By COLlive reporter
Photos: Shmuel Amit
They are an unlikely pair.
The first is Avraham Fried, one of the greatest Jewish singers alive who is a Lubavitcher chossid. His yarmulka, beard and tzitzis are proudly visible during performances. He lives in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights and is influenced by the teachings of the Rebbe and other luminaries.
The second is Aviv Geffen, one of the most popular rock musicians and singers in Israel who was raised in a secular and artistic family. A self-declared atheist, he was known for his rebellious lyrics. His influences are artists such as John Lennon and Bob Dylan.
And yet, both Fried and Geffen shared the stage at the famed outdoor Sultan’s Pool Auditorium in Jerusalem this week.
It has been a year since the two collaborated on a single titled Batzoret (in the drought) with lyrics describing hope, faith and understanding.
It has caught many by surprise and warmed many hearts. One person called it “a rare combination and not one we expected.” Another wrote online, “Wow… all that’s left now is for Moshiach to arrive.”
On stage this week, Geffen took it a step further. “A person needs to know how to admit his mistake,” he told the crowd that was mostly comprised of religious people, among them settlers from Judea and Samaria.
Geffen, who politically identifies with the left and sang at the rally following which Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated, said he wanted to apologize for hateful comments and statements he made about religion and those who practice it.
“In my distant past, I wrote sentences out of ignorance and understanding and I hurt many people,” he said. “This is my opportunity to say sorry. I apologize.”
In a follow-up interview which will be published in Friday’s Israel Hayom newspaper, Geffen said: “I’m an atheist, but it’s time for peace and to respect each other. Covid has amplified the divide in our nation. Israel is a delicate canvas of love. We really separated and that is a pity. We are brothers at the end of the day.”
This was Fried’s first performance in Israel since the pandemic and said he was proud of his collaboration with Geffen.
“I think the Kiddush Hashem this song caused is created that all the criticism,” he said. “We needed to be brave to perform this duet but we know that the crowd will understand that is a step towards unity – especially in a time where there is so much division and such darkness.”
Geffen, on his part, said that since releasing the song he has been asked many times to sing it in public. “Until now I refused to sing it at concerts. I told the crowd we’ll wait until Avraham comes to Israel and then we will sing it together. And here, this week it happened.”
Music by religious and Chassidic singers has traditionally only been played on religious radio stations, Fried has been able to break that barrier and some of his new songs in Hebrew have been playing on national radio stations, reaching a wider audience.
VIDEO: Fried and Geffen in a joint interview