By Anton Goodman, the Jewish Agency Israel Engager Shaliach to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Cross-posted from DC-ach | D. שיח
Original Post: http://www.shalomdc.org/blog.aspx?id=374
On May 10th The Washington DC JCC will be hosting HaDag Nachash as the headliners of their Jewish Music Festival. The band plays a diverse range of music but falls into the Israeli hip hop category, and their songs are known to be as rich in lyrics as they are in musical depth. HaDag Nachash has provided a soundtrack and a commentary to contemporary Israel, fusing themselves into the essence of Modern Israel, and due to this, their songs have become a staple for Israel education.
One song that took the Israeli music scene by storm was שירת הסטיקר – the Sticker Song, composed, or rather compiled by David Grossman, the internationally renowned Israeli author, the lyrics are comprised of Israeli bumper stickers crafted into a biting critique on Israeli society. The sticker song gives new meaning to these slogans, and despite the fact that some of the stickers are dated in their message, the spirit of the song remains as relevant as ever. It was with this song in mind that I began contemplating to what extent HaDag Nachash’s music has transferrable qualities for American Jews.
Bumper stickers are ubiquitous in Israel. They express the breadth and depth of political, religious and social convictions and often embrace radical, yet catchy, language. Bumper stickers such as “Medinat Halacha – Halcha HaMedina – A religious State will be the end of the State” and “Justice for the Oslo Criminals” constantly remind us of the complexity of our political reality and the diversity of the opinions of those around us. This is not the case in America, where there are far fewer bumper stickers – could this be due to the fact that there are also many more nice, new cars that their owners don’t want to deface? Or that Americans are less comfortable expressing their views in public space? Or, more cynically, that Americans’ identities and burning issues are not those of the State? There was only one place to find the answers to these questions: the parking lot. I decided early on not to count the initials of places on a sticker to be a bumper sticker (e.g. OBX – Outer Banks) there is only so low we can stoop to be inclusive in this genre.
In total I sampled around 500 cars and found that only about 10% had a bumper sticker at all. Of those with a bumper sticker, the majority discussed dogs. Right, dogs. You’d think they could drive. From large paw prints asking sphinx-like “who rescued who?” to a small cheeky “woof!”, the dogs were the hands-down winner. And of these canine stickers the majority advocated for a specific breed, dog-lovers but partisan.
The next largest category was kids, and more specifically, showing off that your kid is on the honor roll. If you’d have asked me a year ago what an honor roll was, I’d guess something a gymnast did after winning a medal. But it’s clear that it is actually a great way for schools to get free advertizing on the back of a proud parent’s car.
Next category is back to the partisan advocacy, this time for a hobby.
Skiing, running, swimming, diving, all have their campaigners, who not only want to share their love but also encourage others, almost coercively, to get involved.
Next category is life-lessons. From “wag more, bark less” (another canine theme!) to “life is good” there are a number of bumper stickers that share those life lessons that you can impart in 8 words or less. Here is my favorite, again presented as a directive:
Lastly came the politically charged stickers, and I don’t mean those with merely a candidate’s name and date. But those that actually express a conviction, such as the daring:
Imagine Phillip Roth compiling these bumper stickers into a song for Matisyahu and we are starting to get a sense of the culture gap.
And to my friend who asked me if HaDag Nachash are just hip-hop in Hebrew, my answer is no.
Just go and hear them.