Goodnight, I Love You, and Nine Millimeter Guns

hadagnachashMy husband, Yoni, is very matter of fact about his lack of Hebrew. Although he was born in Israel, his parents went for the American dream, moving to Boston when Yoni was two. There, they found it difficult to keep up with teaching Yoni Hebrew once he began socializing with other English-speaking kids. He can tell me laila tov (good night) and tell his parents he loves them, but his scope outside of what a three year old might say is fairly limited. “Rak ktzat,” Yoni responds when asked if he speaks Hebrew. Only a little.
So I found it perplexing several years ago, when we were driving around our college campus and a foreign rap song came on his iPod Shuffle.
“What is this?” I asked. It sounded like Hebrew, but in my experience, musical Hebrew was used strictly in prayers and songs about, I don’t know, mitzvot. (Mitzvah goreret mitzvah, anyone?).
“A group called HaDag Nachash,” said Yoni. He paused, listening. “I think this song is about a nine millimeter gun.”
That was the day that a) I learned that there are Israeli rappers, and b) I began questioning my husband’s childhood. Whose language repertoire includes “Only a little”, “I love you, Mom” and “Nine millimeter gun?” I can’t think of anyone. Maybe Eminem?
Perhaps this article has helped you realized that there are Israeli rappers. Well I have more great news for you – HaDag Nachash is coming to the Twin Cities! The group, one of the most popular musical acts in Israel and known for their outspoken lyrics and “tight grooves”, will close out the Twin Cities’ Yom Ha’atzmaut Celebration this Sunday, at 6 pm. With lyrics like “I come from the Middle East/ I wanna be a free man / I ain’t no gangsta no / I’m just a little man” (and that was about the only line I felt comfortable posting), this song isn’t likely to be featured in my summer camp’s song book anytime soon.
But that’s what’s great about our community’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration, and really, all of the Israeli programming that comes through the Twin Cities.
In my education of Israel, I was exposed to the country’s culture in a limited sense. I knew it was the Holy Land, the land of falafel, of the Dead Sea – but as is maybe to be expected in a Jewish education, it all tied back to religion in the end. Somewhere along the way, combined with the scary news coverage of Israel that we’ve all unfortunately come to expect, it became less and less clear in my young mind that Israel is a regular society, where teenagers hang up posters on their wall and young adults go to concerts and follow their favorite celebrities on Twitter.
So I am basically the exact target audience of the Israel Center’s programming.
I love hearing from the authors that inspire and delight Israelis, and seeing in person pop stars like HaDag Nachash; the personalities that say what’s on their mind and are loved or hated for it. Socializing with the soldiers that travel here through Parallel Lives is incredibly eye opening in a completely mundane way. Even though I swam in the Dead Sea as a teenager, even though I have friends that update their Facebook statuses from Jerusalem, having Israeli popular culture in the Twin Cities makes Israel seem a little more real.  And I think that’s exactly the point.
You have the chance to be immersed in Israeli culture this Sunday at the State Fairgrounds. Bring your kids to hear Israeli story time, bring your friends to see HaDag Nachash’s crazy show (I know I’ll be bringing Yoni so I can assess his Hebrew even further!), and bring everyone to try blintzes and matzah balls on a stick. And that’s not even half of what will be going on 4-8 pm at the State Fairgrounds – visit for the details.
This Great Israel Get Together is scheduled to take place at the International Bazaar at the State Fairgrounds, but in case this lovely spring weather we’ve been having continues, it will be moved to the Dairy Building. Stay tuned to, Facebook (MPLS/St. Paul) and Twitter for the final decision.
Note: I have been ensured that there were no nine millimeter guns anywhere near Yoni’s childhood.