Volume 81, Number 17 | September 22 - 28, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Talking Point

Get up, stand up: Ziggy Marley thinks Israel rocks

By MICAH HALPERN

In the year 1930, Ethiopia crowned a new emperor. He took the name Haile Selassie and, like all emperors in Ethiopia, he traced his roots all the way back to wise King Solomon and his wife, the African beauty, Queen of Sheba.

This emperor, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I — also known as the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords and the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Elect of God — was thought to be a messianic figure among followers of the Rastafari movement. The religion, begun in the slums of Jamaica, holds that Africans are the true Israelites sent to exile in Jamaica as divine punishment. 

On a visit to Jamaica in 1966 the emperor, who denied any divine abilities, unsuccessfully tried to convince Rastafari supporters of his mere mortality. Upon his arrival on the island a long drought broke, and it finally rained. Among the many people transfixed by Haile Selassie and moved to convert to Rastafari was Rita Marley, the wife of Bob Marley.

Bob Marley changed the world through his music. He introduced the beat of Jamaican music to the West. And as he popularized reggae music in the Western world, he taught what it means to be a follower of Rastafari — not just the dreadlocks, but the customs and the politics. Marley was not the first to combine music with politics, but he was one of the best.

Bob Marley’s son Ziggy follows in his father’s footsteps in music, in culture and — in accordance with Rastafari belief — in being a major proponent of marijuana.

This summer, Ziggy performed two concerts in Israel, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Jerusalem.

In an interview with YNET, an Israeli news Web site, Ziggy, whose middle name is David, as in King David, father of Solomon, described how he was envious of Jewish tradition and how he celebrates all the Jewish holidays. 

Ziggy Marley married an Israeli woman named Orly and together they have three children who are, according to Jewish law, all Jewish. Ziggy’s wife and children all have biblical Hebrew names. Orly means “my light.” Their daughter is named Judah Victoria, their eldest son is named Gideon and their baby boy is Abraham Selassie. 

Ziggy went on to explain that he has had a strong connection with Judaism, with Israel and with the Jewish people since childhood. He said that the teachings of his father and learning Bible stories and the connection with Rastafari thought and Halie Selassie’s message were inspirational. He said they combined to instill in him a message of love and affinity. Marley acknowledged that he participates in Jewish holiday observances because his wife and his children are living the Jewish experience.

Although he knows he is not Jewish, Ziggy is very comfortable with Judaism and Jewish traditions. Jewish culture and the Jewish calendar are a big part of his life.

He would never boycott Israel the way so many other big name entertainers have done. Ziggy Marley, like Bob Dylan, who just wound up a concert tour in Israel, are not about to be swayed by the scare tactics and virulent hatred spewed by the organizers and supporters of the most recent boycott against Israel.

B.D.S. stands for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. It is an umbrella organization that helps groups organize anti-Israel programs — especially boycotts of Israel on campuses around the world. In this age of electronic media, campaigns can be waged and wars won and lost all by way of the Internet. It is easy for a pop star or for a company or a politician to fall from popularity because they sided with the wrong cause. 

It is not popular to be vocally pro-Israel today. Ziggy Marley is taking a risk. But he understands the risk. It is something he believes in. Marley believes in the uniqueness of the Jewish people and in their unique connection to the land of Israel. He has known it since childhood — he was taught it at his father’s knee. 

Ziggy Marley is carrying on the message of his father. He conveys the message through his actions and through his music. It is a message about culture and history that is interwoven into the fabric of Israel. The message is that Israel represents lofty, heavenly ideals of truth, covenant and connectedness.

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