Updated: Aug 21, 2020
If you walk around Jerusalem's famed Machane Yehuda food market, there is one alleyway that is different from all the others. The names of the streets all revolve around food... except one. Banai Street.
The Banai family is Israel's first family of entertainment: "The brothers — actors and storytellers Gavri Banai, Yaakov Banai and Yossi Banai; and their children — singers Ehud Banai, Meir Banai, Yuval Banai and Eviatar Banai, and comic Orna Banai." Meir's son Noam is also a singer. The family originally came over from Persia in 1881 and grandfather Meir Eliyahu Banai had a vegetable stall on Agas street and the family apparently lived upstairs (the street has been renamed Banai Street in their honor).
Now there is a fantastic exhibit on the family and their musical/cultural/religious journeys at the Tower of David. https://www.timesofisrael.com/banai-exhibit-at-tower-of-david-museum-follows-a-musical-familys-journey/
Here is a wonderful article about the religious transformation of Eviatar Banai - and how his musical journey has brought religious and secular society together: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/evyatar-banais-journey-to-wholeness/
The first Israeli song I ever heard - back in high school - was called "Dani" and it was by Mashina - kind of like Israel's Rolling Stones - whose lead singer is Yuval Banai. Since then I was hooked.
Here are some of my favorite songs by the Banai family, which in some ways play as a soundtrack for my life - from making Aliyah, serving in the IDF, dating, falling in love, becoming a father, connecting with my Jewish roots and searching for truth and meaning in Jerusalem and Judaism, and of course, becoming a tour guide of Israel.
Dani - by Mashina (Yuval Banai) - the first modern Israeli song I ever heard. It's about someone (Dani) trying to cheat to get ahead and his eventual downfall.
HaYom - Today - by Ehud Banai - It talks about all the wonderful things he is going to do today for the woman he loves.
HaKochavim Dolkim Al Eish Ktana - Stars Shining on a Small Fire - by Mashina (Yuval Banai) - The story of a man and the strange girl he starts up a relationship with in a bar.
Shaar HaRachamim - The Gates of Mercy by Meir Banai - The story of man physical and spiritual wandering around the Old City of Jerusalem heading towards the Gates of Mercy
Aba - Father - Eviatar Banai - A son reaching out to his father - whether his actual father or his Father in Heaven
Tachzor Tachzor - Come Back Come Back - by Mashina (Yuval Banai) and Yossi Banai -
A song I learned to play on piano which helped me get through the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and a friend of mine in the IDF back in the mid-90's.
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