Second Essay Contest (June 2019)

The winning submission in the second essay contest (June 2019) was "Shefita's Performance as Blasphemy," by Talia Vekshtein, class of 2019. Talia examines what stands behind the fictional character of Israeli singer Shefita and why her performance aroused such public uproar, and even censorship. To answer these questions, her essay analyzes Shefita's performance through the four components of the aesthetic quadrant: the work, the creator, the viewers, and the social context. The essay suggests that Shefita’s performance undermines social dichotomies in general, but particularly the dichotomy between reality and illusion. In so doing, she effects, in the field of entertainment, a process similar to that now emerging in the world of art at large: a rebellion against past norms in order to create something new.

Shefita's work draws on two different musical traditions, Western rock and Arabic music. But while there is no question about her respectful attitude towards the former, her grotesque presentation of the latter elicits substantial criticism. These social and political contexts inform the demand to censor her performances: their superficial presentation of Arab culture as a means of accumulating personal profit do not convey a complex message but are simply a tool for sales promotion. Shefita's most subversive message – "don't mind anyone" – comes at the cost of harming populations that are already excluded from mainstream culture and from the heart of Israeli discourse.

The full essay (in Hebrew) is available at the bottom of this page.


Talia chose to donate the 1,000 shekel prize to the Lissan organization. Here are a few words about Lissan (adapted from the organization's website):

Lissan is a nonprofit organization that promotes linguistic justice by recognizing language as an essential resource and a fundamental right. It works towards making Jerusalem’s two spoken languages, Hebrew and Arabic, accessible to population groups with a heightened need for language skills acquisition. Lissan does so by developing culturally, thematically, geographically and economically tailored programs. Since 2013, Lissan has conducting projects that teach Hebrew to women from East Jerusalem, and Arabic to medical teams from the Western part of the city.


Thank you to the judging committee - Asaf Roth (class of 2019), Orielle Levy (class of 2020), and Niv Sagi (class of 2021) - and to the contest organizer, Danielle Babitz (class of 2020)!