Jewish jams re­turn

Leg­endary singer-song­writer Ariel Zil­ber will head­line the re­vival of Aharit Hayamim – a religious reg­gae, rock con­cert with a con­nec­tion to the 1948 War of In­de­pen­dence

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By BEN BRESKY

It’s been 10 years since the Aharit Hayamim fes­ti­val last graced the woods near the old Kib­butz Ma­suot Yitzhak in Gush Etzion. Now the Leuchter fam­ily, who started the event as a small gath­er­ing in mem­ory of their fa­ther, is ready for a re­vival on July 10.

Ye­huda Leuchter, who is or­ga­niz­ing the fes­ti­val, spoke to In Jerusalem about the con­cert and his band of the same name.

“Many were just start­ing their ca­reers in the new Jewish mu­sic scene,” he said of the fes­ti­val, which high­lighted many young up-and-com­ing acts. “This is the 50th an­niver­sary of Wood­stock,” Leuchter said, “so the time is right for a re­union of the Jewish in­die rock Wood­stock fes­ti­val.”

The sum­mer con­cert was part of the new bur­geon­ing scene of religious Jewish mu­sic that de­vel­oped in the mid 2000s. Then-ob­scure per­form­ers such as brothers Aharon and Yonatan Razel were be­com­ing more main­stream, as it be­came com­mon­place for kip­pah-wear­ing guys to rock out to bib­li­cal words from Psalms or orig­i­nal lyrics about faith and spir­i­tu­al­ity. Even non­re­li­gious mu­si­cians felt com­fort­able in­cor­po­rat­ing el­e­ments of Ju­daism into their act.

Rock, reg­gae and other styles were per­formed by young Is­raelis with tie-dyed tz­itzit and dread­locked pe’ot. As the years went on, big-name Is­raeli acts such as Ehud Banai, Kobi Oz and Shlomo Bar played the fes­ti­val, along with lo­cal acts from around Judea and Sa­maria.

“My brothers and sis­ters and I started get­ting mar­ried,” Leuchter told IJ, “and we took a break for a while,” he said of his six other sib­lings.

A bass player, Emil Leuchter played with Rabbi Shlomo Car­lebach and the Di­as­pora Yeshiva Band in the 1970s, in the days when rab­bis with guitars were a nov­elty. He moved to Is­rael from the United States af­ter the Yom Kip­pur War. His tragic death from can­cer in 1996 was the im­pe­tus of the an­nual memorial gath­er­ing and jam ses­sion held in the fam­ily’s back­yard. When the gath­er­ing grew ev­ery year, the Leuchter sib­lings re­al­ized they had the mak­ings of a fullfledge­d

fes­ti­val, and by the year 2000 they shifted the lo­ca­tion to the grounds of the old Ma­suot Yitzhak kib­butz.

THE SITE has sig­nif­i­cance for the Leuchter fam­ily as well.

“Our grand­par­ents were here,” Leuchter ex­plained. “There were four kib­butzim in Gush Etzion, with many of the kib­butzniks be­ing Holo­caust sur­vivors,” he said.

The four com­mu­ni­ties were Kfar Etzion, founded in 1927; Ma­suot Yitzhak, founded in 1945; Ein Tzurim, founded in 1946; and Re­vadim, founded in 1947. Lo­cated south of Jerusalem, in the Judea dis­trict, they were over­run in 1948 by the Jor­da­ni­ans.

“My grand­mother de­cided to stay and fight on the day of in­de­pen­dence and sent her child to Jerusalem,” Leuchter said of his uncle, born be­fore his mother. His grand­mother, Rachel Doron, who was in charge of com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the Gush and Jerusalem, stayed with her hus­band, Yoni, to fend off the at­tack.

“My grand­fa­ther was in charge of the ‘slick’ where they hid the weapons in a cave,” Leuchter ex­plained of the days when firearm own­er­ship by Jews was re­stricted by the British Man­date authoritie­s.

In the end, Gush Etzion fell and many of the res­i­dents were mas­sa­cred by the Arabs. The sur­vivors, who in­cluded Leuchter’s grand­par­ents, were taken cap­tive and even­tu­ally re­leased.

All this was re­lated to a crowd of en­thu­si­as­tic Is­raelis one year at the fes­ti­val as they chanted “Savta, Savta,” He­brew for “grand­mother,” with the ru­ins of the for­mer kib­butz still stand­ing in the back­ground.

“My grand­mother got on stage that year and, with tears in her eyes, said she couldn’t be­lieve so many young peo­ple were danc­ing,” Leuchter said. She likened it to a bib­li­cal prophecy, from which the fes­ti­val gets its name. “Aharait hayamim” lit­er­ally means “end of days,” with the Prophet Isa­iah stat­ing “and many peo­ples will stream to it .... ”

To­day, most of the Leuchter kids, now grown, live in the re­newed com­mu­ni­ties of Gush Etzion.

YOUNGER IS­RAELIS may as­so­ciate “aharit hayamim” with the jam band of the same name. The band Leuchter was a part of, play­ing key­board and singing, was a phe­nom­e­non for their street per­for­mances in down­town Jerusalem’s Zion Square.

He teamed up with fel­low street mu­si­cians gui­tarist Sh­muel Caro, bass player Avra­ham Shurin, sax­o­phon­ist Rafael Barkatz and a crew of other mu­si­cians to round out var­i­ous gigs and cre­ate a much-in-de­mand wed­ding band.

“Af­ter a while, we got such a crowd that peo­ple asked us to play their wed­ding,” Leuchter said. “We played a wed­ding al­most ev­ery night in those days,” he added.

“The spe­cial thing about the band is ev­ery guy was from a dif­fer­ent place in the world,” he ex­plained. Caro and his fa­ther, Moshe, one of the group’s per­cus­sion­ists, came from Re­union Is­land off the coast of Mada­gas­car. Oth­ers were from New York, France and Rus­sia. “Ev­ery other gig we had an­other guy join­ing us on stage,” Leuchter said of the re­volv­ing ad­di­tion of var­i­ous in­stru­men­tal­ists and guest per­form­ers.

The band toured fes­ti­vals around Is­rael and abroad in New York, France and Eng­land. It re­leased sev­eral demo

al­bums and one full-length ma­jor-la­bel re­lease, be­fore each mem­ber moved on to pur­sue other op­por­tu­ni­ties. Leuchter con­tin­ued his mu­sic ca­reer, re­leas­ing a solo al­bum, Light, and later play­ing as Yuda and the Retro.

But he, too, has taken a break from be­ing a tour­ing mu­si­cian to raise a fam­ily in the Gush Etzion com­mu­nity of Bat Ayin. That’s when he be­came Tef­fMan, bak­ing and sell­ing the gluten-free bread he learned about from his wife.

“She walked up to the mi­cro­phone one night and asked if she could sing with us,” he said. “Right away I knew this was my wife. I met my soulmate on the street.

“She had me taste some­thing one day and I said, ‘This is amaz­ing, what is it?’”

That led the cou­ple to mar­ket­ing and sell­ing teff bread. “It’s gluten-free, so it’s great for peo­ple with celiac dis­ease and other food al­ler­gies,” Leuchter said.

But now, he and his for­mer band­mates and fam­ily mem­bers are ready for a re­union. The high­light of the fes­ti­val will be Ariel Zil­ber, a friend of Leuchter, who is a house­hold name in Is­rael. Zil­ber was awarded an ACUM award in 2014 and a life­time achieve­ment award from the Is­raeli Union of Per­form­ing Artists in 2016 for his decades on the Is­raeli mu­sic scene. His hits such as “Ten Li Ko’ah” and “Ve’eich Sh­elo” have achieved airplay and cover ver­sions over the past 40 years, while his new ma­te­rial re­flects a more religious out­look.

Oth­ers on the bill will be Shi­mon and Levi, the new duo com­prised of mem­bers of Shotei Hane­vua, the Port­noy Brothers, Aharon Razel, Yonatan Razel, Bini Lan­dau, Ye­hu­dah Katz, Si­nai Tor, a chil­dren’s area and an op­tion for camp­ing out.

The event will take place on July 10, start­ing at 3 p.m.

For more in­for­ma­tion: tickchak. co.il/5979 or call 054-241-5707.

(Ben Bresky)

(FROM RIGHT) Ye­huda Leuchter, Rafael Barkatz and Sh­muel Caro of the band Aharit Hayamim re­hearse in 2009.

(Mark Fef­fer)

THE LATE Emil Leuchter (right) with Ruby Har­ris of the Di­as­pora Yeshiva Band and a young Ye­huda Leuchter.

(Leuchter fam­ily)

POSTER FOR the up­com­ing Aharit Hayamim fes­ti­val on July 10.

(Mark Fef­fer/Leuchter fam­ily)

EMIL LEUCHTER and chil­dren with Rabbi Shlomo Car­lebach.

(Mark Fef­fer)

EMIL LEUCHTER leads the Jerusalem Blues Band at the JBR – Jazz Blue Rock club circa 1981, with singer Libi, drum­mer Don Slovin, gui­tarist Vic­tor Azus and vi­o­lin­ist Yonatan Miller.

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