Think you know ‘Mayim Mayim’? Think again.
Do you know the song “Mayim Mayim?” Maybe you learned it at Hebrew School, or sleepaway camp. It’s a celebratory Israeli folk classic based on text from the book of Isaiah about, as the title suggests, water. The song’s composer is Emanuel Amiran-Pougatchov, who would go on to be the country’s Minister of Music Education, and in 1937 choreographer Else I. Dublin created the dance still used today.
But other than your summer camp or Israel, the places you’re most likely to hear this song are Japan or Taiwan.
Seriously, everyone in Japan knows “Mayim Mayim.”
How did this happen? It began in the post-WWII occupation of Japan, led by General Douglas MacArthur. As part of the (admittedly somewhat forced) cultural exchange, the United States decided to teach the youth in Asia folk dances. They enlisted the aid of Rickey Holden, a prominent square and folk dance-caller, scholar, and educator.
Holden does not appear to be Jewish, but he did visit Israel to study folk dance. That’s most likely where he learned “Mayim Mayim.” Over the course of 1957 and 1958, he went on a world tour that included Japan and Taipei. It’s not clear if he’s solely responsible for teaching the dance in Japan, but in Taiwan it’s closely associated with him. (In fact, Israeli dance in general is popular in Taiwan, but it was “Mayim Mayim” that started it all.)
There was a burgeoning folk dance movement in Japan starting out of YMCAs, and they eventually spread to labor movements, youth groups, and even Japanese schools (other hits included “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”). While the iconic Israeli dance persists in popularity (in both Japan and Taiwan), the song was inevitably used on its own. The melody became so well known that it was even used in commercials in Japan.
Then, of course, came the time when Japan started exporting culture to the rest of the world—like anime, and video games. And when you need video game music, how about something in the public domain, something catchy and familiar, something short and easy to loop, something like…
Yes, that is “Mayim Mayim” playing in the background of Sexy Parodius, a 1996 semi-erotic shooter arcade game by Konami (the company that brought you everything from Frogger to Metal Gear). And it wasn’t only one game. Another example would be Nintendo’s Game Boy Camera of 1998, which unlike Sexy Parodius, had an international release. So, if you were an American Jewish child in the ’90s playing with your Game Boy, and you could have sworn you heard a song you knew, feel vindicated now, almost 20 years later.
And then, of course, in the general way that culture propagates and deteriorates in Internet culture, through its video game visibility, the song eventually became a meme. Its peak was 2008-2009, which brings up the uncomfortable fact that Internet memes are starting to hit ten-year anniversaries. It became a popular choice for remixes, or generic upbeat music in parody videos, particularly Japanese ones. It never made it big in the United States (like, say, the Thomas the Tank Engine theme music), except in particularly geeky circles (you know, the ones where you’re likely to be watching video remixes of games). (You can watch a Western example here, but unless you’re a fan of Team Fortress 2, it might as well be Japanese to you.)
And so, flowing through cultures like the water in the title, “Mayim Mayim” has lived many lives. The song, a Biblically-inspired celebration of pre-state Zionists finding water, has eventually become a sort of shibboleth for nerds on the Internet joking about video games.
If that isn’t a Jewish success story, then what is?
Published in Tablet Magazine
An antisemitic flyer found on the University of Houston campus on Tuesday. Photo: Michael Leone / Facebook
Dozens of flyers and stickers promoting neo-Nazi propaganda were found at the University of Houston (UH) this week, the latest incident associated with an increase in white supremacist activity on campuses nationwide.
The flyers, found on bulletin boards, walls, trash bins, and lamp posts at the university’s main campus on Tuesday, included phrases such as, “Beware the International Jew” and “Imagine a Muslim-Free America,” according to a statement shared online by UH’s chapter of the Young Communist League (YCL).
IDF soldiers make a blessing on the traditional Jewish custom of apple and honey to welcome Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. (ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) said they will provide $1.5 million in annual Rosh Hashanah “Fellowship Gift Cards” to 12,000 IDF soldiers marking the upcoming Jewish New Year.
The initiative, coordinated in collaboration with the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers and the LIBI Fund, will provide more than 10,000 lone soldiers and soldiers $140 gift cards. Another 2,200 soldiers will receive gift cards worth $100.
The cards “will allow the soldiers to celebrate the New Year without the burden of financial stress,” the organizations said in a statement Wednesday.
Gaza-based terror group says it will agree to Palestinian Authority conditions on forming joint government and holding elections
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and spokesman Fawzi Barhoum attend a protest in Gaza City on July 22, 2017, against new Israeli security measures implemented at the holy site, which include metal detectors and cameras, following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen the previous week. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
For the past week or so, Iranian official media and social networks have been abuzz with anecdotes woven around a football match in Tehran between Iran and Syria and the light it might shed on a complicated relationship.
According to most accounts, a group of Syrians flown in by special charter to cheer their national squad in its bid for a place in the World Cup in Moscow staged an anti-Iran demonstration in the stadium. The Syrian contingent included young ladies who refused to wear the Iranian-style hijab.
Their presence in the stadium highlighted the fact that no Iranian woman is allowed to attend a football match after a fatwa by the “Supreme Guide” that women watching young men running around with bare legs might cause “undue excitement”
An Orthodox man passes a British guard in London, UK. (drserg / Shutterstock.com)
A new in-depth survey conducted by the U.K.-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) found that around 30 percent of the British public hold at least one anti-Semitic viewpoint.
The report noted, however, that most of the 30 percent polled also held some positive views about Jews.
Further, around 15 percent of the British public indicated they agreed with two or more anti-Semitic views presented to them, while two percent of British adults polled were found to be “hard-core” anti-Semites.
The survey was conducted by JPR senior research fellow Dr. Daniel Staetsky using face-to-face interviews and online polls.
That’s followed by the sounds of the terrorists assaulting a passenger.
“Please don’t hurt me,” he pleads. “Oh God.”
As the passengers rush the cabin, a Muslim terrorist proclaims, “In the name of Allah.”
As New York firefighters struggle up the South Tower with 100 pounds of equipment on their backs trying to save lives until the very last moment, the Flight 93 passengers push toward the cockpit. The Islamic hijackers call out, “Allahu Akbar.”.
The autumn of 2015 was unusual in almost every way on the north Aegean Greek island of Lesbos from which I am writing. There were tens of thousands of illegal migrants on the island, the native population of which was scarcely 100,000. New refugees arrived every day by the thousands.
One evening, the blue-gray sky grumbled shortly after sunset. The thick clouds blackened and rain poured down over the city with a roar. As I ran across the slippery pavement into a friend’s bar, I heard a group of five poor souls speaking Persian with a Turkic accent and running amok, seeking shelter under the eaves of a building.
While the criminal investigation is closing in on one associate after another, one advisor after another, in one of the most serious affairs in the State of Israel’s history, and perhaps the most serious affair, I find it hard to believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was driven by greed when he advanced the submarine deal.
There are doubts. There are associates being questioned one after the other. There are state’s witnesses. Nevertheless, Netanyahu likely wasn’t a partner in crime. He didn’t make decisions on the submarines in a bid to make a profit for himself or for his associates. It’s impossible, just impossible.
Regarding the question that forms the title of this article, I truly believe that the answer is “yes.” It is my belief that Christian Zionism is as obvious a sign of the beginning of the redemption of Israel as are the ingathering of millions of Jews to the land of Israel and the existence of the State of Israel itself. But there are many people who don’t share this perspective.
In the Jewish community, there are still many who are wary of Christian friendship and support. Many Jews are suspicious of an ulterior motive to convert Jews to Christianity that they fear underlies this political partnership.
Last weekend, the world experienced a petrifying “wake up call” when Pyongyang test launched a hydrogen bomb. According to Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), Sunday’s test represents “a new dimension to the threat.” Added Amano, “I think the North Korean threat is a global one now.
In the past, people thought it was a regional one, but that is no longer the case.”
Since 1994, when North Korea decided to pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), there has been a huge history of attempts to chain the North Korean nuclear beast, including efforts for military cooperation, sanctions and, of course, negotiations.