Recently I attended my fourth Idan Raichel Project concert. The incredibly participatory audience left the performance feeling energised and with a glow of enthusiasm for Israeli culture.  The Projects’ blend of African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds, coupled with a spectacular live show, has enchanted audiences worldwide.  Indeed the Idan Raichel Project has boldly gone to geographical locations no other Israeli performers have gone before.  This trail-blazing enterprise has helped raise global awareness to a sound that reflects our Zionist state’s multi-ethnic and tolerant makeup that exists beyond the headlines.

Photo (c) 2013, T. Book

In an intimate dialogue with a smaller group at which I was present, Raichel said that he considered it a great honour to bring a taste of Israel to other countries.   When asked by the New York Times why he has so many Biblical lyrics in his songs he replied:

I use the Bible because all the most important and beautiful things have already been said, so that the best that I can probably do is repeat them…there is simply no greater love song than what you find in the Book of Psalms.

Raichel’s infectious enthusiasm for the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic melting pot represented by the State of Israel is reflected in his music. Usually the first thing that enters people’s minds upon hearing the word “Israel” is, “conflict” (or falafel). Israel needs to move its image beyond the conflict.  The Project, and the positive energy and good will that it globally disseminates, make it one of Israel’s most effective ambassadors.  The Hasbara value is priceless.

Yet with all the talk about globalism and world music Idan Raichel is very clear that home is where the heart is, and his heart is very much in Israel.  Having served in the IDF himself, which he refers to as a “basic ingredient” to “Israeliness,” he made a very moving observation about the two-minute silence during Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron):

I think that those two minutes truly reflect the Israeli way of life, the Israeli pride, our longing and sadness, our concern for and about the future, our patriotism and our mutual destiny. Those two minutes truly show what all Israelis have in common, if it’s our lives in the present, or the respect we have for our past. To me, those two minutes sharpen our minds and are the epitome of Israeli society.