In the current climate, when a Middle East war may come from any direction, it’s worth sitting back and hearing beauty, the opposite of war and hate. After reading Idan Landau’s post (in Hebrew) predicting an imminent “war of choice” by Israel against Hezbollah, I watched the video he featured of the Israeli performer, Karolina, singing an enchanting song dedicated to Lebanon. Yes, it’s still possible in a society swimming in war hysteria to hear such beauty.
The problem is that songs are mere art. They are evanescent. They make a ripple in a pool, then they’re gone. But war is a brutal thing. It kills. It tears apart, people and countries. To hear Idan’s frightening assessment of how close we are to a new, unnecessary Middle East war, brought chills. There is definitely the smell of gunpowder in the air. So here is a small, momentary antidote to warm the soul:
A cherry tree resting in a cloud
The smell of jasmine, the lemons of Lebanon, mon cheri
The distance of a mere footstep from here
Above a white ridge
If only I could spy your beauty, Lebanon, mon amour
My torn sister
I await you with a kiss
To sing in Sidon and Tyre, Lebanon, mon amour
A cherry tree resting in a cloud
The story is not yet over, Lebanon, mon amour
To be clear, this is not a rousing anti-war song. It’s not a broadside. In fact, it’s unclear who, if anyone, the songwriter blames for Lebanon’s being her “wounded sister.” It could be Israel. It could be Hezbollah. It could be anyone.
Karolina responded to my questions about the origin and meaning of the song saying:
I actually wrote a song of love between two sisters, LEBANON and ISRAEL.
They really want to be together, close to each other…
It is not a political song at all. It is a love song, and a sad love.
In this crazy time both in Israel and the region, it’s not easy to write a song that speaks of love, rather than war & hate. But any song that rejects the prevailing mood of incitement to war is, in effect, a political song. I realize why Karolina prefers that people not consider it political, since that might limit its impact or diminish the number of Israelis who might listen to it. But I’d prefer not to hide the light of this song under a bushel. It’s message is more implicit, perhaps less confrontational (and less powerful) than Chava Alberstein’s Had Gadya. But Alberstein lost her Israeli audience over the song, was banned from airplay and went into exile for ten years. Karolina chooses not to take that path.
There may be some who decry this attempt as too little, too late, too tepid in light of the massive destruction Israel has levelled against Lebanon going back to 1982. Though there is a point to this, the mere fact that an Israeli is singing a song devoted to this troubled, battered nation is testimony to Carolina’s urge to shun the hatred and violence which characterized Israel’s relationship with that country over the past forty years. That’s worth celebrating…
NOTE: Middle East Eye has published my latest article critiquing the NY Times expose, claiming Israel’s long-term military alliance with Egypt against Islamists in Sinai has been a “secret.” Give it a read and please promote on social media.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.