Gaza: a Rock and Roll Response

by Brian on July 14, 2010

in Living Through Terror,Music,Reviews

With another ship of questionable humanitarian aid and activists on its way to Gaza this week, I thought I’d take a look back at what my wife Jody and I did during the original “Free Gaza flotilla” and near lynching of Israeli troops six weeks ago: we went to a concert.

Not just any concert, but the 25th anniversary of one of the most popular rock acts ever in Israel – Mashina – in an over-the-top performance at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool.

Now, I don’t in any way mean to diminish the gravity of what happened in the sea off the Gaza coast. And our attendance at the show was not really linked to that morning’s events – we’d bought our tickets beforehand. But the juxtaposition of repeated condemnation with the continuation of “normal life” has been something Israelis have been doing for years.

I remember in 2006, as the Second Lebanon War was raging and the world was accusing Israel of war crimes, going with Jody (and a couple thousand other Israelis, mind you) to the annual Wine Festival at the Israel Museum. And all during the Second Intifada, when we were portrayed as both victim and oppressor, we didn’t stop patronizing cafes or shopping at the mall.

So cheering on Mashina might, in some ways, be seen as an act of pure patriotism – an odd but effective, ironically appropriate means towards demonstrating that there is much more to Israel than the one-sided depiction of conflict that makes headlines.

As for the concert itself, the band pulled out all the stops. The stage included 7 screens, laser pyrotechnics, two sets of fireworks and a catwalk into the audience that allowed the band to get more intimate with those paying the $75 for orchestra seats. Band members were all wirelessly mic’d so that even the guitarist and sax players could stroll about the crowd.

Mashina played mostly hits from their 13 albums plus a few lesser-known tracks from the latest release. For me, it was a concert for which I’d been literally waiting 24 years – in 1986, I camped out on the hill facing the same Sultan’s Pool with Jody and our friends David and Shelley, listening to the sound reverberate and bounce off the Old City walls but never seeing the band itself.

Mashina’s closing number was Ein Makom Acher – “No Other Place.” While the lyrics are oblique – is lead singer Yuval Banai singing about love or maybe the shortness of our time on earth? – I’d like to imagine he was also speaking about Israel – that we have “no other place” and that it’s incumbent on us to make good on the great experiment of creating a flourishing Jewish homeland – with competent politics and inspired music – and to put both sides forward to an increasingly hostile world.

I published this story originally shortly after the first Gaza flotilla in June on the Israelity blog.

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