Life & Culture

The truth is Jews can’t run a gig let alone the world

Antisemites overestimate our organisational abilities – invite them to a communal event and they’ll see for themselves


Zionists run the world. That’s been the traditional refrain among the far-left, far-right, and Islamists for years. Since October 7 this rhetoric has, of course, escalated. As Hadley Freeman recently pointed out in this publication, the former background noise of hate has been turned up to a cacophony. “Defeating Zionism” is now the Omnicause; the one true path to fixing all that’s wrong with the world.

Of course all Zionism really means is the self-determination of Jews in our ancestral homeland. But for racists, one free Jew, let alone a small nation, is simply too much to bear. Thus they see it as right that Jews should be murdered, kidnapped and raped at a music festival. Thus useful idiots show their solidarity with the perpetrators through the boycotting of music festivals in the UK. And thus the British Jewish community does our best to show solidarity with the victims and those trying to bring the hostages home.

One such opportunity arose a few weeks ago when a friend posted about an upcoming Matisyahu performance, organised by the World Zionist Organisation. Being a longtime fan of the fluctuating frummer, and a music gig being a particularly apt expression for showing support, tickets for the entire family were immediately purchased. All seven of us. Even with no discount for children. Because that’s how much I love Israel.

As the day approached I got more excited, playing the Youth album on repeat on the school run. Where was this special event to be held I wondered? Amid security concerns, and with music venues cancelling his gigs across the US due to pressure from protesters, I understood the need for last- minute secrecy. Would it be The Roundhouse? The Forum Kentish Town? Alexandra Palace?

An email arrived Sunday morning. Kinloss. Huh? Never heard of it, had Koko in Camden changed its name? Oh, it’s a synagogue. Must be a big one to be able to house the thousands of people coming. Maybe they’ve got a huge outdoor space. It says there’s going to be a fair with food stalls and booths, it’s going to be a mini festival!

I knew we were nearly there when I saw a particularly bad example of parking. Making it through security, and being directed down to the basement, was the first indicator that perhaps the images in my head weren’t going to match up with reality though. How are they going to fit all the food trucks down there? Walking into the basement was a realignment of expectations not dissimilar to how the first Zionist pioneers must’ve felt when being confronted with the swamps. Lots of hope, but still a fair amount of work to do to turn this into something.

There was the framework of a gig – a small stage, rows of seats, a willing audience of about 400, and a bar. Having bribed the children with soft drinks, I got in a queue. Which was a mistake. Visitors to the Holy Land will confirm that there’s no Hebrew word for queue. In fact, it started to dawn on me that perhaps this gig was a little slice of Israel in the UK.

My suspicions were confirmed after checking out the drinks menu. £4 for a soft drink! Are these Tel Aviv prices? I mean, I love Israel, but even the most committed Zionist would find their resolve crumbling when faced with the bill for five half-full cups of warm Fanta.

If the drinks were a test, I’d say most of the audience failed when it came to the speeches. A whispering MC for a room full of chatty impatient Jews, starting with the head of the World Zionist Congress giving a ten-minute lecture in Hebrew. Talk about preaching to the converted. I mean guys, we’re here, you don’t need to give us the hard sell. Yet still the speeches came one after another. By the time pre-recorded messages started playing on the projector I was googling to see if there were any pro-Palestinian marches to which I could escape.

But then Matisyahu came on, singing his hit Jerusalem, and suddenly we were one people again. What never fails to make me chuckle though, is the idea that these people, my people, are capable of running anything. If the World Zionist Organisation can’t even remember to turn the house lights off and the stage lights on, until two songs before the end of a music gig, how are Zionists managing to run an entire planet?

Antisemites clearly overestimate our organisational abilities. I genuinely believe that if we just invited them to our events, afterwards they might still hate us, but they’d marvel we ever get anything done at all. But I know the secret. Emerging into the evening summer light, humming along to the hope for peace that is One Day, before us in the sky hung a gigantic rainbow. If you build it, even if it’s a bit shoddy, he will come.

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