(Photo: Nir Roitman/Wikimedia Commons)

G-d Works in Mysterious Ways: The Transformation of Aviv Geffen

BY RABBI ARON WHITE

All singers are entertainers, but in the 1990s, Aviv Geffen became much more than that. As an eighteen-year-old, he burst onto the scene in 1992, with angsty, rebellious songs that spoke powerfully to thousands of young Israelis, making him an Israeli cultural icon. His songs attacked the IDF, Judaism, and everything, it seemed, that his parents’ generation stood for. An Israeli version of John Lennon, he yearned for a peaceful future with “no religion, race or gender,” and once said that “one chord of Pink Floyd” was more important to him than the Kotel.

Geffen was also a vocal opponent of the settler movement in Yehuda and Shomron. During the Gaza Disengagement in 2005, he said that he wanted all the settlers removed from Gaza, “whether dead or alive.” For religious parents, Geffen represented all that was wrong with Israeli society, a dangerous cultural threat to the spiritual health of their children.

Today, Aviv Geffen is no less famous, but he has radically changed his tone. In 2021, he performed at Breichat HaSultan in Yerushalayim together with Avraham Fried in a partnership that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Last year, he even performed in the settlement of Beit El, where he publicly apologized for his past statements about those living in Yehuda and Shomron.

The newfound appreciation for Israel’s religious community has been well received, to say the least. In a Channel 12 TV interview, Geffen described performing for a crowdless concert during the COVID pandemic that was broadcast on television, where he dedicated a song to the residents of Bnei Brak, a city that was being savaged in the media for its COVID regulations compliance. “When I came off stage, I looked at my phone and I had 420 messages. I started reading through them – someone had passed my number on, and I had message after message from Bnei Brak residents saying how much they appreciated it, how much they love my music. ‘You are bringing hope to Israel,’ one message said. I sat there and cried.”

The rock singer’s rapprochement comes at a time when Israeli artists of radically different religious and ethnic backgrounds have created a cultural environment of unity and mutual respect. Singers such as Ishay Ribo, Hanan Ben Ari and Amir Dadon bridge the cultural divide by singing for mixed crowds of religious and secular Israelis. 

This past January, comedian Udi Kagan sat with Aviv Geffen and religious singer Evyatar Banai, creating together a remix/mashup of their songs. As the show progressed, the songs of these two singers merged together, fusing the words of two different worlds into an unlikely harmony. 

Exhilarated, the thousands of fans in the crowd, religious and secular, sang along. It was a deeply hopeful, even messianic, moment. Can Aviv Geffen, a most unlikely uniter, help the two halves of Israeli society learn to sing in harmony? 

 

Rabbi Aron White is the Managing Editor of HaMizrachi magazine.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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