Dikduk Javerim: a call to prayer, 4 AM, Hebrew learning compound for immigrants, Armon HaNatziv, 800 m. west of Arab alSawahira

Video, 2’55».
Kol HaOt, The Jerusalem Biennale, 2021. Curator: Eli Kaplan Wildmann.
Developed at the residency program «48: Creative Quarantine», Jerusalem 2021.

Featuring Orly Noa Rabinyan. Additional voices by Julia & Martín Jais. Samples by Wos – Canguro (Instrumental version by JorgeNely Producciones) and Yusuf Islam – The Adhan (Call to prayer).

The residency project «48: Creative Quarantine» invited 48 artists to each work around one of the 48 ways to acquire Torah, as listed in the Pirkei Avot. One of this ways is «Dikduk chaverim», literally «nuance friend», usually translated as «exchanging critically with your fellow», meaning according to Rashi that Torah should be studied in group, which points to the Chavruta, the traditional Talmud learning system which is done in pairs.
The video is the result of a critical exchange with fellow artist Orly Noa Rabinyan, where we explored musical, poetical and political aspects of the text in relation to a personal moment: the nights at the Immigrants Center, after a day of being educated in a Religious Zionist framework, when everything was quiet and the voice of the Muezzin coming from East Jerusalem could be heard.
The song mixes instrumental, vocal and visual layers: Orly’s recitation of the Mishnah, members of my family in Argentina attempting to read it, the Adhan sung by Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens, and the base of a track by the Argentine hip hop artist Wos. Plus a silent MC which, following the meaning of the word «Dikduk» in modern Hebrew («grammar»), translates phrase-by-phrase the text of the Mishnah into a lyrics that reflects on the experience at the immigrants center and the conversation with Orly about it.

Version 2:

At night we’d have the real Hebrew test – in Arabic.   [Studying]

Open the window to the beat:
from afar comes the Muezzin.   [Attentive listening]
At daytime the tongue set up to fight   [Speaking properly]
At nighttime a double-edged sound
making its own way through the blinds
and all the olim learn to retreat.   [Understanding with the heart]

Awe: at the proximity of otherness.   [Having awe]
Fear: at the proximity of otherness.   [Having fear]
Humility: I will always be this migrant Jew.   [Having humility]
Joy: I will always be this migrant Jew.   [Having joy]
Four AM Adhan calls the East to pray,   [Having purity]
It wakes me too to serve something else.   [Servicing the sages]
But hey, that’s not even up for debate.   [Exchanging critically with your fellow]

Boker tov class, up the steps,   [Debating with students]
It’s a clear morning and I haven’t slept.   [Thinking clearly]
The space from the token of our nation   [Studying Torah]
to the grammar of our nation   [Studying Talmud]
is the ‘hood and the goods.   [Minimizing your material goods]
The rest is distant military news.   [Minimizing your connection with wordly matters]
Trump good for Israel, Tuesdays good times two,   [Minimizing pleasure]
at midnight a hundred Jews
still hangin at the patio,   [Minimizing sleep]
smoking annexation or two-state scenarios,   [Minimizing chatter]
name-dropping rabbis, mic-dropping impresarios   [Minimizing frivolity]
and what will you plan to do
after all you’ve been through   [Long suffering]
when you’ll be here for good.   [Having a good heart]

Half say trust the sages governing.   [Trusting the sages]
Other half say accept every suffering.   [Accepting suffering]
Winners say «This is my house,   [Knowing your place]
I came for what’s mine.   [Rejoicing in your portion]
My tongue is my arm,   [Making a fence around your words]
and i’m not stuck up,   [Taking no credit for yourself]
just people love me much.»   [Being loved]

I say: «I also love my dad   [Loving your place]
and more so I love my cats.   [Loving all creatures]
I love when I walk upright,   [Loving virtue]
when I flop and tank   [Loving reproof]
and when I straighten back.   [Loving equity]
Honors cost a jack   [Keeping yourself far from honors]
and we just skipped that class.   [Not letting your heart swell for your studies]
It’s shekels mam’,
Justice has a price.   [Not delighting in judging]
But we ride it out
with all my gang   [Sharing the burden with your fellow]
the scale isn’t blind
but it’s up for grabs.   [Judging with the scales weighted in the other’s favor]

I tell no fibs,
my dear dikduk,   [Leading to truth]
I aspire to peace
and you should too.   [Leading to peace]
Let’s all pace down,
cross-faith chavruta and grab it half-time.   [Inhabiting your heart with your study]
4 AM is a real good start,
we’ve occupied y’all,
but when it comes to God,
still can’t silence that,
afuch n’ better so,
turn the volume up,
got some things to ask,   [Asking and answering, listening and adding]
and maybe some to teach,
and to do no doubt.   [Learning to teach, learning to do]
I’d turn it to the class   [Making your teacher wiser]
but I’m no chazzan,
no preachin’ aloud,   [Being exact in what you have listened]
All just hit the sack
and I just can’t pronounce
the name of your town,   [Quoting with name]
or how to go about what is it like
under the muted wall of a sunlight
that makes your spell
disappear again,
fisfasti sheiná
shub od pa’am
(fade out).