Forbidden Melodies: Music and Arab-Jewish Identity in Contemporary Mizrahi Cinema

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This article explores the role Arab music has played in forming Mizrahi identity in contemporary Israeli cinema, focusing on the films “The Ballad of the Weeping Spring”, “Testimony” and “Three Mothers”, which second and third generation Mizrahi filmmakers born to Jewish immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries made in Israel. Using Arab music, these films display the vast array of historical and imaginary relations between the Jew and the Arab, West and East, Israel and the Middle East. Memory of the Arab-Jewish past is a place that cannot be revisited, even if one can travel to the geographical territory that appears to be a place of ‘origin.’ As members of the second and third generations born in Israel, these Mizrahi filmmakers cannot reclaim the Arab-Jewish past of which they never really were a part, and so they try to trace musical routes that will take them to places, histories and encounters with people they have not known before. The grounded certainty of their Mizrahi roots is replaced in the films by the contingencies of the routes that the music enabled.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-180
Number of pages16
JournalMiddle East Critique
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Arab Music
  • Arab-Jews
  • East/West
  • Israeli Cinema
  • Mizrahim
  • Zionism

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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