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NEAR E 287 A: The Near East In Song

Music in the Near East
Meeting Time: 
WF 12:30pm - 1:20pm
* *
Professor Naomi Sokoloff
Naomi B. Sokoloff

Syllabus Description:

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization


The Near East in Song


NEAR E 287



2 credits

Credit/No Credit

Instructor: Prof. Naomi Sokoloff

Autumn Quarter 2020

Wednesday/Friday 12:30-1:20

Office Hours:   via Zoom, Thursday 11:00-12:30 or by appointment

Contact information:  or 206-543-7145


Course Description

Popular song has played a central and very lively role in the shaping of Modern Hebrew culture and Israeli identity. In this class we will examine a range of diverse lyrics, including selections from folk song, pop, rock, musika mizrahit, hip hop, children’s songs and more. The course provides a brief historical overview of important trends in Israeli popular music.

Topics will include the sing-along, the army ensembles, song festivals and competitions, the rise of minorities, major poets set to music, outstanding performers and songwriters, traditional and religious sources, international influences, protest and political song, and changes in the media.

The course is open to all UW students and is taught in English.

Any students who wish to earn additional credits by reading texts in Hebrew should speak to the instructor about arranging independent study (MODHEB 490 or MODHEB 600).

Required texts:

Students can access songs (lyrics and music) from our course website on Canvas:

 An extensive collection of song translations can be found at:

Students can also listen to a range of Israeli music at the UW Libraries Media Center. Some CDs can be checked out for a period of 24 hours or 3 days. An excellent DVD called "Sharti Lakh Artsi" provides an Israeli TV series on Hebrew songs, in Hebrew. Many internet sites feature Israeli music and lyrics.  See, for example, and, for really old oldies,   


Recommended text:


Regev, Motti and Edwin Seroussi. Popular Music and National Culture in Israel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.


Learning Objectives


By the end of the course students are expected 1) to have become familiar with a range of lyrics, from songs composed originally in Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic, and English; 2) to have deepened their understanding of Israeli cultural history and to grasp important relationships between high art and popular music in the development of Israeli writing; 3) to have made a class report and to have written a blog entry that aptly communicates to a wide public what they learned from their class project.


Course Requirements

Each week in our class session we will discuss several songs. Students are expected to prepare the texts and participate in discussion of them. The participation grade will also be based on short in-class writing exercises and written responses to the material covered. PLEASE NOTE: students unable to attend class  can earn participation points by watching the recorded Zoom session and completing an alternative, written assignment.

Every other week students will compose a reflection (250-500 words) on texts covered in class. Submit work to Canvas "assignments".

For the final project: prepare a class report, working in small groups. Discuss a song or songs related to the course material and not covered otherwise in class.  In addition to the oral presentation, prepare a write-up (500-1000 words).  Students are invited to post suitable projects on the Modern Hebrew homepage and the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies website:

 An alternative final project: prepare a research paper (1250-1500 words), working individually.


Final grades

This course is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis. Students will receive Credit by earning a final grade of 75 or higher. Final grades will be determined as follows:


  •  In-class discussion, short writing assignments (25%)
  •  Five written reflections (30%)
  • Class report (20%)
  • Written version of final project (25%)  OR
  • For the research paper option: 45% (no class report required)



Wednesday November 11 - Veteran's Day NO CLASS

Friday November 27 – Thanksgiving   NO CLASS

Friday December 18 - All final work due



Course Information & Online Resources

The plan is to meet at the regularly scheduled hours (WF 12:30-1:20, Seattle time) via Zoom Video Conferencing

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Access to both Canvas and Zoom is necessary for completing readings and homework assignments and for earning participation points.

Teaching this course in person is preferable to teaching remotely, but we can definitely figure out how to make learning a positive experience under extraordinary circumstances. Let's be patient with each other and keep a sense of humor!!

Types of Communication

 In an online course, our communication will visible to all. For private communication, we will use individual email and Zoom office hours.

Online Course Policies

  Expectations of students:

  • Come to class fully prepared.
  • Attend all online sessions and actively participate in the forum.
  • Please complete assignments on time. If difficulties turn up (such as illness, caring for others who are ill, technological problems, working from home where children need attention, etc.), let me know. We will figure out what to do to keep your learning on track!
  • Abide by the standards of academic honesty and student code of conduct.
  • Seek help. I’ll do my best to help you succeed in this class.
  • Have access to a camera and audio. The expectation is that you will be  visible/audible to me and to your classmates, but you can control those options. If you are not feeling well and want to listen in but not speak up or be seen, we will accommodate those circumstances. And, if the servers/processors/whatevers are overburdened and the video is slowing down or disrupting our communication, we'll adapt as necessary to those circumstances.
  • I plan to record Zoom sessions that include lecture/Power Point presentations. If you must miss class and want to catch up later, you should be able to access the recorded material. (I usually don't lecture for more than 20 minutes on any given day; I prefer to devote class time to discussion and other kinds of more interactive activities. ). Anyone who misses a session and wants to earn participation points will have the option of completing an alternative, written assignment.

This course is scheduled to run synchronously at your scheduled class time via Zoom. These Zoom class sessions will be recorded. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public.

The University and Zoom have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to be recorded should:

  • Change their Zoom screen name to hide any personal identifying information such as their name or UW Net ID, and
  • Not share their computer audio or video during their Zoom sessions.


Course Etiquette:

  • Get to class on time. Test your camera and audio prior to class time.
  •  In general, it is good policy to "mute" yourself during a Zoom meeting, until you are ready to speak to the entire group. Keep phones and other devices from making background noise or disruption.
  • Respect each other.


If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924.  If you have a letter from DRS indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please discuss with the instructor any accommodations you might need for the class.

In cases of academic misconduct, such as plagiarism or receiving inappropriate assistance on an assignment, offending students will be penalized in accordance with the policy of the College of Arts and Sciences. If you are unsure what constitutes plagiarism or how to properly attribute credit to source materials, consult with the instructor.

 Please keep a copy of all graded work. This is very useful in case the instructor’s record of grades is lost or damaged, or in case the student wishes to discuss a grade.  Protect yourself by keeping a copy.

For additional guidelines on academic integrity, Incompletes, grade appeal, concerns about an instructor, equal opportunity, disability accommodations, absences due to religious observances, sexual harassment,  safety, and issues that may concern students taking this course from outside the U.S., click on the following link: (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)


It is important that we take care of ourselves inside and outside of class by learning how to care for our body, mind and spirit. Toward that end, there are many different kinds of support services on campus, including the Counseling Center, Hall Health, and the IMA. If you are concerned about yourself or a friend who is struggling, Safecampus, at 1-800-685-7233, is a very helpful resources to learn more about how to access campus-based support services. Please save the number for Safecampus, 1-800-685-7233, into your cell phones.

 This course seeks to create a supportive academic environment in which we all participate in informed, challenging instruction, critical and collegial discourse, and engaged intellectual production.

 Participation means several things. First and foremost, it means coming to the table ready to be part of a conversation, which is to say: showing up, actively contributing, actively listening, and being familiar with the material. You will also need to bring or have access to readings during class. Note that the course schedule may change through the term due to unforeseen circumstances; please be sure to check Canvas and your email regularly to be sure you are up to date.

The classroom should be a welcoming space where students can hear and be heard by each other—and above all, help each other learn. Any classroom conduct that detracts from that goal will be tantamount to poor participation, and will be reflected in the final participation grade. Disruptive conduct may include, but is not limited to: excessive interruption of peers or the instructor, insulting or dismissive commentary, excessive or disruptive side conversation, excessive distraction. (Note that not only is this a matter of respect for your peers and instructor, but that some students have hearing or attention-related disabilities, and fare much better in classroom environments free of excessive distraction.)

About Attendance:

Please note that in a ten-week term, it seems inevitable that other important commitments (work, family, or that all-important, underappreciated skill, taking care of yourself) will compete with your education. So each term, at least one absence will be factored out of your participation grade (and more if you can provide documentation to establish that you had such an important commitment). However, six or more unexcused absences, with no completed make-up assignments, will count as a failure to participate satisfactorily; the result most likely will be failing the course.

 It is understood that some students may miss class for observance of religious holidays, and that they will be able to make up missed work due to such absences.



 Unit I - Songs of pre-state Israel and songs of the Land of Israel

 “Hatikvah”           [The Hope]   

"Hava Nagila"      [Let Us Rejoice]

 “Shir ha’emek”   [Song of the Valley]       

  "Anu banu artsah"   [We Came to the Land]


 Unit II  - Songs of the War of Independence and Early statehood

 “Shir ha-palmach”                    [Song of the Palmach]

  “Hare‘ut”                                 [Friendship]

 “Magash hakesef”                   [The Silver Platter]


  Unit III – From 1967 to 1973


 “Yerushalayim shel zahav”           [Jerusalem of Gold]   

  “Shir lashalom”                           [Song for Peace]

Lu yehi”                                       [May It be]


  Unit IV –  Pop and Rock –  Into the 80s and 90s

 “Ani ve’atah”                                           [You and I]

 “Atur mitshek                                          [Black Gold]

 “Hatahanah haketanah Treblinka”         [Little Treblinka Station]

  “Akhshav meunan”                                [It’s Cloudy Now]


 Unit V  -  Mizrachi Music

 “Shabat malkah”                                             [Shabbat, the Queen]

 “Shehorah venavah”                                       [Black and Beautiful]

 “Todah”                                                          [Thanks]

Film clips – “Iraq ‘n’ Roll”


 Unit VI - Song Festivals

 “Abanibi”                                                         [Abanibi]

 “Haleluyah”                                                     [Halleluyah]

 “Hai”                                                               [Alive]

 “Diva”                                                             [Diva]

"Toy"                                                                [Toy]


 Unit VII– Multicultural Israel, Hebrew Rap, Arabic Rap, Political Protest

 “Livkot lekha”                                      [Crying for You]

 “Bo’i”                                                    [Come]

   “Shirat hasticker”                               [The Sticker Song]

"Posheem Hapim me Peshaa”              [Innocent Criminals]

 Salaam/Shalom                                   [Peace]


Unit VIII - Religion


Oseh shalom bimromav

Pekak tenuah shel nisim                        [Traffic Jam of Miracles]

Seder ha'avoda - Ishai Ribo  [Worship]

Tefila - Ishai Ribo  [Prayer]



 Unit IX  – Individual Artists

 “Zemer nugeh”                                   [A Sad Song]  Rachel [Blaustein]

  “El male rahamim”                              [God Full of Mercy] Yehuda Amichai


Unit X - Student Projects 




 Albums available at OUGL Media Center:

 Arik Einstein – ha-shirim

 Beterem – poems of Yehuda Amichai

 Dana International “Diva”

 David Broza “Ha’isha she-iti”

 Deror – Oriental song festival

 Ha-osef: 60 greatest hits of all times

 Kaveret “Sipure Pugi”

 Livkot lekha – memorial songs

 Maksimum: hit collection

 Nitsotsot: history of Israeli pop and rock

 Osef ha-hasidi

 Rav hovel – memorial to Yitshak Rabin

 Shablul be kufsa

 Yehuda Poliker – Hofa’ah hayah be-kesariah

 Yerushalayim shel zahav – songs of the 6 Day War



 Some suggestions for projects:

  1. Any individual singer or song of your choosing
  2. Memorial songs
  3. Children’s songs
  4. Chaim Nachman Bialik’s poems set to music
  5. Leah Goldberg poems set to music
  6. Songs of the 2000s
  7. Jerusalem in song
  8. Songs of the 6 Day War
  9. Contemporary political trends


There are some excellent videos available at Suzzallo Library, from a TV series by Yair Qedar called "Ha-Ivrim." One on Bialik includes information about his poems set to music; one on the poet Zelda includes information about her poems set to music.



Catalog Description: 
Surveys popular song at it has shaped modern culture and identity in the near East. Topics vary. May be repeated for credit if the student has not previously studies the same topic with the same instructor. All texts in English; no previous knowledge of other languages required. Credit/no-credit only.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
July 11, 2020 - 12:56pm