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Right wingers furious at Haifa`s bid to honour Egyptian diva
Haifa town council head defends the decision name one of the city`s streets
in honor of Umm Kulthum, who was adored by Jews and performed in the city in
1930s, while critics, amongst whom is PM`s son, call the move `shameful and
Published: 07.28.20 , 12:27

Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum
Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum (Photo: AFP)
Haifa - Israel`s third largest city, where roughly 10 percent of its 300,000
residents are Arab - decided earlier this month to honour the woman whose
deep, resonant voice was also adored by many Jews.

The decision
After the Umm Kulthum honour was announced, Haifa newspaper Kol Po published
a front page black-and-white picture of the singer with some of her lyrics
scrawled across the image.
Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum
Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum (Photo: AFP)

`Now I have a gun, take me in, Palestine, with you,` were the printed lines
from one of her songs dedicated to the Palestinians.
During the 1967 Six Day War, the artist sometimes dubbed Egypt`s `Fourth
Pyramid`, also performed a song that willed her nation to victory against
Writing in Kol Po, a lawmaker from the right-wing Likud party, Ariel
Kallner, said he was `saddened` by Haifa`s decision to honour a woman `who
called for the destruction of the Jewish state`.
He vowed to find ways to block the street-naming.
And Prime Minister Benjamin`s Netanyahu son Yair, a vocal and often
bombastic social media commentator, tweeted that the honour was `shameful
and crazy`.
Despite Netanyahu`s outrage, his father`s government supported a festival in
2013 that included a night devoted to Umm Kulthum`s work.
And Haifa is not the first Israeli city to honour `the Lady of Cairo`.
In 2011, the mainly Arab Beit Hanina neighbourhood in east Jerusalem named a
street after her and a similar move is planned in the central city of Ramla.
But as the trend has spread, Jewish outrage appears to have grown.
Writing in the Israel Hayom newspaper, commentator Eldad Beck sounded an
alarm about the string of Umm Kulthum honours.
`It started with Jerusalem, then Ramla and has ended up in Haifa,` Beck
wrote, blasting the push `to commemorate one of the biggest and most
influential enemies of Israel, who wanted to annihilate the state`.
Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum
Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum (Photo: AFP)

Reducing the controversy surrounding Umm Kulthum to tensions between Arabs
and Jews underestimates her wide array of devotees, said Jonathan Mandel, an
Arabic language and culture researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the
He stressed that Mizrahi Jews, meaning those from North Africa and the
Middle East, are equally attached to her music.

Cohen told AFP that the former chief Sephardic rabbi, Iraqi-born Ovadia
Yosef, used to play Umm Kulthum`s music during parties and would sing along
to her Arabic lyrics.
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