Today’s video features Shirana, the women’s choir of the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa, Israel sing Had Gadya.
Had Gadya (חד גדייא) is a folk song traditionally sung in Aramaic at the end of the Passover Seder (the liturgical meal that opens the week-long holiday). The lyrics are in Aramaic and are a kind of Middle Eastern “This is the House that Jack Built”.
In this video the choir sing a version of the song by Israeli singer-songwriter and cultural icon Chava Alberstein, with lyrics in Aramaic and Hebrew. The song was banned from Israeli radio during the 1980s. (You can read more about Alberstein in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Archive, including reference to the political songs on her controversial twenty-eighth album Mehagrim (Immigrants).
This is the last verse of the traditional song:
Then came the Holy One
Blessed be G-d
And destroyed the Angel of Death
That killed the butcher
That slew the ox
That drank the water
That quenched the fire
That burned the sticks
That beat the dog
That bit the cat
That ate the little goat
My father bought for two zuzim
In Alberstein’s version, in addition to having a different melody the song is sung in both Aramaic and Hebrew. Alberstein also added a final verse in Hebrew and this is what led to the song’s banning from radio broadcast:
I questioned only four
Tonight I have one more:
How much longer will the circle of horror persist
Striker and stricken, beater and beaten,
When will this madness, when will it end,
And what is different for you, what is different?
I am different this year
I used to be a lamb and a peaceful goat
Today I am a tiger and a preying coyote
I was a dove already, and a ram
Today I dont know who I am
(My father bought for 2 zuzim)
And once more, we start from the beginning
I am pleased to present Shirana singing Had Gadya.