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      Judaism: Prize-Winning Singer Ariel Silber: Alone on the Wagon

      Published: Tuesday, February 04, 2014 8:00 PM
      A popular singer who loves his country and its people is penalized because of his rightist political views. Not in Europe, but in Israel.


      Ariel Zilber quickly rose to fame in Israel as a talented singer and songwriter . Most of his songs were light and full of upbeat rhythms and highly literate lyrics.

      On Monday evening he received a justly-deserved prize from ACUM (Union of Composers, Writers and Publishers in Israeli Music) for his achievements and contribution to Israeli music. He was supposed to have received a lifetime achievement award, but at the last moment the organization chose to change the wording of the award from “Lifetime Achievement” to “Contribution to Israeli Music”.

      This came after pressure from various sources, such as the late Yitzchak Rabin's daughter Dalia Rabin, who is a member of ACUM’s board of directors, and who opposes Zilber’s rightist “land of Israel” political stand.

      After the expulsion from Gush Katif, Ariel Zilber developed a deeper commitment to Judaism and to his commitment to the land of Israel. As a result of those changes he was shunned and criticized by the bohemian friends and culture from which he came. Yet that did not seem to deter him at all and he showed courage and faithfulness amidst all the criticism and ridicule.

      As I read of his pain-filled acceptance speech I was reminded of another image of Ariel Zilber. It was the summer of 2005. The Sharon government was feverishly preparing for the destruction of Gush Katif (Katif Bloc) and the expulsion of the Jewish families. As part of the many activities organized to attempt to thwart those plans, many of us gathered to camp out in the forest groves near the southern town of Ofakim. Thousands spent the night there and began, in the morning, one of the futile and painful marches towards the Gush. This march, as with all the others, was blocked by a massive police force.

      As we began the trek towards Gush Katif, we passed by a wagon parked in the middle of a field and attached to a small car. A man with long curly hair stood on the wagon with his electric piano fastened precariously on it. As we began to march, he was singing and playing. From afar the sight seemed almost comical and absurd.

      As we moved closer people pointed and whispered to each other “ that’s Ariel Zilber..you know from the song  ‘Rutzi Shmulik’, He is here to stand with us”. We walked by and he kept singing. I thought then how alone he looked there on the wagon. None of the other “icons” of Israeli entertainment were anywhere to be seen. Yet alone there on the wagon, he seemed to me to be a giant.

      That was exactly the type of uplift we needed at that moment. The procession moved on and then the car began to pull the wagon forward and continued on with us. He kept singing, though at times it looked like he and the wagon would tip over. Yet he kept singing. He kept singing alone.

      That was the beginning of a long and courageous ride that Ariel took, one that led him back into his own soul and into the hearts of all those that love the land of Israel. In the words of Ariel Zilber’s famous song “ Ten Lee Koach-Give Me Strength”, may Hashem give him many years of strength as he continues to sing on the back of that wagon.