NEW YORK, NY. A never-before-seen music video by Palestinian artist Sameh Zakout and Jewish-Israeli educator and creator Uriya Rosenmann premiered at the New Israel Fund (NIF) virtual gala last night. The new song and video, called “Manfas,” which translates to “I can’t breathe,” gives voice to the experience of Jews and Arabs struggling to live together. The goal, they said, is to influence a younger generation of Palestinians and Jews who have grown up together in the same country, yet may never meet each other.
This video marks a transitional moment for the Palestinian-Jewish duo. Their first video, “Straight Talk,” went viral in Israel, and has been viewed hundreds of millions of times since its release in May 2020 immediately after Israel and Hamas in Gaza agreed to a ceasefire. That video depicts the pair eating hummus in a mechanic shop while putting into words the deep-seated fears, resentments, and frustrations of both Israelis and Palestinians. The artists used the video to launch a series of conversations in Israel about racism, and brought Palestinians and Jews together. “Manfas” was produced to touch on how young people in Israel-Palestine feel: as though they have no air to breathe.
“I don’t know the solution to all of our problems,” said Rosenman, “but I am walking on my unique path and speaking honestly, that sits on my heart, in an attempt to spread light and truth.” Of his collaboration with Zakout, Rosenman said: “Our story contains entrepreneurship, social activism, music, collaboration, friendship, political awareness, and so much more. But at the end of the day, it’s a personal creative project, the expression of Sameh and Uriya […]”
Both videos received support of the New Israel Fund, and the pair made the decision to premier “Manfas” at the New Israel Fund “Guardian of Democracy” virtual gala this year. The duo is planning to release a third video with a more cerebral tone in the coming months.
Libby Lenkinski, Vice President of Public Engagement at the New Israel Fund explained that “at NIF we understand the value of arts and culture in shaping people’s views and reaching their emotional cores. Sameh and Uriya bring us—and the world—on their personal journey, and invite us all to not just witness their transformations, but to allow ourselves to be transformed as well.”
The New Israel Fund is the leading organization advancing and defending democracy in Israel. Widely credited with building Israeli progressive civil society, it has provided over $300 million to progressive civil society since its inception in 1979.