A Religious and Cultural Critique of Haim Gouri’s Bab el-Wad
One of the most well-known songs associated with Yom ha-Zikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) is Haim Gouri’s Bab el-Wad, known by many through the singing of Yaffa Yarkoni. The song is a powerful and moving memorial for the soldiers who fought in order to bring supplies to Jerusalem during the War of Independence through Bab el-Wad (Sha’ar Ha-Gai).
While Gouri’s Bab el-Wad is very well known, less familiar is a song that was written to some extent as a cirque of the secular zionist ethos found in Gouri’s song. This song, Binu Na Mordim (Wise Up, O Rebels) was written by the Moroccan payytan Rabbi David Buzaglo.
A discussion of Buzaglo’s piyyut can be found in the article by Haim O. Rechnitzer, Haim Guri and Rabbi David Buzaglo: A Theo-Political Meeting Place of Zionist Sabra Poetry and Jewish Liturgy.
What appears at first sight to be a traditional piyyut actually breaks away from the customary form by borrowing its melody from Bab el Wad, one of the most distinctive Israeli-Zionist songs, composed by the poet Haim Guri (Tel-Aviv, b. 1923). Frequently sung at national memorial ceremonies, Bab el Wad has been part of the canon of Israeli civic religion since the first years of the State. Binu Hamordim is thus a unique religious hymn that replaces the lyrics to a canonical Zionist-Sabra song, resulting in a significant textual event with theological and political overtones. It compels the audience to read the piyyut as a response, a rejection, or perhaps a call for dialogue with Guri‘s poem and Bab el Wad’s distinctive place within the Israeli national narrative. With regard to this piyyut, Meir Buzaglo, the payytan’s son and professor of philosophy, suggests that, “… [R. David Buzaglo] felt that he must present a Jewish alternative to Bab el Wad. With this in mind, Buzaglo‘s piyyut can be seen as a meeting place (and to some extent a battleground) between traditional Mizrahi (Moroccan) Jewish liturgy and Zionist Israeli Sabra poetry.
May the memory of all who have fallen in defense of Israel be for a blessing. יהי זכרם ברוך.