Another Day in Gaza

Yoel Finkelman Tradition Online | May 13, 2024

In memory of Maoz Morell הי”ד, an exemplar of the Mishna’s statement: “Say little and do much.” I suspect he would have found odd so many precious words spilled analyzing pop songs.

The last seven months, since Hamas’ horrific attack on Israel and the long days of war, have been an emotional roller-coaster for Israel. Today, our human emotions are often mediated through popular culture. Three popular and patriotic songs about the war have dominated the Israeli airwaves in the past half a year, one after the other. Each of the songs expressed a distinct mood, three stages in so much of Israel’s emotional journey.

Harbu Darbu

First came “Harbu Darbu,” a song in the “drill” style of hip-hop (thanks, Wikipedia) that appeared within a month of the beginning of the war. The musicians, Stilla and Nes, were known in Israel primarily for a goofy song celebrating how much stuff a woman can keep in a small purse.

The song’s title matches the energy – “Harbu Darbu” is an Israelized slang variant on an Arabic expression meaning something like “war and destruction.” The song is self-confident, angry, aggressive, and violent (like much confrontational hip-hop), and also contains some crass lyrics and sexual innuendo (viewer discretion advised). It takes pride in an inevitable victory of the powerful Israel and its army over the frightened and weak Hamas.

Look at the themes:

Celebration of the military units:

  • The song simply announces the names of Israeli military units. Israelis who mention the armored corps in conversation these days tend to shout the iconic “Shiryooooonnnnn!” from the song (meaning, the Armored Corps).
  • “The male and female soldiers! Golani, Nahlawi [the Nahal brigade], Armored Corp…. All the units in Tzahal are ready to shove war and destruction on your heads.”

Israel’s speed and strength:

  • “All the units are ready. Half a minute and the whole country is in uniform… 1.2.Shoot!”

Israeli solidarity and the family connections between Israeli citizens:

  • “For mom and dad, all my friends are on the front lines… One for grandma and grandpa… For the [Israeli] kid [whose home is] in the Gaza envelope [region].”
  • The phrase Am Yisrael Hai which opens the video (but is not in the lyrics).

Soldiers as “sexy”:

  • “All the girls are checking out the soldiers, and that guy on the news is a hunk.”

Making light of Hamas and its military strength:

  • “Bunch of rats… coming out their hole…. They are all yelling ‘Free Palestine,’ but to me it sounds like a sale for the holidays.”
  • The term for “Free Palestine” is חינם (no value) rather than חרות (freedom).
  • The curse of Hamas painted on Stilla’s stomach in the video.

Threats to Hamas and its supporters:

  • “Every dog gets what’s coming to it,” including “all who planned, supported, executed, murdered.”

Celebrating aggressive attacks on enemies:

  • “Sons of Amalek, there will be no forgiveness.”
  • “Another √ on the rifle” (i.e., ticking off each “kill”)

For all of its catchiness, this is pretty tough stuff, and the song was criticized in the international press for its vengeful tone. Still, that violent, vengeful, confidence voiced the mood among so many Israelis at the time the IDF first entered Gaza, overpowering the weaker Hamas guerrillas, flushing them from their terror tunnels.

That mood notwithstanding, “Harbu Darbu” gives voice not to real war, but to a militant fantasy of war: fast, one sided, and victorious. Little is said about the price that Israel and its soldiers have been paying for the long, ongoing war.

The next two songs, each in a different way, more candidly address the realities we have been enduring, including the costs. One song is celebratory, the other bittersweet.

“A Nation of Superheroes”

A month or so later, the popular Israel band Hatikva 6 – note the Zionism in the name of the group – released “A Nation of Superheroes” (“Giburei Al”), a soft, slow reggae-inspired tune celebrating the everyday heroism of Israeli soldiers, particularly the reservists. Omri Glickman, the band’s lead singer, walks slowly along the promenade in Tel Aviv, garnering hugs and acknowledgment from passersby. He simply lists by occupation typical Israelis who have given up their routines and day-to-day life to protect the country. They are superheroes, who together make up an entire nation of superheroes.

It’s true everyone looks ordinary – but,
We’re a nation of superheroes
In each of us there is always a soldier hidden,
Ready to save the world …
The bus driver,
The one who is always on time,
He is now the commander of an artillery battery in the south near Nir Am.
There is a student at the Technion,
In the middle of his bachelor’s degree,
He is a captain in the 91st division in the Galil, stationed for a month already at the northern border.
There is a model here who is a paramedic.
There is an electrician here who is a MAG shooter….
Everyone has a hidden closet
or a large, equipped box
He has a set of uniforms or a reserves outfit, always ready for action (full English lyrics here).

Yet, an irony enters into this celebratory picture.

The music, a sad minor key, hints at the loss that these individuals face. The owner of the toy store may or may not be able to sustain his small business. The couple in the video who walks together with the baby carriage, she in jeans and he in a military uniform, will face challenges when he returns to his unit, and likely when the war is over, too. The losses remain in the subtext, primarily at the social and economic levels. Death is not mentioned at all.

But the fear of death and loss cannot be fully ignored, especially given the problematic parallel to comic book and movie superheroes. Classic superheroes have weaknesses, but ultimately the good guys win. Kryptonite endangers Superman, but he does not die. Some of Hatikva 6’s everyday superheroes, in contrast, will not return. Since October 7th almost every Israeli has witnessed this traumatic reality, or experienced it directly. The sadness in the music eliminates any illusion that the ending will be entirely happy.

Completely absent is the assurance of victory and vengefulness of “Harbu Darbu.” The superheroes of the song—schoolteachers and college kids; bus drivers and sax players—are celebrated for dropping their lives and coming to the defense of their people, not for their inevitable victory. The enemy also remains hidden in the background, never mentioned explicitly, certainly not ridiculed or cursed.

The “Superheroes” song captured a mood as the war continued with full intensity. Older Israelis remained in awe—I certainly did—as we watched our own children and their whole generation dropping professional opportunities, studies, children, and spouses to risk their lives for our safety. This is a song of thanks and appreciation, appropriate for this stage of the war.

“Another Day in Gaza”

The third stage began in the spring, as the IDF withdrew many of its troops from Gaza, and the war entered a kind of quiet stagnation. By then, almost no one in Israel was more than one degree removed from the brutal prices of this war. We had all stood at bedsides and gravesites or witnessed the psychological pain among the soldiers and their loved ones. The costs to the superheroes became more explicit, while the victory promised by “Harbu Darbu” remained elusive. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis were refugees from their home. It was not clear if Israeli leadership had a plan or strategy to return them to their normal lives, or to emerge from the war victorious. Many Israeli protestors took to the streets, calling for a return of the hostages and for new elections. Some of the “October 6” atmosphere of internal conflict had returned, even as civilians in the center of the country maintained their routine as much as possible.

Along came the third song, only a few weeks ago: “Another Day in Gaza.”

It was written and performed by a rapper and active army reservist, Noam Tsuriely, while on leave from his unit. Unlike the previous two songs, this one is voiced not by a civilian encouraging and thanking soldiers, but by a soldier, articulating his difficult and ambivalent feelings. It is lyrically the most rich and complex of the three songs. Its themes include:

The brotherhood of soldiers:

  • “I rely on myself, on the guy next to me.”
  • “These are the guys who will be with me for the rest of my life…. If anybody from the squad would ask, I would donate at least two kidneys.”


  • “I rely on… God”; “I pray that God should help.”

Fear and the reality of death:

  • “I hear the voice of his wife requesting, ‘Noam, take care of my husband.’”
  • “We promised each other, nobody in our squad dies!”
  • “It’s not clear if we will come back.”
  • “Two months after [Oct. 7], the pain that not even Satan could create, Benda’s squad had triggered a mine.”
  • The video shows the team graffitiing the wall with the names of the dead.

Families back home:

  • “The children ask, ‘Where’s Dad? Make sure Dad comes back.’”

Commitment to seeing the war through to the end:

  • “The squad is not going to stop.”

The price the soldiers pay:

  • PTSD: “Mader found himself back in the Second Lebanon War after the first firefight.”
  • Medical problems: “The tank blast gifted us phosphorus in our lungs.”
  • Emotional challenges: “No armory contains the equipment to diagnose my heart.”


  • “Another day in Gaza.”
  • “I’m getting used to the idea…”
  • “Yet another bad guy discovered; yet another floor [of a building] cleaned out.”


  • “I pray that God helps,” but there is no guarantee that He will.
  • There is only one thing that is “for sure” (בטוח). Not victory, but only that “the darkness fears the light.” Will the light still emerge victorious?

The mood here is dark, mysterious, sad, uncertain. The machismo and confidence of “Harbu Darbu” has been replaced not only with the sad and concerned pride of “Superheroes,” but with mixed feelings: dedication and love, but also insecurity, pain, fear, mourning, and sadness.

“Another Day in Gaza” ends with a central message, one we could all take to heart.

On the sixth of October [i.e., before the war]
This is my Nation
Tearing itself apart from the inside
We picked sides
Called each other traitors
The next morning they burnt Jews
[The day after] nobody asked if you had blocked Kaplan Street [in protest]
Nobody asked who you voted for
Each soul that ascended to heaven
Commanded us to increase love
To be worthy – to be worthy
Not this week, not this year,
To be worthy, for the rest of our lives

The video ends with the graffitied names on the wall forming the words, להיות ראוים, “to be worthy.”

May we indeed be worthy of their sacrifice.

Dr. Yoel Finkelman is beginning his tenure as Manager of the Acquisitions Department in the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem.

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