Jumps Red Lights

hanochThe death a couple of days ago of the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon raised memories of my one and only visit to Israel, and is associated with a particular piece of music. When I visited, in the summer of 1985, I was just 23. The memory of the 1982 war in Lebanon, in which Sharon had been a prime mover, was still raw among the Israeli twenty-somethings in whose circles I moved. Some of them had served in the war. Some had lost loved ones.

During my visit I acquired a tape of a Hebrew-language rock album called Mehakim LeMoshiach (‘Waiting for the Messiah’) by Israeli rock star Shalom Hanoch. I expect it’s gathering dust in the loft somewhere. Hanoch and his band sounded a bit like Dire Straits – Hanoch’s voice has the same lived-in quality as Mark Knopfler’s. The album was quite political. Mehakim LeMoshiach certainly resonated with my crowd. The album cover, shown here, illustrates the cynicism of a generation made old and war-weary before their time. If you are going to wait for the messiah, it says – graphically, in the form of an over-full ashtray – you’ll be waiting a long time.

My host, who recommended the album, drew my attention to a particular track called Lo Otzer BeAdom, which he translated as ‘Jumps Red Lights’. The song is all about a reckless motorist, who speeds relentlessly on despite the pleas of his friends to stop, or at least slow down. The Wikipedia entry on Shalom Hanoch says the song is about the 1982 war – but my host says it was quite explicitly about Arik Sharon (I took his word for it, as I cannot understand Hebrew.) When news reporters say that Sharon wasn’t popular with Palestinians – well, big surprise, that would be true of Israeli politicians in general. But it’s the controversy he stirred within Israel itself that is more nuanced, and which resonates still. Hmm. I wonder if Mehakim LeMoshiach is on iTunes? (UPDATE: It is.)

About cromercrox

Cromercrox is a recovering palaeontologist, author and editor who lists his recreations as writing, beachcombing, playing hard rock organ, supporting Norwich City FC and falling asleep.
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One Response to Jumps Red Lights

  1. Steve Caplan says:

    Commenting on Ariel Sharon surely deserves an entire blog post, rather than just a few hasty remarks–but in the absence of time, the latter will have to suffice for now.

    For a great many years, since 1967, Sharon was a driving force behind the movement to settle the militarily occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. To my view, the consequence of this policy has been more detrimental to Israel (and continues to be) than anything else in its history – and still threatens the existence of Israel as we know it. Sharon, of course, was also heavily involved in leading Israeli forces past the declared 40 km perimeter in Lebanon that was supposed to be established to keep Katyusha rockets out of Israel’s northern towns and cities.

    There is evidence that he withheld information from then-prime minister Begin – and of course his responsibility in the massacres that occurred at the refugee camps in Lebanon later. Sharon also was a polarizing figure, and his provocative visit to the temple mount and just as provocative purchase of a house in East Jerusalem may have been a spark that ignited the second intifada. I can say for fact that Ariel Sharon did not move into his East Jerusalem house the night it was completed, because I worked as a bellboy at the Sheraton Plaza hotel that summer, and at 9 pm he and his wife arrived at the hotel to take a room. Reporters and photographers apparently got wind of the fact that an entire battalion of reserve soldiers was guarding his new home 24/7, and yet he planned to stay at a hotel downtown. He was furious with the photographers that tried to take his picture at the hotel. That was the only time I saw him in person.

    Having said all that – and it’s a lot – there is also evidence that Sharon underwent a major transformation in his mid 70s when he became PM. He unilaterally pulled Israeli settlements out of Gaza in a move that shook the country and threatened a mini civil war. He became more moderate. There were indications that he had a grand plan to make a deal with the Palestinians, despite his hatred of Arafat. No one knew for certain, but he spawned the Kadima party, with followers like Tzipi Livni and Olmert, who clearly are committed to sorting out a peace deal. But one never knows for certain what his plans were when he had his massive stroke from which he never regained consciousness.

    As for Shalom Hanoch – great musician, great music, great lyrics!