Three years ago he strengthened his Jewish identity by joining his wife who underwent a conversion process. The daughter they adopted from China was named "Israel", by the way.
Kaukonen, who will perform in Tel Aviv on December 22 with blues-rock band Hot Tuna, told Ynet that the conversion was a mental process for him and his wife, rather than just studying for a certificate. "We decided we were starting a new chapter in our life, and we wanted to do it together," he explains.
'Somebody to Love' and 'White Rabbit'
Kaukonen lived most of his life as an American musician, regardless of his Jewishness. But now, after studying, he sees it as a great honor to be part of the chosen people.
"The Jews are God's chosen people," he says. "According to the Book of Deuteronomy, 'The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.'
"God used the Jewish people in a unique way to give humanity the Bible – through special people like Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel."
Tell us a little about the conversion process. Did you enjoy it? What did you like about it?
"I learned many new things. In fact, despite being Jewish – almost everything I learned was new to me. And yes, I definitely enjoyed it very much."
Do you feel different after his process?
"It'll probably sound like a cliché, but I feel like a new and better person."
Your performance in Israel will be held on your 70th birthday. Do you feel any connection to this country?
"Israel has something special that is hard to define. Another dimension. When you arrive in Israel you immediately feel an affinity."
What do you like about Israel?
"First of all, you have the sunny weather. Apart from that, a slew of sights and historic, archaeological and religious sites, or just beautiful places. There is a fascinating contradiction between ancient and modern.
"It's amazing how a country smaller than Vermont, with a population of less than 10 million people, gets so much attention from the world. Every American president I knew in my life devoted a lot of energy in achieving peace in the Middle East, but emerged with nothing but frustration. There is much more to learn hear than reading newspaper headlines."
Will you daughter mind the name 'Israel' ?
"She's 5. We haven't heard any complaints from her so far."
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