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Matisyahu ascends to new heights in Jerusalem performance

The Jewish reggae star was on friendly turf after having shows canceled in several U.S. cities due to anti-Israel protests.

Matisyahu (right) performs with Adam Weinberg in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 19, 2023. Credit: Bill Ragan/Shutterstock.
Matisyahu (right) performs with Adam Weinberg in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 19, 2023. Credit: Bill Ragan/Shutterstock.

American Jewish reggae star Matisyahu was in friendly territory on Tuesday night after being caught up in anti-Israel rage sparked by the Gaza war with show cancellations in recent months in his home country.

The 44-year-old former Chabadnik performed at Jerusalem’s Zappa at the Lab venue; the welcoming crowd swayed and smoked to 20 years of hits from the eclectic musician over two hours.

His son Laivy Miller, 19, who lives in Israel, opened the show. Matisyahu was accompanied by Israeli guest saxophonist Daniel Zamir and his band, Satlah. They played everything from classics such as “Aish Tamid” to his latest single “Ascent,” of which the video was filmed at the site of the Supernova music festival massacre and Gaza border communities.

On Wednesday night, Matisyahu gives his second and final show in the Jewish state at north Tel Aviv’s Ganei Yehoshua/Yarkon Park.

Matisyahu has made headlines in recent months as three dates on his recently completed U.S. tour were canceled because the venues said they could not guarantee security due to anti-Israel protests. The cities were Chicago; Tucson, Arizona; and Santa Fe, N.M.

Following the Tucson and Santa Fe cancellations, Matisyahu wrote on social media that the venues decided to cancel the show “because they are either antisemitic or have confused their empathy for the Palestinian people with hatred for someone like me who holds empathy for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Matisyahu was among those honored by Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli in Jerusalem on Sunday for his work combatting rising antisemitism since the Hamas-led massacre of Oct. 7.

“Matisyahu lacks nothing in life. He is a gifted musician and singer, and he could have kept his nation and homeland to himself and kept going. He chose otherwise. Matisyahu, like the great Leonard Cohen, came here to uplift the spirit of the IDF troops during the war,” Chikli said.

Stefan Tompson
Israeli Diaspora Affairs Amichai Chikli (left) shakes hands with U.S. singer Matisyahu in Jerusalem as social-media influencer Stefan Tompson looks on, March 31, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.
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