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Singer Ariel Zilber Talks About Rock Band That Disinvited Him

Interview with top Israeli singer Ariel Zilber, 'disinvited' from singing at popular rock band Tislam concert because of his political views.
By David Lev
First Publish: 12/21/2010, 3:06 PM / Last Update: 12/21/2010, 7:46 PM

When the “cream” of Israeli music joins together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the seminal rock album “Radio Chazak” (“Strong Radio”), one of the most important and influential voices in Israeli music – that of Ariel Zilber – will be missing. Zilber, originally scheduled to appear at the concert scheduled for January 19, has been disinvited by the “hosts” of the party, the rock group Tislam – because of Zilber's support of right-wing causes.

In a statement Sunday, Tislam, the group behind the Radio Chazak album, said that it had asked Zilber to stay away from the their party. “We respect and appreciate Ariel Zilber as a musician and artist, and we do not have a problem with his political opinions, even if we do not agree with them. But we do have a problem with comments he has made that do not align with our values.”

The comments in question were made by Zilber at a memorial service last week for Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane, son of Rabbi Meir Kahane. Like his father, Binyamin Kahane was murdered by Arab terrorists, along with his young wife, leaving six young orphans Speaking at the service, Zilber expressed support for the letter signed by hundreds of rabbis against the sale or rental of homes or land to non-Jews.

Zilber, one of the pioneers of modern Israeli music, has had a long history as an artist, scoring some of the country's best-loved hits over a nearly 40 year career. In recent years, Zilber's political views have turned towards the right; and during the 2005 disengagement, he moved to Gush Katif and played at concerts urging IDF troops not to throw Jews out of their homes. Zilber has also adopted a religious lifestyle, becoming a ba'al teshuva under the influence of Chabad.

Zilber's lifestyle change has been well-publicized for years, and his political views are no secret – which is why, he told Israel National News, he is more confused than insulted by Tislam's decision. “I know the guys from Tislam. We've worked together on projects and we speak on occasion. They know me, they know what I think – and yet they invited me anyway.

“Why they changed their minds, I can't imagine,” said Zilber, who recently wrote a song encouraging Jews to use only Jewish labor. “I have nothing to hide. They knew who I was when they invited me.” Zilber was no last-minute addition, either – his name appears prominently among the other artists who will be paying tribute to Tislam at the concert.

If there was anything distasteful about the incident, Zilber said, it was the way Tislam went about “firing” him. “Their producer called me and told me that they felt 'hurt' by my views, which I can't really understand, given the fact my views are no secret.” However, he immediately accepted the group's verdict.

The media circus that surrounded the affair, however, was a different story. “I don't read newspapers, and Istay away from media outlets in general, so I didn't know that they were going to release this to the press,” Zilber said. “As a result I was inundated with phone calls and e-mails, pumping me for details about Tislam's statement.” And to top off the shabby treatment, he said, no one from the group even bothered to call and apologize for putting him through the rough treatment. He remarked on Voice of Israel radio that the group got a great deal of publicity from the action.

Despite that treatment, Zilber harbors no negative feeling towards the group. “If G-d allowed this to happen, it's clear that He has a reason for not wanting me to be there. Tislam doesn't like what I think, that's fine. But there was certainly no need to create a media event.” Regarding possible damages – after all, the concert organizers will be breaking a contract – Zilber says that he is considering what to do. “My wife says we would have a good case if we decided to sue, but we haven't decided whether or not to proceed yet.” And despite the incident, Zilber says he harbors no resentment against Tislam. "I would have no problem working them in the future, if the occassion should ever arise," he said.

Meanwhile, though, Zilber sees a positive side to the incident. “I've gotten many, many calls from friends who are very upset at Tislam on my behalf, and have told me that they are canceling their plans to go to the concert. If there's one consolation, it's knowing that I haven't been forgotten by my fans.”