On the fifth night of Chanukah, December 23rd, at the Young Israel of the Upper West Side, a concert was held for Jonathan Pollard. He has now been imprisoned for 19 years. The concert was both a chance for people to show solidarity in demanding Jonathan’s freedom and a place to educate people about the current status in Jonathan’s imprisonment. The speakers of the evening included Jonathan’s Rabbi, one of his attorneys, and over a cell-phone held up to a microphone, his wife.
Between the upsetting news of Jonathan’s current status, and the frantic calls for people to spring into action to free him, the music was electrifying. The first band of the evening was Honorable Mentchen. They call themselves “Soul Music for the 6th Millenniium,” but they sounded much more like a Jewish political band. The Tom Morello’s of the Jewish world. David Kerner and Zalman Schreiber played their song “Justice Denied” about Jonathan Pollard. It is a song filled with conscious lyrics of his current political situation. Between the words that people said, “gave the shivers,” Zalman Schreiber’s bass solos walked the line between frantic and inspired. The song was reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane.” The band deserves as much attention as they are currently getting in Israel, where it is a hit song. The band’s following two songs, “House of the Lord,” and “Gesher Tzar Meod,” were sincerely played and authentically uplifting. They set a tone for the rest of the evening.
Mordechai Walker, from Pey Dalid, told me before the evening started, “Jewish music, in terms of world music, is the eighth candle of Chanukah. It completes the circuit and brings music back to where it should be.”
[I]n an emotional uplink, Esther Pollard, Jonathan’s wife, told the crowd that it isn’t enough to gather here, but that they have to call the president, write to senators, and demand that Jonathan be released. It was stated that the intention of this event was to kick off a series of concerts and rallies in support of Jonathan.
It appears to be the curse of Pey Dalid, but many times they go on after a sizable portion of the audience has left. Apparently it had gotten too late for the people who had come primarily for the speakers, because as Pey Dalid played the hall, the first few rows of seats were empty. It didn’t seem to matter though, as they played their form of trippy Jewish reggae funk beats just as hard. “No matter what it is, I want everyone to be in motion,” Mordechai told the crowd. “People have to be like driedles, spinning from squares to circles.” I don’t think that Pey Dalid has to worry about being squares. They jammed to “Mi Zeh Melech HaKavod,” and then “Al HaNisim.”
“Bob Marley said everything there is to say, so we just let him speak through us,” Pey Dalid said. They finished off their set with a bunch of Bob Marley. It was moving to hear them sing about getting free to Zion at this rally for Pidyon Shvuyim (Redeeming of Captives).
As Pey Dalid played, one really felt that they were experiencing a demonstration to heaven. Other bands played afterwards, including Rocky Zeigler’s “Gideon’s Sword,” and “Nu Radicals,” but the spirit of gathering to bring Jonathan out of prison was most tangible during Pey Dalid’s set. It was, as one speaker said, a demonstration in this world and a demonstration to G-d in the spiritual world. “Never give up,” Pey Dalid sang as the Chanukah candles lit earlier that evening burned. It applied to Jonathan and to us. As much as he must struggle to stay alive, we must struggle to free him. Chanukah is a time of miracles was emphasized throughout the evening. Let’s call down a miracle for Jonathan.