Israeli Musicians Heal from October 7 at Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp

Run by David Fishof, who worked with Ringo Starr, Roger Daltrey, Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton, the camp gives people a chance to feel like rockstars as well.
March 15, 2024

Tuval Haim last heard from his little brother Yotam, a heavy metal drummer, on October 7. As Hamas invaded Kibbutz Kfar Aza, Yotam hid in a safe room and messaged his family that terrorists were walking around his house.

While he seemed calm and protected, everything changed with one text from Yotam, which was to be his last: “I love you.”

After that, Yotam went silent. He had been kidnapped by Hamas.

Then, on December 15, after waiting in agony for Yotam to be released, his family received devastating news: The IDF had accidentally killed Yotam, who had escaped from Hamas, along with two other hostages.

At Yotam’s funeral, Tuval honored his brother’s life the best way he knew how: He played the drums. Netta Barzilai, the 2018 Eurovision winner, sang Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” while Tuval, who is in her band, drummed. Yotam’s father then threw Yotam’s drumsticks into his grave.

“Music is the only thing they could not take from him,” Tuval said. “[I heard from another hostage] that he was playing the drums, not real drums, but on the floor. It shows the power of music.”

“Music is the only thing they could not take from him.” – Tuval Haim

Tuval was in Los Angeles for the week of March 11 to participate in Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, where rockstars mentor campers for the week, and then the campers get to perform in famous Los Angeles venues. Run by David Fishof, who produced rock and worked with Ringo Starr, Roger Daltrey, Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton, the camp gives people a chance to feel like rockstars as well.

Fishof, a member of the LA Jewish community who is the son of a Holocaust survivor and cantor, was touring the ruins of the kibbutzim in Israel in December when he heard about an upcoming funeral for a metal drummer. He was so touched by the funeral and knew he had to do something for Tuval and other Israeli musicians who had experienced tragedy on October 7.

“I knew I could change their lives,” he said.

So, Fishof connected with Keren Hayesod-UIA, the organization that had set up his tours of the kibbutzim, and its world chairman, Sam Grundwerg, former consul general of Israel in LA, to find 10 Israeli musicians to bring to Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp.

Tuval, of course, was invited to participate, as well as others like Raz Shifer, a Nova survivor whose one friend was murdered in captivity and whose other friend is still a hostage; Dov Engel, a reserve soldier, husband and father of five who was injured in battle on October 8; Bar Rudaeff, whose father, a volunteer for Magen David Adom was kidnapped and is still in captivity; and Valeria Dvorkin, who lives in Nir Am and had friends who were killed and others who were taken hostage in Gaza.

At an event with Creative Community for Peace on March 13, the participants performed in a backyard in Beverly Hills to kick off the first day of the camp. After only rehearsing for a few hours that day, they came together to perform rousing renditions of songs like “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi and “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.

To commemorate his brother, Tuval drummed along with his band to “My Hero” by Foo Fighters as Shifer passionately sang, “There goes my hero, watch him as he goes. There goes my hero, he’s ordinary.”

(L-R) Sam Grundwerg, Sarah Idan and David Fishof

The crowd, which included Fishof, Grundwerg, Mayim Bialik, Brett Gelman, former Miss Iraq Sarah Idan, Eve Barlow, and many other members of the Jewish community and its allies, sang along and danced throughout the night.

During an interview segment, Shifer told the audience, “Hamas won’t stop me. This is my victory. This is why I get out of bed every day. Music is what keeps me alive.”

For a month after his brother’s death, Tuval said he couldn’t listen to music.

“But when I listen to metal, I feel like I am with Yotam.”

Rudaeff, who plays the guitar and sings, told his story about October 7; he was in Tel Aviv when he heard the sirens going off in the morning. By that afternoon, he had been called up to serve in Ashkelon. His brother was at Nova, and his father was volunteering when he got injured and was subsequently assumed to be kidnapped by Hamas.

“In hindsight, we know that my father planned to go on a motorcycle trip like he always did every Saturday,” Rudaeff said. “He’d go with his friends and ride around Israel with Bon Jovi or Whitesnake in his ears.”

Hearing that Rudaeff’s father was a fan of Whitesnake, Fishof arranged for Rudaeff to play with Joel Hoekstra and Tommy Aldrige, members of the band.

“The rockstars are just as blown away to meet [the participants],” Fishof said. “They think they’re heroes.”

He continued, “I hope I can relieve [the participants] of their stress and change their lives for the positive.”

At the CCFP event, the current Consul General of Israel, Israel Bachar, discussed the power of music and how it’s bringing people together to heal.

“Music is a universal language,” he said. “It makes us human. We are here to support our Israeli brothers and sisters and rock together in hope.”

David Renzer, co-founder of CCFP, talked about the importance of showing support for Israel at a time when some are turning their backs on the Jewish state.

“I’m here to affirm our support for Israel,” he said. “I’m here to affirm our support for the hostages and affirm that Israel will be victorious in this war.”

Grundwerg, who interviewed Tuval, Rudaeff and Shifer on stage, discussed why the evening was important for the participants and the Jewish community as a whole.

“This initiative is a great example of three different organizations coming together,” he said. “We’re coming together for an evening for Israel and music. We’re showing the power of music and how it heals. That’s what it’s all about.”

For Tuval, it gave him a chance to share his brother story, honor his memory and let the world know how courageous he was.

“Yotam knew the risks of escaping,” he said. “He was free for five days without his guards, without Hamas. He was our hero.”

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