“Ain’t nobody gonna break my stride, I gotta keep on moving” sang a passionate Matisyahu at the recent Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Spain. To quote another reggae luminary, Bob Marley, Matisyahu was Iron like Lion in Zion. He epitomized peace and tolerance in the face of great adversity and discrimination. We all know the story but in a nutshell, Matisyahu who is American and Jewish was asked to endorse the positions of the BDS movement and was summarily disinvited by festival organisers when he didn’t. After immense worldwide pressure by peace loving citizens who were outraged over the ban, Matisyahu was re-invited and defiantly sang his hit, Jerusalem. You see, it is not actually about Israel, it is all about Jews. Boycott shmoycott – that is just verbiage and fancy wordplay that disguises the true intentions of the Belligerent, Disruptive and Stupid campaign. Matisyahu had this to say on his Facebook page:
“My deepest thanks to the worldwide community for rallying to the cause of musical freedom. Most of all, thank you to my incredible fans and to so many people of all faiths who refused to remain silent in the name of artistic freedom. This is your victory.”
Jerusalem if I forget you…….
Matisyahu’s performance is indicative of a phenomenon that Jews have faced since eternity – the ability to stand up to the Goliath of haters. Since time immemorial, the small nation of Israel has had to stand up to colossal entities who have sought our destruction. In the modern age, they are aided by vast media outlets.
Matisyahu’s brave performance got me thinking. The one thing that scares off a bully is if his intended victim stands up to him. I am often asked during interviews or lectures, why Israel’s public relations is so bad. Granted, it can stand to improve a lot but the Jewish people face a phenomenon no other nation does. Our diaspora communities are seen as the de facto spokespeople for the State of Israel and are targets for many an anti-Semite. Don’t get me wrong – criticizing policy you don’t necessarily agree with is healthy and democratic but if it comes at the expense of other countries committing true atrocities or if the rights of the sovereign Jewish state to exist are questioned, then we are dealing with a whole new animal.
Iron like a lion in Zion
Many have approached me in despair, lamenting the fact that we can’t compete with massive budgets and buying power on broadcast networks or are dwarfed by sheer numbers. This is when I think of David vs Goliath and now, Matisyahu.
For the first time in our history, Jews not only have a state and an army but we also have a voice. We have the same social media tools, the same ability to disseminate information and a myriad of NGO’s and individuals who fight the good fight. We also have legions of support in the Christian community and believe it or not, in areas where we would least expect it in the Muslim and Arab worlds, often at great risk to their personal safety.
It is my belief that despite the size of the opposition, we can all be lions for Zion. There is an old African folklore tale that even the smallest mosquito can irritate the great elephant. The most important thing is that we show up with the facts, ready and confident to make our case. This seriously irritates the proverbial elephant!
Seventy odd years ago, Jews did not have a voice. There was no Facebook to share their plight and the gates of the nations were closed to them. They were stateless and voiceless.
Today, every letter in response to a hostile op-ed, every Facebook share or post and every tweet can go a long way to getting the truth out. We can give a voice not only to those who cannot speak for themselves or live in countries where anti-Semitism is prohibitive of their freedom of expression but also to the generations before us who could not speak out.
Matisyahu, who ironically bears the name of the great Maccabean leader (who hailed from the city of Modiin where I live), is hugely symbolic. Matityahu, the hero of Chanukah, led the battle against the Greeks and his leadership skills were passed down to his sons who defeated them and won back the Temple. Talk about beating the odds! Today’s Matisyahu is using the power of music as an instrument of peace and tolerance with a message of national identity and is being the mosquito that irritates the BDS elephant.
Excavations in Modiin, the city of the Maccabees
My message is simple – we may be small in numbers and the odds may seem insurmountable, but we can all show up in our own unique way. We can draw from the example from history and the present and roar like iron lions from Zion!
Useful sites to help you: