Ahead of Upcoming Concert, Matisyahu Discusses Pro-Israel Stances Amid Security Threats

Matisyahu (Photo by Juliana Ronderos)

Matisyahu, the Jewish musical artist, released a new album, “Hold the Fire,” on Feb. 2 and is on a 34-city concert tour.

But his recent shows at The Rialto Theatre in Tucson, Arizona, and Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico, were canceled due to “security concerns” and staff shortages. Those stemmed from pro-Palestinian protesters upset with the singer’s pro-Israel stances since Oct. 7, according to the artist and multiple media reports.

Matisyahu’s team didn’t know about the threats until right before the shows, according to the singer. His Santa Fe concert was canceled “20 minutes before the doors opened,” he said.

Ahead of his March 22 date at the Brooklyn Bowl in Philadelphia, he is not aware of any threats. But if there are any, his team is ready to deal with them. They already did on this tour in New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; and Birmingham, Alabama, according to the artist.

“We have our own security guy now,” he said.

After Oct. 7, Matisyahu, who is no longer Orthodox, performed his hit song “One Day” at the March for Israel rally in Washington, D.C. In January in Tel Aviv, he did a benefit concert for hostage families. He also visited Re’im, site of the Nova Music Festival, and met with survivors of the Hamas attack.

All of this explains the protests, according to Matisyahu, who was born in West Chester.

“They don’t believe Israel should exist,” he said of the protesters.

He remains undeterred. He talked about why.

You are very public about your Israel support despite these consequences. Why?

Israel is our homeland. Whether or not we reside there or visit there even, it’s a security. After the annihilation of our people in the Holocaust and after thousands and thousands of years of being slaughtered in any society we rose to the top of, we finally got our own army to protect ourselves.

America has had our back. What we’re seeing now is that could change. When the young generation that has been brainwashed becomes the leaders of America, we’re screwed.

Why do you think these protesters have such an issue with your support for Israel?

It seems like what the world has a big problem with is the idea of us being able to defend ourselves. The world doesn’t mind Jews when they are making money for them or handling their business. But the second a Jew needs to stand up for themselves, somehow that’s not OK.

Has the response to your support for Israel gotten worse since Oct. 7?

I’ve been on the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) list for quite some time. In 2015, I was thrown off this festival in Spain (Rototom Sunsplash). They apologized and brought me back.

Whenever things spark up, there will be maybe one or two protesters. Nothing like this. I’ve never had a tour where I’ve had it coming every night.

How does that affect you?

It’s funny. When the protesters are there, I get really, really hyped. And the crowd. It’s kind of like an old Matisyahu show. Like here we are. We’re together here.

Over the years, my crowd became less and less Jewish. But after Oct. 7, there’s been this fire ignited.

There are still the non-Jewish Matisyahu fans. But when you see Israeli flags or yarmulkes, there’s just a certain vibe. At some shows, they’ve had to go through hell to get into the concert. I apologize. They’re like, “Whatever!”

There’s something about the opposition, the struggle, the darkness. Overcoming all of that, and then you’re in a Matisyahu show where you can be as Jewish as you want to be.

You used to be Orthodox. While you may not be as religious anymore, you still seem to feel your Jewish identity in a deep way.

It’s not until Oct. 7 that it came flooding back to me.

When someone’s telling you that you can’t be Jewish or yelling at you for your love of Israel, it’s like, I’m about to become super Jew. Like you don’t even know.

I’m on a mission again.

I’ve always believed in God.

Did that return to super Jew happen immediately after Oct. 7?

It happened immediately. I had a show that day in Las Vegas. A reggae festival.
My son was in Jerusalem. When I woke up, it was Shabbos, and I couldn’t get in touch with him. I was walking around the festival, and I was like, what am I doing here? I felt totally out of place.

During the show, someone had an Israeli flag. I pulled him up on stage.

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