May 1, 2009

Chol Hamoed and Etti Ankri

April 13 - Etti Ankri On Stage
The first evening of Chol Hamoed, we went to the Yigal Alon Centre for a women’s only concert. I love events for women as I find them very empowering. The centre holds around 700 people and I think they crammed in many more than this.

I had never been in a place with so many religious women before. Some wore hats and some wore head scarves tied in the most creative ways. There was a certain beauty and dignity to these women. By the time the concert started, people were standing in the aisles, sitting on the stairs and even sitting cross-legged on the stage. There is no way any Canadian theatre would have permitted such a thing. But this is Israel and these women travelled far to be here.

Many looked at if they had once come from Gush Katif. They were wearing colourful headdresses, long flowing skirts and sandals and looked like they were around eighteen, all moms, with babies either strapped to their backs or to their fronts. They glowed with youth, beauty and strength.

I remember how paranoid I was when my babies were small and how I would never take them anywhere for fear that they would cry or would want to feed. One woman actually sat on the stage the whole time, clapping to the music while nursing her baby under a shawl. There is a zest for life and an endurance in this country like no other place on earth.

We all said the sephirat ha'omer blessing together and then a woman came on stage with a large tambourine, holding it gently against her pregnant tummy. Her voice was loud. Pure. Strong. She started to sway gracefully. It was mesmerizing. She looked like Miriam who sang after the splitting of the sea. The women went wild. They sang along. They stood up and danced. I was so honored to be a witness to this.

A rebbetzin named Yemima Mizrachi then stood up and gave a Torah shiur that had a touch of stand-up comedy - although I think I missed every punch line due to my inept Hebrew. The women laughed along with her non-stop yet came away with new depths of understanding about the sephirat ha’omer.

And then the main act: Etti Ankri. She was once a double platinum award winning singer and actress who turned religious eight years ago. Now she can only perform in front of women. Her band, a male guitarist and a drummer, were hidden behind a mechitza (screen) so that women could feel free to dance. She came on stage with a headscarf wrapped and tied up and wearing a gold shimmery dress that covered her from head to toe. She looked like some exotic queen.

I think about how women singers in popular culture try to aspire to having thin bodies just to show them off. They then perform wearing as little as possible. The audience becomes more glued to the women’s bodies than to listening to the music. It is almost as if these fans come to idolize and worship only the physical aspect of the performance. I have no idea how a semi-naked woman can enhance music.

Etti Ankri looked dignified, soulful and strong. Her songs were meaningful, deep, emotional. They were about the spiritual world and about striving to be more connected. She also told a few beautiful religious stories. The evening was transformative. I was fascinated by her songs and by her own journey of transformation from the world of rock to this deeper place.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article and blog!
    Chanoch N. Jerusalem


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