Morrissey of Smiths fame returning to Israel in August

Morrissey, the British singer-songwriter best known for his involvement in The Smiths, will perform two concerts in Israel this summer.

The 57-year-old solo musician will play Tel Aviv on Aug. 22 and Caesarea two days later, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

Morrissey sold out his most recent concerts in Israel, in 2012. His latest album, released in 2014, is “World Peace is None of Your Business.”

He is an outspoken advocate for animal rights and vegetarianism.

WATCH: 50 Reasons to love Tel Aviv (and never, ever leave)

A video version of Simone Wilson's ode to Tel Aviv: 

Barenboim to conduct orchestra in Gaza

Renowned Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim will present a “peace concert” in the Gaza Strip.

Barenboim, a Palestinian activist, will direct an organization of 25 European musicians on Tuesday, the French news agency AFP reported. The so-called “Orchestra for Gaza” was announced Monday by the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

It marks the first time that Barenboim, who was granted honorary Palestinian citizenship, will visit Gaza. He and the musicians are set to enter Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing, according to AFP.

Barenboim has played for Palestinians in the West Bank on several occasions. He was refused entry to Gaza through Israel on several occasions; it is illegal for Israelis to enter Gaza.

Barenboim lives in Berlin and, in addition to being a citizen of Israel, also is a citizen of Argentina and Spain.

“The concert is to try and bring something to the people of Gaza,” he told APF. “It is not a political event in any sense.”

Bieber says logistics stalled meeting with kids

A spokesman for Justin Bieber told JTA that the pop star is not meeting with children from Israel’s rocket-beset south because of logistics, not politics.

“Justin welcomes the chance to meet with kids facing difficult circumstances, regardless of their background, and in fact, he had already invited children from the Sderot area to join the 25,000-plus other fans at his concert in Tel Aviv on Thursday night,” the spokesman told JTA.

Bieber was enjoying his first trip to Israel, the spokesman said, “despite some logistical challenges.”

The pop star has complained on Twitter that the Israeli paparazzi have forced him to hole up in his hotel room.

“i want to see this country and all the places ive dreamed of and whether its the paps or being pulled into politics its been frustrating,” he tweeted Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly canceled a meeting with Bieber set for Wednesday, a day before the concert, after the singer refused to meet with children from southern Israel, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Netanyahu reportedly had invited children living in communities that have been hit by rockets fired from Gaza to join the sit-down. Bieber and his manager had asked for the meeting with Netanyahu, according to reports.

Some 700 children from southern Israeli communities that have been hit by rockets and missiles from Gaza were given free tickets to the concert. The tickets, as well as transportation, are a gift of The Schusterman Foundation-Israel, The Morningstar Foundation and ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators.

Bieber arrived Monday in Israel and has been touring the country. His itinerary includes visits to Christian sites in the Galilee, the Dead Sea, Masada, Acre and Caesarea.

Southern Israeli kids getting free Bieber tickets

Some 700 children from southern Israeli communities that have been hit by rockets and missiles from Gaza were given free tickets to pop star Justin Bieber’s concert.

The tickets for Thursday’s show in Tel Aviv, as well as transportation, are a gift of The Schusterman Foundation-Israel, The Morningstar Foundation and ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators.

ROI approached The Schusterman Foundation to help cover the costs of the tickets, which were provided at a discount to help the Israeli children.

“I feel blessed to partner with The Morningstar Foundation to counter the din of missiles and mortars with the exuberance of rock music for these young Israelis,” Lynn Schusterman said in a news release.

Bieber arrived Monday in Israel and is scheduled to tour the country. The teen idol reportedly will visit Christian sites in the Galilee, the Dead Sea, Masada, Acre and Caesaria. He also reportedly is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

With ticket sales slower than expected, concert promoter Gadi Oron announced Sunday that a parent could enter the concert free with the purchase of two tickets for children at the regular price. Many Israeli parents have balked at sending their young teens alone to a major rock concert in the middle of Tel Aviv.

Israeli reality TV in L.A.: Six singers in search of acceptance

The Latino students at Franklin High School, located north of downtown Los Angeles, sat stone-faced in the school’s auditorium, waiting to find out what justified missing the period before lunch. Against the backdrop of an American flag and an Israeli flag, Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan informed them that they would influence the fate of six Israeli singers.

“You represent the country,” he announced to the students in late January.

The singers who would perform for these teenage judges were contestants in Israel’s new reality TV show, “Chai B’LaLa Land,” a name that plays on the phrase “Live in a Dream World” and the city of music dreams: Los Angeles. The show is designed as a combination of “American Idol” and “Big Brother,” and has given six stars in the world of mizrachi (Mediterranean) music a chance to achieve the near impossible for any Israeli artist: crossover into America. Starting in January, the singers lived together for six weeks in a Los Angeles mansion as they fought for a distribution deal with Geffen Records, headed by mega-producer Ron Fair.

“We see America through their eyes,” Shabi Zaraya, the show’s chief editor, said. “In Israel, they’re very famous. Everything comes easy to them. They’re stars. They don’t know what Americans expect of them in the music industry and how to be a star in America. It’s funny, exciting, and we have everything in this format because the meeting between them and America is crazy. They have a problem of language, mentality and missing home.”

The show — Israel’s most expensive reality show to produce to date — is the brainchild of Kuperman Productions, the company that created the 2006 reality hit “The Successor,” which had notorious “psychic” Uri Geller find his Israeli heir. The American remake of Kuperman’s award-winning sitcom “The Traffic Light” premiered on Fox last month.

With its local — and tribal — connections, Kuperman opened coveted doors. The contestants worked with Johnny Wright (manager of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears) and Israeli-born mixer/engineer Tal Herzberg, who was just up for a Grammy for his work on Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster.” They performed for Tori Spelling, among other celebrities.

The Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles teamed up with Kuperman to shoot an episode at Franklin High.

“It’s a difficult neighborhood,” said Dayan, sitting at a wobbly picnic table outside the auditorium. “Kids here are members of gangs, so it’s important for us to reach out to them and show them Israel and the diversity of Israel.”

On this day, Israeli reggaeton superstar Alon de Loco immediately got the audience cheering when he hopped on stage with his gold chain and gansta pose. Of Moroccan-Iraqi descent, de Loco could easily be mistaken for Latino with his dark, Sephardi features and goatee.

“Six years ago, I had no money, a little kid in my hand and a wife,” he told the students. “And I said to myself, ‘How can I make it better — a good life for my family and my future?’ The only thing I knew how to do was reggaeton.”

He won over the crowd as he gyrated his hips and grabbed his crotch, Michael Jackson style, while singing a Spanish-Hebrew version of his rap song, “Madre.”

Zehava Ben rose out of the slums of Be’er Sheva to become Israel’s reigning mizrachi diva. She got her share of catcalls when she came out in tight jeans, a leopard-print spaghetti-strap tank top and high heels, but the 43-year-old brought the energy level down with her syrupy ballad, singing: “You won’t find the love in the world like the love of your mother.” Her twin sister, Eti Levi, couldn’t revive the crowd, but Israeli audiences will be more interested in what happens backstage between the twins. The show reunited them after years of bitter sibling rivalry.

With bright pink pants and a glowing blond mane, Julietta Agronov is the closest any of the singers gets to a Britney or a Christina. As she sang a Spanish-Hebrew pop tune about girl power, tinged with mizrachi instrumentals, students looked discerning and attentive but were still well behaved. When Avihu Shabat, an Enrique Iglesias look-alike and son of famous Israeli singer Shlomi Shabat, took the stage in tight leather pants, it was the girls’ turn to call out “sexy.”

But David “Dudu” Aharon, Israel’s Singer of the Year, got the crowd out of their seats — by request.

“If you want to respect me,” he shouted, “get up on your feet.” It was either a Freudian slip or a language error when he shouted “wake up!” instead of “get up!” Eventually, they joined him on stage as his smooth vocals entertained.

An informal poll crowned de Loco the winner.

“We could relate to his music more than the rest,” Keidy Rivas, 19, a senior, said.  “It was reggaeton, and that’s what we and Franklin High School listen to.”

“He was also dancing a lot more,” added Rivas’ cousin, Daisy. “Catching our eye and not making it boring.”

If Franklin High represents America, de Loco will be coming back, but with three daughters and a baby on the way, the experience has taught him what’s really important. “I can have success, money and the crowd,” he said, “but without my family, I’m nothing.”

“Chai B’LaLa Land” will air this summer on Yes, Israel’s satellite cable network.

California on Purim [VIDEO]

Israel’s guitar man

With a career spanning more than four decades, Israeli rock star Shalom Hanoch has often been compared to the likes of Neil Young and Mick Jagger. He has played a fundamental role in Israel’s music history as a pioneer of the country’s rock movement in the 1970s and has remained a pop culture icon ever since. 

Hanoch, 65, will perform at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on March 6 as part of his U.S. and Canadian Yetzia (Exit) tour with longtime music producer, arranger and keyboardist Moshe Levi, who has also worked with big-name Israeli artists like Rita, Aviv Gefen and Boaz Sharabi.  The tour, based on Hanoch’s 2004 live album of the same name, will swing through cities with large Israeli populations — Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and New York —  and will feature classic hits such as “Waiting for Mashiach,” “Play It” and “The End of the Orange Season.”

Yetzia reflects a softer side of Hanoch. “I have a rock ‘upper’ side and this one, which is quieter, simpler and more intimate,” Hanoch said in a telephone interview from his home in Israel. “Both sides are dear to me.”

Hanoch’s fans range in age from their early teens to over 60 years old. There are those who have followed the singer, lyricist and composer since his early years, and younger fans who caught the Israeli rock bug from their parents. Hanoch is looking forward to entertaining his Israeli fan base all over North America with an intimate act consisting of a guitar, a piano and his legendary raspy voice, with backup vocals by Levi.

“This is an acoustic act in which we play songs closer to the way in which they were written, only piano and guitar, me and Moshe Levi.”

The pared-down tour gives Hanoch and Levi the creative freedom to perform the songs in different ways each night and vary the selection of music from Hanoch’s vast repertoire. The audience becomes an integral part of the concert’s flow: Hanoch encourages fans to shout out requests. Their enthusiastic participation inspires him, he said, as does the sight of several generations singing along to his music together. “It’s beautiful, and touching,” Hanoch remarked.

His music partner, Levi, has played with, produced and arranged for the rocker since 1981. “It’s not coincidental — we are a good match,”  Hanoch said.  “It works.  It works all the time.”

So what does the future hold for the spirited silver-haired rocker? New projects are in the works, and Hanoch enjoys mentoring as well as collaborating with other artists. This summer, he will be revisiting a special concert series in Israel, Four Stations, which groups material from his past albums into “stations” from certain periods of his career, including collaborative works with fellow Israeli music legend Arik Einstein. The series was performed last year and was a big hit. In marked contrast to the Yetzia tour, the production includes a full band and the shows take place in large venues.

“Spontaneous, close and intimate fits better with smaller venues,” Hanoch said, referring to his North American tour, “and I don’t enjoy it any less.  It’s closer to the heart.” 

Yetzia: Shalom Hanoch and Moshe Levi, March 6, 8 p.m. Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. Tickets are available at the Canyon Club box office,; Noy Productions, (310) 202-3100; and Eema’s Market, 21932 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 702-9272.

Shabbat in Liverpool: New CD adapts Beatles’ tunes for services

When is it kosher to listen to the Beatles on the Sabbath?

When your chazan adapts the Kabbalat Shabbat Friday night service to the melodies of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Lenny Solomon, the founder of the song-parody group Shlock Rock, employed “nusach Liverpool” for a service in late December at the Young Israel of Hollywood, an Orthodox synagogue in South Florida.

“I’ve never had more pride in anything else that I have ever performed,” said Solomon, who has been in the Jewish music business for 25 years. “I had created something new that could be sung in the shul. This is something that I had never done, and I was beaming by the time the services ended.”

The service was the culmination of a years-long project for Solomon that has included the release of a CD with 21 Beatles’ songs set to various parts of Shabbat services and liturgy.

On the CD, “Shalom Aleichem” is sung to the tune of “With a Little Help from My Friends”; the “V’Shamru” portion of kiddush is set to “The Long and Winding Road”; “Ein Keloheinu” sounds like “Let it Be”; and the Havdalah service is set to “Imagine.”

The story of the CD began in 2004 when a friend and neighbor asked Solomon, who lives in Israel, for the 40th birthday gift of a CD of the songs of Kabbalat Shabbat set to Beatles music. Solomon was skeptical but the neighbor, Allen Krasna, sent him an Excel spreadsheet with the Beatles’ songs in one column and the prayers and songs of the Shabbat service on the left.

Solomon went to work.

Working on and off, he needed nine months to take the 35 tunes and incorporate the melodies to the words of the Shabbat prayers.

Solomon recorded the CD, “A Shabbat in Liverpool,” in 2005, but it took another five years to obtain the proper licensing to release the project. The collection finally was released publicly last November as a 21-song CD, which is available for sale at Amazon and other retailers. (Samples of the collection are available at Solomon was in the United States promoting the CD.

Dec. 24 marked the first time that Solomon actually used the songs in a real service. The reaction at the Young Israel of Hollywood seemed to be mostly positive.

“I enjoyed it and sang along with Lenny,” said congregant Avi Frier. “I think it will take awhile, though, for something like this to really catch on and became mainstream, like the Carlebach minyanim.”

It was hardly the first time Jewish services have been set to secular music. Some of the most popular Shabbat tunes originally were secular songs, such as “Erev Shel Shoshanim” (“Evening of Lilies”), a Hebrew love song written in 1957 by Yaffa Yarkoni.

“Every song that comes into this world has a holy spark,” Solomon said. “It is the obligation of the Jewish musician to take the best melodies of the secular world and bring them from the side of darkness to the side of light. This will cause the Jewish people to get closer to God and hasten the redemption.”

Krasna, whose request spawned the creation of the CD, agrees.

“I’m in favor of anything that is done in the service that elevates one’s spirituality,” said Krasna, a lifelong Beatles fan. “Certainly, Conservative and Reform synagogues may embrace this kind of thing more easily, since they always look for ideas to make their services more relevant to the times. But I believe there is a place for these tunes even at Orthodox synagogues.”

Solomon sees the Beatles service as a work in progress.

“My first effort at leading the service was not perfect,” he said. “I do hope I’ll have the opportunity to do this again, so that other congregants can learn the service and appreciate the rich Shabbat liturgy in a brand-new way.

“I’m also convinced that there are many people who ordinarily do not attend a synagogue but who can be introduced to the holy words of our Shabbat prayers through this music.”

Bon Jovi to play Israel

Bon Jovi will perform in Israel in the coming year, the band’s lead singer Jon Bon Jovi told Larry King on his talk show.

During an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Bon Jovi said the rock band would include Israel on its list of stops during its “The Circle” world tour in 2011. The group, which was at the height of its popularity in the 1980s, also will visit Greece for the first time.

Several high-profile musical artists have canceled shows in Israel in the past year, bowing to political pressure from pro-Palestinian groups.

Rod Stewart appeared at Ramat Gan Stadium in June. The rock band Deep Purple will return to Israel in May for two concerts, Ynet reported.

Conductor Barenboim awarded German peace prize

Conductor Daniel Barenboim was awarded a German peace prize for his efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.

The Westphalia Peace Prize, worth about $70,000, was presented by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in ceremonies Saturday in Muenster City Hall.

Barenboim, 67, a pianist and general music director at Berlin’s State Opera, was honored particularly for his creation, with the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said, of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together Jewish, Christian and Muslim musicians. The award will be shared with the orchestra, according to news reports.

Several musicians from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performed at the ceremony.

In delivering the prize, Westerwelle praised the project as “an orchestra without borders” that brings younger generations together. He said that peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians must continue, with European support, but that Israel’s security is top priority and “not up for debate.”

Barenboim called the award “a great and deep honor” and added that a two-state solution to the conflict was urgently needed.

“It is not five before midnight, but 30 seconds before midnight,” said Barenboim, who has passports for Israel, Argentina, Spain and a pass for the Palestinian territories, which he was given after a concert in Ramallah in January 2008.

The prize is given every two years by the Economic Association of Westphalia and Lippe to individuals or institutions considered role models in building peace. Past recipients include former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and conductor Kurt Masur.

For top stars like Madonna, Israel gig becoming more common

Madonna managed to sprinkle some of her fairy diva dust on Israel during her recent tour, calling the Jewish state the world’s “energy center,” wrapping herself in the flag on stage and even lighting Shabbat candles with Sara Netanayahu.

Audiences, local promoters and officials are hoping her magic will linger and boost an already emerging trend in which Israel is becoming a draw for big-name artists in relatively large numbers.

“Anytime you have a successful concert or artist of that caliber here, people will take notice,” said Jeremy Hulsh, a concert promoter who also founded Oleh Records, a company that promotes Israeli artists abroad.

“This year was particularly strong and next year looks to be strong, too. There are lots of newcomer promoters willing to take risks because they are seeing great potential,” he said, noting that Israelis are willing to pay top dollar for tickets and thus help the bottom line. “Israelis are both excited and grateful to see any big names coming to Israel.”

September alone is seeing the likes of Madonna, Leonard Cohen, Julio Iglesias, Dinosaur Jr. and Faith No More performing here. Earlier this summer, the Pet Shop Boys played, as did the new pop sensation Lady Gaga.

Madonna played two concerts last week to a total of some 100,000 fans, while Cohen’s performance for 47,000 sold out in 17 hours—faster than his shows anywhere else in the world.

As promoters and agents talk among themselves, word seems to be spreading that Israel can be a lucrative and successful new stop for performers. Logistics and facilities are top rate, fans pay as much as $400 for good seats for a big name and, despite an uncertain security situation, artists realize when they arrive that the country belies its image as a war zone.

In an age where Israelis feel particularly besieged by international criticism amid calls for cultural and other boycotts, the celebrity acts and the glamorous star power they emit feel especially welcome.

“Madonna is the best ambassador for the Jewish people,” gushed Liav Mizrahi, a 31-year-old art teacher from Tel Aviv who saw her first of two concerts here and was still breathless the next day.

Andy David, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said he hoped the message that Israel is a “normal” country was a happy by-product of high-profile acts like Madonna coming to the country.

“We are a normal country where people enjoy music and performers understand there is a market here for their music, he said, adding later that “it’s good business and a good place to come.”

“We are not some crazy corner of the world where everything is upside down,” David said.

Madonna in particular has forged a unique connection with Israel following her involvement with the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles. Although her last performance here was 16 years ago, she has been to Israel several times in recent years on private visits that included the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the graves of mystics in Safed.

Although the average Israeli seems a bit befuddled by the Queen of Pop’s interest in Jewish mysticism, especially the Kabbalah Center’s version—serious Jewish scholars have dismissed it as a flashy and inauthentic New Age perversion—they have embraced her all the same.

Officials also have embraced the celebrity fawning with enthusiasm. Madonna dined with Tzipi Livni, a prime ministerial hopeful and leader of the opposition, at a trendy Tel Aviv restaurant. Last Friday evening the singer met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. Madonna, who reportedly knows some Hebrew, recited the blessing over the Sabbath candles with the first lady.

One major paper featured Madonna’s arrival on its front page, overshadowing news that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been indicted on corruption charges the day before.

In a column in the weekend magazine of the daily Ha’aretz titled “You Really Like Me,” Gideon Levy described the history of Israeli politicians seizing photo ops with stars. A photo spread showed Golda Meir shaking hands with Kirk Douglas, Menachem Begin kissing Elizabeth Taylor’s hand and Shimon Peres visiting Jaffa with Sharon Stone.

“We have always longed for the world’s love, or at least the love of those of its stars who bothered to come here,” a sarcastic Levy wrote.

The occasional big-name music act certainly isn’t new to Israel. Paul McCartney performed last year, and Roger Waters, the late Michael Jackson and Elton John also made their way here over the years.

What is new, industry insiders say, is the volume of such performances, due in part to Israel’s sound track record as a place where fans will pay relatively high prices for tickets.

Performing in Israel involves not only security considerations and the extra insurance necessary to cover them, but the expense of flying in equipment, crew and backup musicians from Europe, as most performers include Israel as part of their larger European tours.

“It’s easier now because promoters are not afraid of Israel and the insurance companies are covering the risks of such shows,” said Perla Mitrani, a project manager for, a site that features Israeli concert dates. “Israel is now becoming a market like anywhere else, a normal stop on people’s tours. The question is how much people are ready to pay for this or that performer.”

According to Avisar Savir, a promoter who is arranging an upcoming concert here of the Chasidic reggae musician Matisyahu, the world economic crisis also has provided an opportunity for Israel.

“People need to open new markets,” he said, “and Israel is seen as a legitimate place to come in a way it wasn’t before.”

Man of Joy

Craig Taubman is a very happy guy, but on Yom HaAtzmaut last spring, as Jewish communities around the world were celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary, hewasn’t a happy camper.

Which in itself was unusual, since on that day he was doing what he loves to do best — playing music and producing events. As part of his popular Faith Jam series, which, as he says, “brings together music of all traditions to sing songs of praise, and not differences,” he was rocking and rolling with Jewish bands, gospel choirs, Sufi chant masters and other musicians.

Taubman’s problem, though, was that one thing was missing from his party: Any reference to Israel’s birthday.

This was the third year of the Faith Jam festival, and Taubman had tried to include a celebration of Israel’s 60th as part of the festivities. Unfortunately, his Muslim partners in Faith Jam disagreed with that idea.

If we celebrate Israel, they said, then we should also celebrate Palestine.

Taubman had a ready answer for that: When the Palestinians get their own state, I will gladly include them, he told the Muslim organization with whom he was working.

But they wouldn’t budge, so Taubman accommodated. He wanted to keep peace, he said. But then, when the day arrived, and he saw that his was the only Jewish-connected event in town that wasn’t celebrating Israel’s anniversary, it made him sick. He said he lost sleep for many months.

As he was telling me all this the other day over lunch at Jeff’s Gourmet on Pico Boulevard, you could see that the episode still weighed on him.

“I knew that I had compromised my joy, my values,” he said. “I wasn’t strong enough to say, ‘I understand, but I can’t compromise on this issue.’ I was more interested in maintaining my good relationships.”

This latter point shouldn’t be too surprising, because if there’s one thing that has defined this musical impresario for the past two decades in our community, it is the quality of his relationships.

I first met Taubman in the mid 1980s, when he was looking for help promoting a new musical venture called Yad B’Yad. Since then, every time I’ve seen him around town, his hair has gotten a little grayer, but absolutely nothing else has changed — he’s still always looking to promote another musical venture.

Catch him at any moment, and he’s likely to be working on a major project — events like the annual “Let My People Sing” festival, the “Hallelu” concert series or the “Jewels of Elul” booklet and online compilations. Although he continues to do non-Jewish work — he’s composed and directed music for companies like FOX television, HBO and Paramount Pictures — it’s clear that his heart and soul is with the Jewish community.

One of his proudest achievements is that many thousands of Jews have been turned on to Judaism thanks to “Friday Night Live,” the musical Shabbat service at Sinai Temple he started with Rabbi David Wolpe more than 10 years ago. Held on the second Friday of every month, the service regularly attracts more than 1,000 Jewish young adults, many of whom had been estranged from Jewish life.

These days, his big thing is a Chanukah-themed PBS Pledge Drive Special, which will air nationwide over the next few weeks and in Los Angeles on Dec. 21. Of course, he produced the whole event and performed in it, too.

All of which makes me glad for any Jewish community in the world that has a Craig Taubman in its midst. What would we do without these musical warriors? They are portable joy machines. While most of us easily can get consumed with frustrating things like the state of the economy or Israeli politics or an annoying family member, the Taubmans of the world are consumed with giving us spiritual-joy breaks from the daily stresses of life.

I spoke to him on the phone last week after he had just returned from a concert tour in Turkey and Israel. In between all the excited talk of his musical projects, I couldn’t resist asking him how a naturally happy person like him reacted to the horrible tragedy in Mumbai. He paused for a long time, and then did the Jewish thing and asked for my reaction first. I didn’t pause. I told him I was angry. Angry at the cowardly murderers who could so brazenly destroy precious and sweet human lives.

He told me he felt deep sadness. He has trouble feeling anger, he says, because it makes him feel helpless and despairing. So he mourns in sadness, and puts on a happy face when he has to perform.

Taubman is relentlessly enthusiastic about life and music, but he has no illusions. He doesn’t pretend that music can fix the world’s problems, and he’s hardly naïve about the terrorist threats to Israel and to America and to the world. It’s just that while being a musical and spiritual guy, Taubman is also a very practical guy. He worries about the things he can influence.

And his influence is in music, not politics.

Of course, when the two meet, it can cause a little stress, like it did at Faith Jam on Yom HaAtzmaut this year, when he chose “peace with the Muslims” over his desire to celebrate the birthday of his beloved Israel.

I’m not sure why Taubman volunteered to tell me about his Zionistic faux pas. For a Jewish man of joy, this wouldn’t seem like a good career move. Maybe he figured we’d give him some slack after all he’s done over the years to elevate our community.

But here’s another possible explanation for his candor: Right before we left Jeff’s Gourmet, he insisted that I mention that at the next Faith Jam festival, he will indeed celebrate Israel’s 61st birthday.

“Whether my partners like it or not,” he said, without a trace of anger.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and He can be reached at

VIDEO: Girls of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)

Girls of the IDF—Israel Defense Forces.  Video photo montage plus music lovingly crafted by YouTube member , a Floridian named Pilman.