Among the different events available to teen attendees at the BBYO International Convention 2022 was “Israel: For the Sake of Argument,” featuring Robbie Gringras, a British-born Israeli who works in education, performance and writing. The event focused on the inherent futility of trying to give Israeli citizens specific types of labels.
Gringras began the session by playing a Hebrew-language music video with English subtitles by Israeli singer Hanan Ben Ari. Titled “Wikipedia,” its lyrics focused on the different cliches and false stereotypes that follow the various segments of Israeli society.
“Everything is already arranged in our heads, drawer upon drawer,” the English subtitles read, as Ben Ari sang in Hebrew. “Let’s not let reality disturb us from seeing that every leftist is a traitor, every Arab a suicide bomber, every Haredi is a thief and all settlers murdered Rabin. All of Tel Aviv is vegan, all Netivot is folk traditional, all the Orthodox are primitives in tzitzit and erased Darwin along the way.”
Ben Ari’s song asked the audience to view him as more than a series of rigid labels.
“Don’t lock me up in a cage,” Ben Ari sang. “Don’t sum me up in Wikipedia. I’m everything, I’m nothing. Eternal light dressed in a body. So don’t lock me up in no cage.”
After the song’s conclusion, Gringras explained the importance of putting aside assumptions about Israel and its people.
“You’re going to be meeting folks from Israel,” Gringras said after the song’s conclusion. “And the danger of trying to learn about Israel is when we meet people from Israel or hear things about Israel, and automatically we’re ready with a cage to stick them in, so that we can understand them and define them. And I think that what we need to be doing is coming up with different ways of defining who people are.”