Life is shallow and it isn’t. Take, for instance, Hava Nagila.
(This is your example? Hava Nagila? Hava Nagila?? OK, I know it’s a song everybody does at Jewish weddings:
Hah … vah … Nah … gee lah … Hah … vah … Nah … gee lah … Hah … vah … Nah … gee lah …
Now you’ve done it. I can’t get the song out of my head.)
This may be the only Jewish song most people know – sort of. Most people, Jews included, probably don’t know what the lyrics mean in English. All they know is when you hear this song start to play, you get up; you dance; you sing; you have a good time. Everybody up; have a good time. This is essentially what the lyrics say.
Not so shallow really, but does the movie “Hava Nagila” rate an entire documentary film? Consider that that this antique iteration of “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” has humming, prayerful roots. Call to mind Jews scattered and persecuted for centuries. Fathom the Holocaust. The Holocaust.
Consider Jews returning to Palestine, creating and sustaining Israel. Think about American Jews, distanced enough from the Holocaust to nurture a spirit of celebration, to indulge in conspicuous consumption even. See Connie Francis – an Italian pop star – sing her hit song, Hava Nagila. See Harry Belafonte – a Black pop star – sing his hit song, Hava Nagila.
Amongst a wealth of well assembled film clips across history and culture, this film catalogs Hava Nagila popping up all kinds of ways and places and forms.
A hit movie it isn’t. As a high production value, post-graduate, video thesis, “Hava Nagila” is quite entertaining. Just go. Watch a little humming. Catch a little singing and dancing. You could wave your arms if you feel like it. Would it hurt you, even, to learn a little something?