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Waiting for Messiah: On Hebrew Rock Music

Messiah is in Heaven, and we are here without the money
Shalom Hanoch

 

 

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Waiting to Messiah: On Hebrew Rock Music

Waiting to Messiah | Album Cover

 

Messiah is not coming;
Messiah also doesn’t call…

These lines could be a daunting message in any church. Luckily they do not belong to God, but to one of the greatest hits of the Hebrew rock by Shalom Hanoch (the “h” and the “ch” as in the “ch” of “loch”). Issued in 1985, “Waiting for Messiah” most notable tracks are a song of the same name and “He Doesn’t Stop at Red Lights.” I won’t provide a complete translation of their words. The text wouldn’t translate well to English; much of the subtext would be lost; the flat result would be only a partial shadow of the original. Annotating a translation so that it would make perfect sense would require too much space.

When the album was issued, its text became an immediate hit, even at the remote Jordan Valley kibbutz where I was living at the time. Two of its texts became prophetic. Maybe because they were Pygmalion prophecies; self-fulfilling predictions frantically pushed by their devotees. The song “Waiting for Messiah” made a clear reference to a crash of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in the eighties, while “He Doesn’t Stop at Red Lights” correctly predicted the future of Ariel Sharon. Both were quite scary and thus mixed well in the indefatigable conspirators’ attempts to intimidate us to death; I described other such attempts—including the use of George Orwell’s 1984 at school—in The Cross of Bethlehem. Probably that’s the reason why the administration didn’t censor them. Israel didn’t have any scruples in censoring songs. After the Yom Kippur War, Yitzhak Rabin had prohibited the Army Radio to broadcast the Song for Peace. Years later he would be assassinated minutes after having sung it during a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

Across the city's heart,
In the middle of the evening,
He passes in a luxurious car,
The people’s hero says hello with his hand,
Beware; he doesn’t stop at the red lights.

These are the first lines of “He Doesn’t Stop at Red Lights.” Back then, Israel was beginning to emerge from the mess of the first Lebanese War. Ariel Sharon had been banned from being Minister of Defense by the Supreme Court, due to the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, where it was alleged that the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, had allowed Lebanese militiamen access to Palestinian refugee camps when Sharon was the minister. Many thought his career was over, but Shalom Hanoch sung a different song:

With speed he shortens the way,
Leaving behind him demolition and destruction,
Time burns for him, he has no room left…”
“…Move away, here comes the assassin…”
“You shut up,
He’ll make the rules,
You sleep!,
He’ll lead the sheep…”
“And the fools like the strength,
Believe and help him grow,
Who’ll help you when suddenly you’ll understand?
Too late, he doesn’t stop at the red lights

The song contains several clear allusions to Sharon. A heavyset man, he shares physical characteristics with the leader described in the song. The brutally forceful attitude described was also typical of Sharon. What Hanoch was saying here – at least that was the way many understood the song back then – was: “You don’t want him as a Minister of Defense? Unless you wake up, you’ll get him as Prime Minister!” That’s exactly what happened. Mercilessly, the person who didn’t stop at the red lights was stopped on the spot by God while in office.

…At the door
A policeman appears with the hat in his hands…”
“An accident to whom,
Asks Artzieli the son,
An accident to the state,
Answers the pitiable policeman,
The stock exchange is in free fall,
People are jumping from the roofs,
Also Messiah jumped,
It was announced he died.

Of course, we aren’t talking of the Messiah, but of a person called Messiah. The last is an acceptable name in Hebrew and here it is used to portray the ugly reality of the Jewish society, since:

The public is brainless,
And thus the public pays…
…Messiah is in Heaven,
And we are here without the money.

If reading this on a plain level, it doesn’t make sense. However, Messiah is used here as a name. Messiah was the stock exchange broker of the people mentioned in the song. According to Shalom Hanoch, the only redemption possible to the Israeli society is a monetary one, and even then the golden Messiah doesn’t perform as expected. A better metaphor seems impossible to achieve. Instead of a Messiah Son of David, there was a Messiah Son of Judas the Traitor. As the original one, also this one lost his thirty silver coins. The Israeli public is still paying for the results of this crash.

The music may not be the best, though it is enjoyable. Shalom’s voice doesn’t excel, though who am I to comment on this, especially after my throat was destroyed in the Bolivian-Israeli attack of 2009. However, the lyrics of Waiting for Messiah are brilliant. In an unusual fashion for an unconverted Jew, Shalom Hanoch understands the Jews are being forcibly used by and for evil by the expanded Warring Family, an illegitimate group of warrior priests assuming different identities and goals in every generation—humanists, Communists, just name it—but invariably preoccupied exclusively with the well being of their deep pockets. Israel was waiting for the wrong Messiah; the real one had come a long time ago and was still waiting for them to repent.

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