A Rap Song Lays Bare Israel’s Jewish-Arab Fracture — and Goes Viral

BEIT YEHOSHUA, Israel — Uriya Rosenman grew up on Israeli army bases and served as an officer in an elite unit of the military. His father was a fight pilot. His grandfather led the paratroopers who captured the Western Wall from Jordan in 1967.

Sameh Zakout, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, grew up within the combined Arab-Jewish city of Ramla. His household was pushed out of its residence within the 1948 struggle of Israeli independence, recognized to Palestinians because the “Nakba,” or disaster. Many of his family members fled to Gaza.

Facing one another in a storage over a small plastic desk, the 2 hurl ethnic insults and clichés, tearing away the veneer of civility overlaying the seething resentments between the Jewish state and its Palestinian minority in a rap video that has gone viral in Israel.

The video, “Let’s Talk Straight,” which has garnered greater than 4 million views on social media since May, couldn’t have landed at a extra apt time, after the eruption two months in the past of Jewish-Arab violence that turned many combined Israeli cities like Lod and Ramla into Jewish-Arab battlegrounds.

By shouting all sides’s prejudices at one another, at instances seemingly on the verge of violence, Mr. Rosenman and Mr. Zakout have produced a piece that dares listeners to maneuver previous stereotypes and uncover their shared humanity.

Mr. Rosenman, 31, says he needs to vary Israel from inside by difficult its most simple reflexes. “I think that we are scared and are controlled by fear,” he says.

Mr. Zakout, 37, needs to vary Israel by overcoming their forebears’ traumas. “I am not emphasizing my Palestinian identity,” he says. “I am a human being. Period. We are human beings first.”

At first viewing, the video looks like something however a humanistic enterprise.

Mr. Rosenman, the primary to talk, launches right into a relentless three-minute anti-Palestinian tirade.

“Don’t cry racism. Stop the whining. You live in clans, fire rifles at weddings,” he taunts, his physique tensed. “Abuse your animals, steal cars, beat your own women. All you care about is Allah and the Nakba and jihad and the honor that controls your urges.”

He goes on: “Mix the stucco, Ahmed! You’ve always been good at that. Just don’t do an ‘Arab job.’ Don’t be sloppy.”

The digital camera circles them. A guitar screeches.

Mr. Zakout tugs at his beard, appears to be like away with disdain. He’s heard all of it earlier than, together with that oft-repeated line: “I am not a racist, my gardener is Arab.”

The duo recorded the track in March and the video in mid-April. Arab-Jewish riots broke out in Israeli cities quickly after.Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Then Mr. Zakout, his voice rising, delivers the opposite facet of essentially the most intractable of Middle Eastern tales.

“Enough,” he says. “I am a Palestinian and that’s it, so shut up. I don’t support terror, I’m against violence, but 70 years of occupation — of course there’ll be resistance. When you do a barbecue and celebrate independence, the Nakba is my grandmother’s reality. In 1948 you kicked out my family, the food was still warm on the table when you broke into our homes, occupying and then denying. You can’t speak Arabic, you know nothing of your neighbor, you don’t want us to live next to you, but we build your homes.”

Mr. Rosenman fidgets. His assertive confidence drains away as he’s whisked via the looking-glass of Arab-Jewish incomprehension.

The video pays homage to Joyner Lucas’s “I’m Not Racist,” an analogous exploration of the stereotypes and blindness that lock within the Black-white fracture within the United States.

Mr. Rosenman, an educator whose job was to elucidate the battle to younger Israeli troopers, had grown more and more annoyed with “how things, with the justification of past traumas for the Jews, were built on rotten foundations.”

“Some things about my country are amazing and pure,” he mentioned in an interview. “Some are very rotten. They are not discussed. We are motivated by trauma. We are a post-traumatic society. The Holocaust gives us some sort of back-way legitimacy to not plan for the future, not understand the full picture of the situation here, and to justify action we portray as defending ourselves.”

For instance, Israel, he believes, ought to cease constructing settlements “on what could potentially be a Palestinian state” within the West Bank, as a result of that state is required for peace.

Looking for a option to maintain a mirror to society and reveal its hypocrisies, Mr. Rosenman contacted a pal within the music business, who advised he meet Mr. Zakout, an actor and rapper.

They began speaking in June final 12 months, assembly for hours on a dozen events, constructing belief. They recorded the track in Hebrew and Arabic in March and the video in mid-April.

Their timing was impeccable. A few weeks later, the most recent Gaza struggle broke out. Jews and Arabs clashed throughout Israel.

Their early conversations have been tough.

They argued over 1948. Mr. Zakout talked about his household in Gaza, how he missed them, how he wished to get know his family members who misplaced their houses. He talked in regards to the Jewish “arrogance that we feel as Arabs, the bigotry.”

Mr. Zakout and Mr. Rosenman have change into quick mates and are at work on a second mission.Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Walking alone in Jaffa not too long ago, Mr. Zakout was approached by 4 Orthodox Jews. One of them, who had clearly seen the video, mentioned he was sorry as a result of he had been racist some years again however now felt ashamed. They hugged.

“My Israeli friends told me I put them in front of the mirror,” Mr. Zakout mentioned.

Mr. Rosenman mentioned he understood Mr. Zakout’s eager for a united household. That was pure. But why did Arab armies assault the Jews in 1948? “We were happy with what we got,” he mentioned. “You know we had no other option.”

The response to the video has been overwhelming, as if it bared one thing hidden in Israel. Invitations have poured in — to seem at conferences, to take part in documentaries, to host concert events, to file podcasts.

“I’ve been waiting for someone to make this video for a long time,” mentioned one commenter, Arik Carmi. “To show that we are two sides of the same coin. How can we fight each other when we are more like brothers than we will admit to ourselves? Change won’t come before we let go of the hate.”

The two males, now quick mates, are at work on a second mission, impressed by the phrase: “Everybody wants to change the world. Nobody wants to change themselves.” It will look at how self-criticism in a Jewish and Arab society would possibly deliver change. It will ask a elementary query: How are you able to do higher, somewhat than blaming the federal government?

Mr. Zakout not too long ago met Mr. Rosenman’s grandfather, Yoram Zamosh, who planted the Israeli flag on the Western Wall after Israeli paratroopers stormed into the Old City in Jerusalem throughout the 1967 struggle. Most of Mr. Zamosh’s household from Berlin was murdered by the Nazis on the Chelmno extermination camp.

“He is a unique and special guy,” Mr. Zakout mentioned of Mr. Yamosh. “He reminds me a little of my grandfather, Abdallah Zakout, his energy, his vibes. When we spoke about his history and pain, I understood his fear, and at the same time he understood my side.”

The video goals to deliver viewers to that very same type of understanding.

“That’s the beginning,” Mr. Zakout mentioned. “We are not going to solve this in a week. But at least it is something, the first step in a long journey.”

Mr. Rosenman added: “What we do is meant to scream out loud that we are not scared anymore. We are letting go of our parents’ traumas and building a better future for everyone together.”

The final phrases within the video, from Mr. Zakout, are: “We both have no other country, and this is where the change begins.”

They lastly flip to the desk in entrance of them, and silently share a meal of pita and hummus.