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‘Be Strong Up There’

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Aviv Geffen playing with the Israel Philharmonic, Nov. 2013.
Aviv Geffen playing with the Israel Philharmonic, Nov. 2013.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

The singer Aviv Gefen performed in the settlement of Beit El this week for the first time. During the show, wearing a knitted kippah, he apologized to the settlers. “I have personally gone on a journey that was not easy and not short, until I reached the very deep realization that my brothers, you, and I have been separated because of many things for many years, because of my ignorance, I tried to be liked by my audience and I spoke out of ignorance and in order to belittle the other.”

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When I watched Gefen and his flat expression – they say that at age 50, everyone gets the face they deserve – and listened to him, I remembered an interesting term from the lecture “Aspects of the New Right-Wing Extremism” given by German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno in 1967, which was published in Hebrew this year. Adorno says that in any democracy there is a kind of residue of the incorrigible or the foolish, the “lunatic fringes,” as he says the American expression has it. Adorno writes that “there is a certain kind of quietist bourgeois in reciting that to oneself.” In a footnote, there is an explanation that quietism is an approach that espouses the avoidance of personal action and a full devotion to God’s will.

I am not suggesting, heaven forbid, that Gefen is a fool or incorrigible; even if I wanted to do so, I certainly could not present him as belonging to the lunatic fringes of democracy. On the contrary; his journey to political maturity led to the heart of the new political consensus, which is right-wing and settler.

As I was thinking about the deeper significance in the fact that the person who was once a young, conflicted individual who sang at the peace rally at the end of which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was killed by a political assassin, standing now, as an adult, in Beit El wearing a knitted kippah and groveling before the settler lords of the land; someone whose journey took him from the grieving candle-holding youth after the assassination to the “hilltop youth,” I was filled with sadness for “this fucked-up generation,” as a song by Gefen has it. Only then, thanks to Adorno, was I able to find bourgeois quietist comfort: there’s nothing to be done about it; it must be God’s will.

If the political turnaround of the generation that demanded peace from the Zionist left to the religious Zionist schmaltz can be seen as a manifestation of God’s will, then Ayelet Shaked can certainly be seen as God’s emissary. “Many friends have helped me on this journey,” Gefen shared with the audience in Beit El. “One of them is my friend Ayelet Shaked from the Zionist Spirit, who told me: ‘Aviv, open yourself up to the world, open yourself up to people, to their opinions.’” Suddenly, the name of Shaked’s new, right-wing party attains a mystical dimension. The Zionist – holy – Spirit.

One green line ties Tel Aviv’s insistence on hanging maps in schoolrooms marking the actual sovereign borders of Israel, contravening the Education Ministry’s ban, and Gefen’s self-effacing appearance in Beit El, and the “government of change,” whose architects included Shaked. The Green Line preserves the division of the land and territorial compromise between the two people. Preserving the Green Line also marks the distinction between legitimate Israel, whose establishment was a blessing, and occupying Israel, whose expansion is a curse.

The erasure of the Green Line is the gospel of the settlers. Its erasure is a negation of the two-state solution and of the distinction between Israel and the settlements. Without the Green Line, there is no reason that Gefen shouldn’t appear in Beit El. Without the two-state solution on the horizon, there is no longer significance to the old political division or to the ideological dispute around the future of the West Bank and the settlement project. The erasure of the Green Line was the real, unstated price of the “government of change” that the Tel Avivians created along with the settlers. Gefen, from this perspective, is not at all avant-garde. He is a conformist who now toes the ideological line marked by – that is, erased by – the “government of change.”

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