‘There is a long tradition of some iconic song that comes out of a war, that becomes the song that is identified with that war,” said Hillel Wachs, a veteran Israeli music promoter. And while it’s early days and new songs are being released daily, the new angry rap anthem by the duo Ness Ve Stilla released about a month ago, could turn out to be that song for this war, he said.
Ness Ve Stilla is composed of Nessya Levi and Dor Soroker, two musicians just starting their careers, and the song is an angry rap tune that many young Israelis are embracing. It has nearly eight million views on YouTube and millions more on Spotify, with several remixes already making the rounds. It has topped all the Israeli charts and looks set for the top spot in the year-end music polls voted on by radio listeners.
“Harbu Darbu” is an Arabic war cry from Syria that has crossed over into Hebrew slang. The song is a departure from the apolitical or mournful songs that Israeli music lovers have been turning to since the outbreak of the war on October 7, when Hamas massacred over 1,200 Israelis (as well as tourists and foreign workers) and took another approximately 240 hostage. The massacre claimed a huge number of young victims. Over 350 of the deaths took place at the Nova Music Festival, where nearly all the attendees and staff were in their 20s and 30s, and a new generation of Israelis is fighting and dying in the fiercest war in decades.
“War songs give a feeling of togetherness and solidarity,” noted Wachs. “They are a kind of collective therapy, a rallying point of what we feel.”
Clearly, what the fans of “Harbu Darbu” are feeling is very strong anger and they connect this anger firmly to Jewish tradition, calling Hamas and its supporters, “Children of Amalek,” the ancient tribe that tried to destroy the Israelites. “Left, Right, Left, impressive how the whole country put on uniforms from the Galilee to Eilat... We brought the whole army on you and I swear there will be no forgiveness.”
'One, two, shoot'
A refrain of the song is, “One, two, shoot.” Levi sings, “Get your asses ready, ‘cause it’s the air force, feel the vibration all the way to Tel Aviv; all the girls stare at the soldiers, and that guy on the news suddenly seems handsome to me... For Mom and Dad, for all my friends in the front line; one for Grandpa and Grandma; we write their names on the shells.”
The song celebrates various combat units by name, and vows, “Everyone who planned, everyone who supported, everyone who carried out, everyone who murdered, every bad person gets his punishment in the end.” The song mentions some of these people by name, including Hamas leaders and Western celebrities, among them Bella Hadid and Dua Lipa, who have posted about the impact of the war on Palestinians without ever mentioning the massacre.
The video Levi and Soroka in fashionably casual clothes, dancing with an Israeli flag in what looks like the parking lot of a supply warehouse. They are also shown surrounded by dancers in a club and in the desert, where, at one point, fighter jets fly overhead in formation.
In the comments section underneath the song on YouTube, Ness Ve Stilla posted, “It’s time to replace sorrow with anger.”
The song has inspired outrage in international media, with the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network posting and criticizing it on its social media.
Mia Khalifa, who was fired as a Playboy model due to her anti-Israel statements following the massacre, posted on X: “Y’all that song calling for the IDF to kill me, Bella, and Dua is over a DRILL beat.”
Between anger and depression, 'the anger seems healthier'
MUSIC WRITER Matan Sharon of Time Out wrote in an article, “You don’t have to like Ness Ve Stilla’s hit, or even agree with its messages, to understand that the pro-Palestinian campaign that claims the song ‘calls for genocide’ or ‘threatens the life of Dua Lipa’ is bullshit.”
This is not the first time that Israeli artists have created music that expresses support for the military and anger at Arab terror. During the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, “Ha Tikvah” by Subliminal and the Shadow, claimed, “The son of a bitch who can stop Israel hasn’t been born.” But the vest majority of Israeli pop music in recent years has been decidedly apolitical, and most of the songs that have had political content have been left of Center.
“Harbu Darbu” is a notable change from the early days of this war, when sorrowful tunes dominated the airwaves and the first breakout hit was Yagel Oshri’s “Getting Over Depression,” which young Israelis began to use as a soundtrack to their Instagram and TikTok videos from October 7. It features the kinder, gentler refrain, “Good days will come, I promise.”
While “Getting Over Depression,” which was written before the outbreak of war, received millions of views and has many fans, there is no denying that young Israelis, facing the prospect of a protracted war and widespread international ostracism for the first time in the lives, are responding enthusiastically to “Harbu Darbu.”
One mother of a son in his early 20s who lost a number of friends in the October 7 attacks said, “He is so very depressed now, he went to so many funerals and lately I have heard him listening to ‘Harbu Darbu.’ He is certainly still very down, but this seems to energize him. He grew up going to programs talking about coexistence with Palestinians and it’s hard for him to reconcile that with what happened [at the music festival] where his friends were murdered. I think right now, his choices are feeling angry or feeling depressed. The anger seems healthier.”
Said Wachs, “The soundtrack from this war is a work in progress, but ‘Harbu Darbu’ is definitely an important song... Does it signify the movement of the entire pop world from Left to Center? It’s too early to tell, but many people in the arts community are reevaluating their political views.”