Singer Matisyahu proved that his anthems of peace are the hope and reinforcement we need

The Jewish-American musician toured the Gaza periphery, witnessed the devastation left by the appalling massacre, visited soldiers and the wounded, and performed a concert, whose proceeds were donated to the families of the Hamas hostages; It wasn't a hit-packed show but rather a thoughtful and emotionally charged musical experience that was warmly received and admired

Matisyahu performing
(Video: Nitzan Pincu)

There is a feeling that the world needs to stand still and put an end to the revolving axis until all the hostages are returned. But the world keeps turning, the sun continues to rise and, when it seems like no one in the world cares, some visit Israel to show how the prolonged war, the numerous losses, and the plight of the families whose loved ones are held by Hamas matter to them.
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The absence of the hostages was not overlooked for a moment during the performance of the Jewish-American musician Matisyahu on Wednesday night in Tel Aviv. Throughout the evening, a yellow plastic chair with the inscription "Until everyone returns home" adorned the stage.
2 View gallery
(Photo: Ariel Efron)
While global artists ignore, deny, turn their backs, and shield themselves, Matisyahu (or his real name - Matthew Paul Miller) took action and contributed the proceeds of his performance for the families of the hostages. And while it's easier to ignore, distance oneself, and not be involved in the horrors that have befallen us, he chose to join the tour around the Gaza periphery and witnessed the devastation left by the appalling massacre on October 7. Since he arrived, he has sung and played for soldiers and the wounded. This is quite commendable.
Even before Wednesday night's show began, a singer named Jonathan Cohen performed a song he wrote and composed called "Whistling Bullets."
"The heart said leave, but I wanted to stay," Cohen sang in an acoustic performance accompanied by a cellist. Cohen is a survivor of the Nova Music Festival massacre, and the audience showered him with unconditional love. It's hard to imagine the challenging situation he managed to survive and the story he chose to share, but the central star of the evening - Matisyahu - did well to honor him in this way.
There's an inherent discomfort in enjoying cultural events while soldiers in Gaza, hostages in captivity, and a sense of mourning weigh heavily. However, the skilled and impressive performance by saxophonist Daniel Zamir set the tone for the evening, making it more of a jazz festival atmosphere - a cultural moment of reflection rather than a raucous reggae festival. It's a worthy choice as it allows the audience to feel at ease, as if accidentally entering a jam session with the best friends who have been playing together for 20 years, and we get a glimpse into the dynamics between them.
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An empty chair for the captives
(Photo: Ariel Efron)
It wasn't a show of the greatest hits, but a performance focusing on improvisations and solos. The audience enjoyed it with joy and admiration, wanting more. Matisyahu didn't talk much between songs, and at first he seemed a bit distant, not present. One can't help but wonder how the recent days and the sights he witnessed during his visits to hospitals affected him. Sorrow and grief spare no one among us.
In small moments of connection, the audience wanted to give back to him. After dedicating the song "Live Like A Warrior" to the Golani soldiers whom he met during his recent travels in the country, a soldier approached the stage and presented him with a chain bearing the symbol of the unit.
It was a beautiful moment where the audience and the artist became one, with no separation. Matisyahu shared that this song now holds new meaning. This holds for so many other moments - every time Matisyahu said "Am Yisrael Chai," the audience erupted, and the same happened when he danced on stage with an Israeli flag given to him by someone in the audience.
Tremendous enthusiasm was also felt during the performance of "Jerusalem." The transformation of the verse "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her skill" into a lively reggae chorus is a notable achievement.
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