Sunday, December 2, 2012

An Interview! With Juval Haring of Vaadat Charigim.

After a bit of dialogue back and forth with Juval Haring of Tel Aviv's Vaadat Charigim (translation: Exceptions Committee), Haring offered to participate in an interview regarding the current conflict between Israel and Palestine and its relationship to the music scene of which he is a part. After an eight-day period of airstrikes over Gaza, a back-and-forth between Israel and Hamas, Egypt announced a ceasefire; however, Ahram Online reports that twelve rockets were fired into Israel mere hours after the declaration of the ceasefire. CNN reported on Nov. 25 that more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis had died during the period of conflict.

Interview questions were submitted to Haring on Nov. 24, while Egypt and the U.S. were still in the process of developing a ceasefire agreement.

Choir Croak Out Them Goodies: Last week, we had spoken a bit, and you said that there were threats of bus bombings, which was frightening to you because you commute to work on a packed bus. Three days after you told me about these threats, Tel Aviv experienced a bus bombing, the first bombing there in six years. How close were you and your friends/bandmates to that explosion? Most of the violence has been centered around Gaza but has last week's Tel Aviv bombing created any new fear for you at home?

Juval Haring: I was far away but my sister was a few hundred meters from it. It definitely makes you think about things. I was sitting at work on some project, in an office, you know, with office stuff...then someone said there was a bus bombing. I kinda didn't wanna sit there anymore. I wanted to be somewhere else, with people I love.

CC: There is a lot of debate in the U.S. about whether the Israeli airstrikes over Gaza are acts of terrorism against Palestinians, or retaliation/self-defense in response to Hamas rocket fire. Since you are in Israel, can you explain the violence between Hamas and Israel for the U.S. audience? We only know what we read in newspapers and online, but it might be helpful to understand from the point of view of someone who lives in Israel, closer to the violence, even if you are not a part of it.

You have to understand that there are "regular people" who would really just like to go on with their regular lives, and there are politicians/organizations of sorts who have bigger agendas they are trying to promote. Me and everyone I know, Jewish or Arab, are regular people. A lot of people get carried away into other people's "agendas," thinking those agendas are their own, but I stay away from all the noise and just keep with the regular folk who try to lead a normal life. For us, the violence is a terrible thing because it ignites "big" ideas in people's heads. Those ideas turn into more violence and more rationalizations. You've seen the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey...I don't think I need to explain.

CC: You seem to be against violence on both sides of the Gaza conflict, and it should be pointed out that not everyone who lives in Israel is in favor of airstrikes on Israel's behalf. This is similar to the way many liberal Americans did not support the U.S.'s war in Iraq and do not wish for the rest of the world to view us poorly because of the violence our government has prompted abroad on our behalf. Israel and Palestine have civilians creating violence or protesting against it, just as America has civilians supporting or protesting against our wars. From what you know, are people in Tel Aviv mostly attempting to stay out of the violence and remain neutral, or are they generally pro-Israel?

JH: I, and many other people I know, try to be pro-people, which basically means that underneath all these political powers conflicting in the middle east, there is a wide variety of suffering, be it Tel Avivians afraid of a missile, Israelis from the south who suffer regular missile attacks, or people in Gaza who are also bombed on a regular basis. I think being attentive to what is humane and caring for your fellow man is more important than being pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. These are metaphysical concepts. Your concern as a human being should be to this world, and the people who live and suffer in it. There is so much trouble in the sphere of everyday life, why should I worry myself with ideals? 

CC: Your band, Vaadat Charigim, has a single out called "Odisea," and the lyrics remind me very much of the Smiths' song "There is a Light and it Never Goes Out." Except your song is much more tragic because it looks for something meaningful outside of the violence that really is occurring around you. How has the violence around you generally affected your lyrics or your band's style of music?

It was written during the first wave of social protests. I was living in Berlin and was feeling far away from it all. From what my friends had told me it sounded like some kind of "Summer of '69" sort of thing. A youth utopia. Odisea is like a journey in the other direction. Like a fast forward from the love generation to the grey eighties. It's a song about an imaginative world's end, using local Tel Avivian symbols as a point of reference. Shopping centers collapsing into themselves, Central Bus stations turning into a black cloud that swallows the "White City" (Tel Aviv's alternate name). 

CC: There are bands in countries like Sweden, where the musicians speak both English and their native language, but choose to write songs in English to make themselves more marketable outside of their home country. You speak both English and Hebrew but your songs are all in Hebrew. What made you decide to stick with your native language?

I sort of feel like English is embarrassing for me to sing in. It used to be like a mask for me, I think. Now this mask feels silly. I don't need it anymore. I don't need to be successful abroad. I don't need to be understood.  I only need to remain free and focused and full of passion.

CC: Your previous band, TV Buddhas, had moved to Berlin for a couple of years. What caused you to move to Berlin and what caused you to return to Tel Aviv? Is TV Buddhas going to be on hiatus while Vaadat Charigim sees the release of its debut record, or have you broken up?

We might go on tour with [TV Buddhas] end of spring [2013]. TV Buddhas is my wife [Mickey Triest], and me, and her brother [Uri Triest]. This will live for as long as we do. We are living back in Israel because this is what we need to do right now. We might go back to Europe. Then again we might not. I dream of a house with land. We'll see where we end up.

CC: A lot of fantastic music has come out of terrible political events or conservative leadership -- much of the best British and American punk rock, for instance, came from England being led by Margaret Thatcher, and the U.S. being run by Ronald Reagan. A great deal of protest music came as a response to the wars begun by George W. Bush. If there is a successful ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, do you think there will eventually be less music and art in Israel to be inspired by the need for protest? 

Israel is a shitty and exciting little place 24/7. This war is ongoing. This is our life no matter what's currently on the news. Anywhere thoughtful people live, they will be a minority, and they will make great art, because they will feel like outsiders. 

CC: Your band is part of a community of peaceful protesters in Tel Aviv. What bands or poets or artists should we know about in the U.S.?

JH: You should check a great poetry magazine called Maayan. Also, a few great bands like Ashkara Metim ("totally dead"), Love Grenade, and Bela Tar.

CC: Thank you, Juval!

JH: Thanks!

Vaadat Charigim will be performing in Tel Aviv on Dec. 22. Tickets can be found here.

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