The Corner Prophets, a collective of Israeli hip-hop artists, are sweating. Tonight is the big event--The Old Jeruz Cipher--the Corner Prophets' monthly gathering in Jerusalem. One by one, they take the stage, grasp the microphone, and rhyme about societal tensions, question fears and controversies, and shout awareness for social issues.
"I organize [this] freestyle event under the banner of promoting cultural diversity and dialogue between the various ethnic and religious communities of this fair Holy City," says Dan "Mobius" Sieradski, coordinator of the Corner Prophets. Sieradski takes pride in the cultural rainbow of participants: "Israeli Arabs, modern Orthodox women, secular Russians, African olim, Tel Aviv punks, and Jerusalem yeshiva students."
The collective encourages artists to perform in their native languages so that each message is as close to the truth as possible. While this may make it difficult for parts of the audience to understand the words, the emotion is raw and the energy is contagious.
"We take advantage of hip-hop as a means to address the issues Israel's youth find themselves faced with," Sieradski says, "by accepting them for who they are, encouraging their exploration of hip-hop, and welcoming them into a community." As the performances progress, the audience rhythmically nods and bounces together--an affirmation of the messages spoken, and of the community formed.