August 18, 2019

Israel Sings Itself Into Unity

“The Hall of Isaac at the Tombs of the Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank, was filled with thousands of Jewish worshippers — men and women — on April 23 in the intermediate days of Passover. Most came for a special mass singing event, where together they sang during morning prayers the verse “What will I return to the Lord,” from the book of Psalms.

Documented by drone cameras, amplified and accompanied by music, the event is part of the mass singing trend, Koolulam — which is a wordplay on “koolulu,” the traditional celebratory ululation of Middle Eastern and North African Jews, and “koolam,” which means “everyone” in Hebrew. The trend is taking Israel by storm and was certainly reflected in the mass singing at the Tombs of the Patriarchs.

Koolulam gathers thousands of strangers without musical backgrounds for a new arrangement of a familiar song in three-part harmony following a 45-minute lesson. But the music is actually not the main point. The event, which usually lasts about three hours, includes all sorts of social interaction exercises. The common singing and the final video clip are just the artistic product and the viral source of inspiration for other participants. The phenomenon, which started with local events with only a few hundred participants, has become over the past few months a social movement that has stirred hundreds of thousands, been viewed by millions on YouTube and drawn international attention.”

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