar Banai performs at an event in the Etzion Bloc of Jewish settlements south of Bethlehem. Photo: Gershon Elinson/Flash90

Eviatar Banai is not just another Israeli singer. Coming from a well-known and respected family that immigrated to Israel from Shiraz, Iran in the early 1880s, Eviatar is one among several well-known Banai stage artists. 

Carrying such a legacy, Eviatar is looked at as a kind of seismograph of a contemporary Israeli society that still struggles with the fruits of Zionist school education. In a nutshell, this refers to the formal Israeli education that has done all it can to portray the Jewish religion as archaic and irrelevant to modern Israel. Modern Israeli Jews, so believed the early Zionists, should make a clean break with the past, and begin to evolve into a “new Jew” who is free from the constraints of religion and the legacy of exile.

In the early days, from the 1930s to 1950s, Jews coming to Israel were encouraged to change their “exilic” name to a modern Hebrew name. So, for example, my father, born in Holland as Charl Blazer, became Shaul Sadan, a name that bears no resemblance whatsoever to his...

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