Friday, April 24, 2009

Well, Well, Some Culture From 'Beyond-the-Green Line'

Here's one story that isn't, or shouldn't be, political:

Settler Rock Comes to The States

“We don’t get into politricks, man.” So says Shmuel Caro, the heavily bearded lead guitarist of the Israeli jam-collective Aharit Hayamim, or End of Days. It’s an unexpected statement from the front man of what’s been called the house band of the Hilltop Youth, the young radical settlers known for setting up makeshift outposts deep in the occupied territory of the West Bank.

Caro and his band are backstage at 92YTribeca, a Jewish music venue in Manhattan, preparing for a headlining set on the East Coast leg of a North American tour that had included a performance annual Jewlicious festival for Jewish college students, among other venues. While the band is associated with some of the most extreme elements of the settler movement, fellow performers and promoters say that their politics shouldn’t prevent them from appearing in mainstream Jewish venues.

“We’re here to represent the real vibe of Israel,” says keyboardist Yehuda Leuchter, before bursting into spontaneous harmony with the rest of Aharit Hayamim. Dressed in flowing shirts and large, knitted kippot, the four band members sang a reggae-inflected round of “Holy Mt. Zion.” After a minute, Yehuda announces: “That’s all we got to say, man.”

A clip:

...Chaya Hershkopf, a young Lubavitch woman from Crown Heights, says that she first saw Aharit Hayamim perform at T’Koa D, a small, unauthorized outpost 2 km from the settlement of T’Koa, itself 8 km past the Green Line. “They talk a lot about the earth and the land and how it’s ours and the importance of holding on to it,” says Chaya. “They talk about Jerusalem and keeping it ours. They’re very settlery, and that’s mostly what I like about them.”

When asked whether they considered themselves Hilltop Youth, the members of Aharit Hayamim are evasive. “If you have a beard and a big kippah, you’re on the spot,” says Leuchter. “Doesn’t matter if you’re, like, Arab…Kids all over the world have tattoos and long hair. So, in Israel, they don’t have tattoos and they don’t have earrings. They have big payis and they believe in the land and they believe in peace and they believe in music and they believe in redemption.”

...Dan Sieradski...doesn’t object to their appearances at major Jewish venues alongside American Jewish artists. “I think their views are abhorrent,” he says, “but if I don’t engage them and I don’t share a stage with them, how can I ever hope to change their minds or confront them to question their own beliefs? I don’t support cultural boycotts. I would support financial boycotts against companies doing business in the West Bank, but I wouldn’t support an artistic boycott of a band that lives in the West Bank.”...

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