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International music icon, Matisyahu, reveals what it was like to be boycotted just for being an American Jew who loves Israel.


I'm a musician first and foremost. I make music. That's always been my thing. I always loved music from the time I was a little kid. Music has always been my own personal way of therapy, so to say, my way of self-expression. 

Then I got interested in Judaism through reggae music and Bob Marley trying to say, oh, all of a sudden, they're making references to the Old Testament. That's where I come from. Let me explore this outside of the Hebrew school version that I got. 

So I went to Israel. I started at a school of Judaism. All of a sudden now, at this point, I started to feel a really rich and vibrant connection to being Jewish. Actually, there's something tremendous there about being Jewish. There's something about the lineage and the struggle and the ability to overcome. 

And the truth is that culturally, my music never really connected with Israelis until that last summer in Spain, and now everything has changed. Because I was boycotted. I was thrown off the Spanish festival. 

And basically, Israelis have been going through that shit for a while, and it hasn't happened to an American Jew yet. And it happened to me on a big stage in a way that was really publicized in a big way. And that day I became-- I think, like, the Israelis were like, OK, he's here, he's with us. And the video of me performing Jerusalem in front of the Palestinian flags got out and circulated. 

So I went to Israel after that happened. It was awesome. It was so awesome. I got the dove of peace from Shimon Peres and Israelis coming over me left and right like, thank you. Really, thank you for what you did, because I didn't back down. 

This concept of boycotting is just ridiculously stupid because no one is going to do anything because someone shuts them out. If you want people to understand your side of the story, you have to do the opposite. You have to create interaction, you have to create dialogue, communication. 

And to interact through art and music in particularly bypasses, pretty much, ideas, political ideas, religion, race, all these things. If the music is right or the art is right, it can take a person beyond it. It really can open a person up. 

The idea is to bring everybody together and then to create something that will somehow tap into his humanistic compassion that people have and love that they have inside of themselves. We're just trying to get people in the same room and to have a human experience together. 

Matisyahu at Boston University