Many artists, such as Roger Waters, John Williams and Lupe Fiasco choose to not hold concerts in Israel in support of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement. These artists subscribe to the idea that the best way to combat what they believe to be an illegal occupation is to not fund it. However, there are still artists such as the Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and the Rolling Stones who are all scheduled to play in Israel this summer.
Last summer Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead came to play at Hebrew University in Jerusalem as part of his “SuperOrganism” tour. Hart’s choosing to defy many of his peers and play in Israel shows his devotion to truth and music. Furthermore, it stresses the Dead’s connections with Judaism and Israel.
David Sussman, an Israeli tour guide, video taped several people at Hart’s concert and many of them spoke about the Dead’s connection to Israel and Judaism. One of the women joked that Hart’s concert meant that “Moshiach is on his way!” Another man discussed his involvement in Judaism and the Dead and how it came together. Sussman then asked people about Roger Waters’ refusal to play and how it affected their view of Hart’s choosing to play in Israel. They all praised Hart’s choosing to ignore BDS and criticized Waters’ involvement.
The first verse of the song “One More Saturday Night” gives the impression of being in the Golan during Shabbat and then Tel Aviv right after havdallah ends. This is not where the similarities between the Dead and Israel end; it is only the beginning. One of the several connections between Judaism and the Dead comes in the form of a program called Blues for Challah, which holds an annual Jewish Grateful Dead retreat. The most obvious connection between the Grateful Dead and Israel is the spirituality of both the band and the country. Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, where Hart played, holds holy cites for three religions. One of them is Islam and one of the Dead’s albums, Blues for Allah, contains an Islamic reference in the title.
The Grateful Dead also had a work hard/play hard attitude, just like Israel. Israeli society is known for being fast and slow at the same time. This fast-paced relaxation is embodied in both the Grateful Dead and Israel’s spirits. This spirit is what carried the Dead to the height of their success and what drives Israel as the start up nation.
Contributed by CAMERA Intern Rachel Wolf, a student at American University. Rachel participated in Birthright in 2013 and is currently working from Jerusalem.