Chava Alberstein 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
A group of Jewish and Arab women from Jaffa are featured on Israeli folksinger Chava Alberstein’s new album Baruch Haba, released this week in time for Pessah, which demonstrates the power of music to bridge cultural and religious gaps.
The women are from Jaffa’s all-women’s choir Shirana , which was launched by the Arab Jewish Community Center of Jaffa in 2008 and includes Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women. The choir has performed at a number of festivals in the Jaffa area, singing a wide range of songs in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Greek, among others.
Alberstein, who has recorded over 60 albums and is considered one of
Israel’s seminal artists, contacted the women in August when she
received a recording of the choir singing a version of her song “Had Gadya
” in Hebrew and Arabic. The song is a play on the traditional Pessah song “Had Gadya
,” but with additional lyrics at the end that are critical of the occupation and its effects on Palestinians and Israelis.
On her new album, she asked Shirana to sing with her on the title track “Baruch Haba
bringing the sounds of the choir to a far wider audience. Like Shirana,
Alberstein also had her first performance in Jaffa, albeit a bit
earlier, in 1964 at the city’s Hamam club.
AJCC is a community
center in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood that boasts over 3,000 members
from all three religions. The programs run at the center focus on
coexistence and fostering dialogue and understanding among Jews and
Arabs. Shirana is Israel’s only all-female choir featuring women from
all three religions.
Idan Toledano, Shirana’s musical director,
said he reached out to contact Alberstein, sending the disc of Shirana
singing “Had Gadya” to a friend who plays with the famous folksinger.
Toledano, who also plays instruments and does vocal arrangements for
Shirana, said that performing with Alberstein was a “huge honor and a
Toledano said he sees the choir and the projects
launched by the AJCC as bigger than just a forum for artistic
expression, saying “this is probably the only place in Israel where,
through music and art, you have the ability to bring together people
who live in the same neighborhood and have probably never spoken with
“With music it just happens, people come
together, and perform together, it just happens naturally. I think it’s
a small example of how things need to be all over Israel,” Toledano