I don’t know how many people congregated in Rishon Lezion’s Live Park Sunday night to dance to the ethereal harmonies, jagged rhythms and curious pronunciations of hard-to-categorize English band alt-J (∆). Upwards of 10,000, I’d guess. But as far as we could see — not so far admittedly, these days — my beloved and I were the oldest members of the audience.
This was a night out with young Israel — army kids and post-army kids and tomorrow’s army kids. Barely dressed in loose, wispy tops (girls) and army unit T-shirts (boys). Widely and wildly tattooed. The boys almost all bearded or unshaven; the girls all flowing hair straight out of Woodstock. Arriving in twos, and threes and fours, but then coalescing into larger groups of friends and acquaintances and brothers-in-arms, hugging and hand-slapping and standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
Drinking substantial but not horrifying quantities of beer.
Smoking enough dope for the clouds on a windless, humid evening to mildly impact even those who abstained.
And, when the music started, dancing with an almost desperate passion. Arms waving skyward, heavenward. Everybody, but everybody, dancing.
It’s interesting that alt-J (∆), a very particular, quirky taste, is such a hit in Israel. This band produces meandering music of gentle, fragile beauty and obscure, frequently impenetrable lyrics. (One of its most beautiful tunes, “The Gospel of John Hurt,” is inspired by the 1979 sci-fi/horror classic “Alien.”)
But it filled the park on Sunday, and it’ll fill it again on Monday night.
This time last year, 50 days of fighting against Hamas was finally drawing to a close. Many of those who sang the words along with these very polite English musical innovators on Sunday night were fighting in Gaza a year ago. Many others, one deeply fears, will be somewhere similar in the not-too-distant future.
How stark the contrast between grit and bloodshed and loss, and the pure, soaring harmonies of this music. How impossible this region into which we have raised our young loved ones. How precious and welcome their opportunities to sing and dance and Tessellate their beautiful hearts out.
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