Identity and Jerusalem: My final stop before the Nesher
I walked into HaTav HaShmini, a record store on Rechov Shammai, for my last purchases in Jerusalem before catching my Nesher to the airport to return to Boston. I had a short list of recommendations from LastTrumpet of Jewy hippie music to pick up, and I wanted to listen to whatever was good. (Unlike in the States, in Israel they still let you listen to the music before you buy it.)
I flipped through the Jewish music section, picked out a couple of disks, listened to some, put some back. I found a disc called something like music of the kabbalah, which turned out to be an overly Orientalized cantorial selection of kabbalistic poetry, most of it liturgical. I had bought a disc by Ein Od Milvado during a clothing excursion to the Bat Ayin store (I know, I know, but they have the best selection of clothing for my style and body type), so I was looking through some other of his discs. I saw a disc put out by the Bat Ayin community and was really curious what would be on such a thing. (The first song was a strange ballad to Bat Ayin…) There were some other religious CDs too. The guy at the counter, a large guy with curly Jew hair and a scraggly beard and mustache, politely switched discs for me; I must have listened to like 5 or 6. Finally, I selected the three I wanted and handed them over to purchase.
The guy at the counter looked at what I’d chosen and said, “You know what you’d really like? There’s this album Orange Days? that’s really good; it has all the best Chassidic singers. You should listen to it.” He gestured to a dreadlocked dude to get the CD.
Dreadlocked dude got me the disc and set it down in front of me while counter guy rang someone else up.
“Yamim Ktumim: Shirim shel Tikvah v’Emunah” was the title. (“Orange Days: Songs of Hope and Faith.”) The album cover was black and orange, with a huge photograph of young religious people marching in a line with instruments somewhere in Gush Katif. Against the disengagement. It was an album memorializing the fight against the disengagement.
WHAT? What kind of demographic had I unintentionally projected by my music choices and clothing? Where did I go wrong and appear to be a right wing fanatic? I mean I guess the Bat Ayin album might have falsely incriminated me, but really, why are religious hippies in Israel predominantly right-wingers? What IS that? Why can’t I have hippie religious experience without right wing politics? What do I even mean by hippie anymore.
OR… In other words, I realized my naivite. How could I blame counter guy for his assumption? Up til a certain point, I am apparently okay patronizing stores that support settlements, hanging out at Nachlaot gatherings and minyanim with people who wish that all Arabs would be shot, considering learning at a place closely tied with Yeshivat Bat Ayin, buying music by right-wingers because it’s good, but somehow buying an album called “Yamim Ktumim” was just one step over the line. Visiting Bat Ayin or another settlement is one step over the line.
(It’s an intriguing step over the line though, like buying designer clothes or renting an SUV on a vacation or not recycling. There’s something naughty and thrilling in stepping to the other side for a little while.)
The counter guy took the CD and started unwrapping it to put it in the CD player for me to listen to it.
“Ah, no. No thanks, I don’t want to listen to it,” I said.
“You sure?” I nodded my head. He shrugged, clearly bewildered. “Okay,” and rang me up.