Duo Bring Straight Talk to Temple Micah and D.C.

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Dugri is Uriya Rosenman (left) and Sameh Zakout. Photo courtesy of Dugri

“Dugri” is Israeli slang for straight talk. Dugri is also a social project that brings together two men across the political chasm of Israeli and Palestinian disagreement: Uriya Rosenman and Sameh (SAZ) Zakout.

The core of Dugri, the social project, has been built over the past three years through Rosenman and Zakout sharing their personal narratives. The two men came together in 2021 to create the Israeli-Palestinian rap “Dugri,” a music video where the pair spout a series harsh stereotypes and racial slurs each man has heard about the other side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Inspired by American hip hop artist Joyner Lucas’s “I’m Not Racist,” Rosenman hopes “Dugri” will instigate dialogue between two peoples living apart and together in one land.

Temple Micah is bringing Dugri to Washington on April 1 as part of the Reform synagogue’s Storefront, which Associate Rabbi Josh Beraha describes as “our umbrella organization for our outward facing initiatives to provide Jewish experiences for the broader D.C. community.”

The duo will appear at City-State Brewing Co. in Edgewood D.C. Just as the founders of Dugri see an evolution in Israel’s populace and are working to not only meet, but lead generations into the future, Temple Micah is also looking to the future of American Judaism with Storefront.

“Storefront is about experimentation,” Beraha says, “and producing an Israeli-Palestinian music show in a brewery could have a high risk of failure, but trying to reach beyond the walls of the synagogue is new. Storefront wants to be in the mix of what’s new. We’re hoping to reach people who might otherwise never have thought to come to an event like this” at a synagogue.

“What we do is facilitate conversations between Jews and Arabs,” Rosenman said from a hotel room last week in Milwaukee, one stop on the duo’s national tour. “Our story is a huge part of what we do. We do not preach. We do not tell people to think like we do and sit here and talk to each other. It would never work. People are afraid. We tell our story in order to inspire others to open their hearts and minds and go through the same process.”

Rosenman, 33, grew up in Aseret, a small town 30-minutes south of Tel Aviv. His family was typically Zionist and he went on to serve in an elite army unit before attending university and working in experiential education. Zakout, 39, was raised in a Jewish neighborhood in the Arab-Jewish city of Ramla and has been a singer and actor for more than two decades. His experiences with peace-building organization Seeds of Peace has given him near-perfect English and experiences outside of Israel. But it has also made him realize that sometimes he the “token” or “good” Arab in these facilitated conversations, and that is not a comfortable experience for him.

When Rosenman sought him out to collaborate on his first rap video, Zakout took his time. “I was really suspicious, but we started to meet, to talk and to get to know each other,” he said. “Day by day, I started to trust him and eventually, after we went through the journey of the [first] song together, we became best friends.”

He shared his family history of separation and exile during the Nakba, which at first was hard for Rosenman to comprehend, because Israel views that moment in 1948 as the victorious founding of the state. “It’s my Independence Day,” Rosenman said.

The two men understood that their stories and their now deep friendship could serve as a model for other Jews and Palestinians, who live side by side, but rarely talk straight and get to know one another on a deep level.

“We realized important stuff about what we are offering to the world,” Rosenman said, “in terms of our ability to creatively echo thoughts of new moderate Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. We basically created a social venture, a social movement to be the voice of the young moderates, who understand that millions of Jews and Arabs are not going anywhere.

By learning each other’s language, narrative, traumas, and acknowledging the wrongdoings from a place of trust, we are able to create a grassroots movement of young moderates who believe in a mutually beneficial future.”

“We see this as a marathon,” Zakout added. “We don’t necessarily operate with a desired outcome.”

Sitting side by side on a sofa speaking via Zoom, both smile and acknowledge that many before them have tried to negotiate peace and not succeeded. They’re not going to solve the problem; they simply hope to get people on both sides of the conflict to think more broadly about themselves and about the other. From there healing can begin. ■

Lisa Traiger is WJW’s arts correspondent.

Temple Micah’s Storefront

The 4-year-old Storefront initiative, which is funded by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the temple’s Innovation Fund, aims to meet Jews where they are, including at local breweries, pubs and ice cream parlors, where recent events like pop-up Shabbats have been held.

“Storefront began with the idea that synagogues matter and should continue to matter, but that there’s going to be an evolution in the forms of Jewish life,” Rabbi Josh Beraha explained. “Storefront is the way to get out in front of this.”

Dugri, featuring opening acts Aaron Shneyer and Tof U’Machol, April 1 at 7 p.m., City-State Brewing Co., 705 Edgewood St. NE, Washington, D.C. Tickets $18, reserve here: https://templemicah.shulcloud.com/form/storefrontpresentsdugri.

— Lisa Traiger

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