Rocker Aviv Geffen changes his tune with West Bank concerts for ‘brother’ settlers

Once known as a voice of the political left linked to Rabin’s legacy, singer reveals political shift with recent performances, for which he thanks right-wing minister Ayelet Shaked

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Rocker Aviv Geffen is going public with his political about-face in August 2022, performing in settlements that he previously criticized (Courtesy YouTube screengrab)
Rocker Aviv Geffen is going public with his political about-face in August 2022, performing in settlements that he previously criticized (Courtesy YouTube screengrab)

Rocker Aviv Geffen, previously known for his left-wing views and lyrics, has apparently made an abrupt political shift with two performances in the past week in the West Bank settlements of Kedumim and Beit El, and others at IDF bases, where he spoke about a need for national unity and referred to settlers as “brothers.”

“I and you, my brothers, have split because of many, many things, and for many years,” said Geffen at an August 24 concert in Beit El. “I said things from ignorance, to diminish others. I’m so happy I’m here. Thank you for inviting me.”

Geffen spoke about having undergone a personal transformation, and thanked right-wing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked as a friend who helped him “to accept and respect others.”

Geffen was one of the last artists to perform at the November 1995 peace rally where prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and came into direct contact with Rabin on that night. That encounter turned Geffen into a symbol of hope for the liberal youth of that generation.

He was often criticized for singing critically about the Israel Defense Forces while not having served. He was discharged for medical reasons, but has referred to himself as a conscientious objector, which was seen as particularly controversial since he is the great nephew of the iconic late chief of staff and defense minister Moshe Dayan.

He spoke frequently about not following in the footsteps of his famous uncle, and not supporting the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, calling them a blight upon Israel.

In Geffen’s “Hope Song,” he sings:

Let’s bury the guns and not the children
Let’s try, until it will be better, until it will be
Let’s conquer the peace and not the settlements

But in recent months, Geffen has seemingly had a change of heart, performing for free at army bases since before Israel’s 74th Independence Day in May.

The IDF had decided at the start of the 2000s not to permit performers who do not fulfill reserve duty to appear in front of troops, and wouldn’t allow Geffen to perform, even as a volunteer.

Now Geffen is performing for soldiers on bases around the country.

Geffen has also donned a kippah during some concerts — once when he performed a song with lyrics from the Psalms at a recent concert in Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool, and more recently in Beit El.

Israeli singer Aviv Geffen speaks at a ceremony marking 25 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on November 7, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

When he appeared on Sunday in Kedumim alongside ultra-Orthodox entertainer Avraham Fried, with whom he’s performed duets in the past, Geffen spoke about the need for unity, despite political differences. He referred to himself as “left-center.”

“This is the time and the hour,” said Geffen. “It’s easy to talk about unity — we have to actively work toward it and against ostracizing others. I will take some poisonous arrows so that the next generation can grow up amid true love, because we have been, and always will be, brothers.”

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